A HISTORY OF EUROPE

The Europe of today has its cultural origins in Greek mythology and philosophy, with their gods (Venus, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury and Dionysus) and the reason imposed by the great Greek thinkers like Socrates and Plato.

But it was Rome which absorbed the Greek culture and gave its territories legal and political institutions that are still in use today in modern Europe. What’s more, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, which made a huge qualitative change.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, a series of turning points affected the territorial and cultural transformation of Europe. Kingdoms such as the Hispano Goths, the Francos, the Germans and others were established. All of them were constantly battling to defend and consolidate their conquered
territories and Europe entered into what would later be called by historians the Middle Ages. The Papacy emerged as the main moral authority, serving as an arbitrator in the disputes between kings, at the same time protecting classical culture, and it became strong by annexing territories, known as Papal states.

Europe suffered a serious pandemic with the Black Plague in the XIV century which reduced the population by almost two thirds. However, the demographic recovery and better farming production capacity improved and increased the populations and cities. In the court of the Empire of Charlemagne the lowercase letters that we use today were introduced, saving space and showing the gap between words. The printing press was invented in the XV century, which together with monastic orders served as
the main vehicle for spreading knowledge and culture all over Europe.
In all the kingdoms and numerous cities magnificent cathedrals were built. In the feudal system, a lord or noble man provided for his serfs in exchange for protection from other noble men or warlords.

The Renaissance period arrived in the XV century, a cultural movement at every level which was based on nostalgia for the past Classical world. Meanwhile, the classical languages, like Greek and Latin, which were spoken by the more erudite classes, began to diminish in favour of other, more “vulgar” languages.

These Romance languages are the origin of most of the languages spoken in different European countries..

The Golden Age was another sign that Spain was now the main power in Europe, as apart from the rich outlying Italian kingdoms, it also ruled the recently discovered American continent which was a source of huge wealth. During the Golden Age, under the rule of the Habsburg Empire, the Castilian grammar flourished and great writers such as Cervantes became forever famous in the history of literature.

The art of great painters such as Velázquez and other cultural expressions spread throughout the whole of Europe, especially in Italy and The Netherlands (Flanders), territories that caused a major headache for the Spanish army represented by their Glorious Thirds.

Spanish dominance in Europe started declining gradually at the end of the XVII century, maintaining an unstable grip until the supremacy passed to France. In Europe, the scientific advances, like the barometer and the telescope built by Galileo, started to change the quality and way of life of the citizens, bringing about new concepts not only in the economic field, but also in the political and social. A new intellectual movement started which was particularly strong in France, England and Germany. Critical reasoning took priority over any other traditional form of thinking. This enlightened trend, known as The Age of Enlightenment (XVIII century) spread especially among the gentry and later the aristocracy.

In France social tensions, which the French Bourbons exacerbated through tyranny, were the breeding grounds for the Revolution in 1789, which would last a decade. Other nations which were against “The Old Regime” joined in, so that the final result in Europe was a radical transformation of its old principles to the new ones based on Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. Meanwhile in England the so-called Industrial Revolution had started which opened the doors to an important social evolution and Britain’s dominance of the overseas commercial routes. However, the “New Order” was controversial and was countered by The Restoration which would defeat the Napoleonic Empire which had replaced the French Revolution, and The Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia and Russia was formed.

Nevertheless, as with all historical cycles, The European Restoration also came to an end, through different liberal and working class revolutions which reached their peak in 1848. Monarchies were forced to change to constitutional and parliamentary monarchies, exemplified by the universal suffrage brought in at the end of the XIX and beginning of the XX centuries. In this same period, the Republic, which had been abolished in the times of Napoleon I, was restored in France, with Prussia gaining dominance in the
Germanic axis.

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