INTRODUCTION The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent: America. 1. POLITICS In several European countries such as Portugal, England, France and Spain, the modern state emerged. It was a new political system ruled by authoritarian monarchs. The Kings exerted their authority over the feudal lords through: – The creation of a permanent army formed of professional soldiers. – The application of common laws in all the territories. – The organization of the administration, with government officials who worked for the monarchs. – The development of diplomacy to defend their interests abroad. – In 1532, Niccollo Machiavelli’s published The Prince, a short book in which he formulated his own theory of effective government. The main theme is that all means may be adopted by the Prince/King to the establishment and preservation of authority (the end justifies the means). He also argued that good rulers sometimes have to learn “not to be good,” they have to be willing to set aside ethical concerns of justice, honesty, and kindness in order to maintain the stability of the state 2. ECONOMY The European economy developed significantly during the XVI century. The main economic activity continued to be agriculture. However, the increase of urban population led to an increase in demand for all types of products. This fact, together with the discovery of new territories promoted the development of trade and Merchant Capitalism. Spain and Portugal explored the world’s seas and opened worldwide oceanic trade routes. Large parts of the New World became Spanish and Portuguese colonies, and while the Portuguese became the masters of Asia’s and Africa’s Indian Ocean trade, the Spanish opened trade across the Pacific Ocean, linking the Americas with Asia. This era of colonialism, the mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie established mercantilism as the leading school of economic thought that promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. he mercantilist doctrine encouraged the many intra-European wars of the period and arguably fueled European expansion and imperialism throughout the world until the 19th century or early 20th century. The development of trade promoted the creation of new methods of payment such as the bill of exchange, to avoid transporting large amounts of cash (money in the physical form); and new ways of making business through Joint-Stock companies were risk and profit were shared among a group of owners called shareholders. Craftwork continued to be controlled by the guilds and banks gradually became more important. 3. SOCIETY. Economic prosperity created an optimistic expectation about the future and even peasants were having larger families, thus population in Europe grew during the XVI century from 80 to 100 million people. Society was still divided into estates of the realm: nobility, clergy, bourgeoisie (ˌbʊəʒwɑːˈziː/) and peasants (Third State) although there were some changes. The Nobility and the Clergy continued to own large areas of land and kept their privileges (Manors and Seigneuries). The situation of the peasants didn’t improve much and the differences among the bourgeoisie increased: the high bourgeoisie made up of wealthy merchants and bankers, gained more economic power and social influence as Kings needed their support to finance their activities (wars, expeditions, the purchase of manors, establishment of alliances through strategic marriages), while the petite bourgeoisie composed of craftworkers and modest merchants 2 come into conflict with the nobility and the high bourgeoisie trying to participate in the government of cities. 4. RELIGION In Europe, the Protestant Reformation gave a major blow to the authority of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church reacted against the Reformation with its own internal reform (CounterReformation) that included some measures and principles determined at the Council of Trent held between 1545 and 1563 in Trento (Italy). European politics became dominated by religious conflicts that lead to the Thirty Years’ War at the beginning of the XVII century (1618-1648). 5. ART, CULTURE AND SCIENCE Humanism was and intellectual movement characterized by its admiration for the Classical Age and its rationalism. Humanist considered that human beings were the center of the universe (Anthropocentrism) and rejected medieval Theocentrism. The most well-known humanist are Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More. The Renaissance in Italy was peaking and spreading throughout Europe. Geniuses were stepping all over each other on the street corners producing scientific innovation after innovation. The art of the Cinquecento with Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci as leading artist, derived, during the second half of the century into the Mannerism Style and preceded the Baroque Style. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society — the cannon probably had a great deal to do with the rise of the centralized nation State as we know it. The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, created a media revolution. It brought ideas, partisan rhetoric, and how-to manuals to the people. Most of all, it brought the Bible, in its original tongues and in the vernacular, to the masses. A spirit of inquiry, a desire to return to first principles, was blowing through the Church, which had been the unifying cultural foundation of Europe for a millenium. Copernicus proposed the heliocentric universe, which was met with strong resistance, and Tycho Brahe refuted the theory of celestial spheres through observational measurement of the 1572 appearance of a supernova. These events directly challenged the long-held notion of an immutable universe supported by Ptolemy and Aristotle, and led to major revolutions in astronomy and science.