Change & Continuity over Time of Religion in Europe from the 1500-1900

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CCOT Essay

The period between 1500 to 1900 also refers to the time period from the Middle Ages to the modern world. The period witnessed significant strides in state building in England, France, and Spain, where growing bureaucracies levied taxes to finance large-scale warfare and territorial expansion. At the same time encroachment on the longstanding powers of the nobility caused feudal reaction, while the breach with tradition, particularly by creating new taxes in an era plagued by war, famine, and disease, caused peasants to revolt. A number of historical trends emerged to give the period clear definition: the fragmentation of Christianity and growing secularism; pronounced demographic and economic fluctuation; the development of the European state system; and the emergence of a global, Europe-centered system of production and trade.

In the second decade of the sixteenth century, the Christian church experienced the first in a series of religious divisions along geographic lines. The sequence of splits, beginning in the Holy Roman Empire and spreading to the whole of Europe by the end of the century, transformed the relationship of the reformed churches with state, society, and the people. Christianity also spread to the indigenous people of the Americas and Asia. There was a strong desire for religious unity, marked by mandatory conversions of Moors and Jews to Catholicism in Spain and an enthusiastic missionary effort both in Europe and abroad. At the same time in nearly every area of Europe religious conflict and calls for a redistribution of power became virtually unavoidable, causing crisis in authority at state and local levels.

Religious evangelism encouraged stronger spiritual education of young people. During the same time period, the advances of scientific information provided new, conflicting methods of learning. For this reason, children of educated classes were brought up in a world of competing models of knowledge...
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