What were the social, economic, and political conditions of Europe in the 1500s?

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The 1500s marked the century during which Europe was at long last beginning to emerge from the long darkness of the medieval period. It was a time of great and unprecedented change on every social and political level. The renaissance, which was a movement that itself is often cited as...

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The 1500s marked the century during which Europe was at long last beginning to emerge from the long darkness of the medieval period. It was a time of great and unprecedented change on every social and political level. The renaissance, which was a movement that itself is often cited as the end of the Middle Ages, was spreading upward and throughout the European continent.

Technological advances were happening at an exponential pace, creating an economic upper class and rivaling the aristocracy. Even the lowest members of society had more money than they were accustomed to. It was a time of economic thriving.

One of the biggest changes that occurred in this century was the Reformation movement. The centering of society around the Christian faith would finally be broken in Europe, never to be made whole again. Moving towards a secular society required advances in governance and social norms.

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One very important thing that was going on during the 16th century was the Protestant Reformation. This was a major blow to the Roman Catholic Church. This massive change that was occurring because of the Reformation was directly linked to social and political change as well. Criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church was that clergy selection was determined according to class and wealth instead of morality, some priests involved themselves in drinking and gambling, and priests were exempt from paying taxes. People started to ask questions and they wanted change.

At the beginning of the 16th century people had a bright outlook of the future because the economy was flourishing. Even peasants had enough money to put meat on their tables. Population was increasing at a rapid rate. Because of this (and inflation), people who lived towards the end of the century saw their land being taken away and could not even afford to buy meat. When they thought of the future they thought of despair.

 

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