There are significant changes that have happened in the political, social and economic characteristics of the world in the last five centuries. Today, the inhabitants of the world are living on the toils of men and women who lived in the earlier centuries. The apparent simplicity and modernization of life that we see today was brought about by the discoveries and innovations that happened in history. Precisely, the scientific innovations used by man today have their primitive beginnings and a myriad trial phases. The automotive engine, for instance, passed through many phases of adjustment and advancement to the kind of sophisticated engines that are present today. Even before the idea of automotive engines came into peoples minds, they were still transporting their goods in horse-drawn chariots and other forms of transport. There has been a progression of eras in which man has made his life simpler and more comfortable. Examples of such eras are Protestant Reformation, Enlightment and Industrial Revolution. These events have resulted in remarkable transformations in politics, religion, civilization, democracy and technology.
Excessive influence of the church to the society came to a halt with the dawn of Protestant Reformation. Prior to The Reformation, the Roman Catholic had spread its ideologies all over Europe. From England to Poland to Sweden to Italy, the Roman Catholic was the predominant religion. The church therefore influenced key political and economic decisions like colonization, occupation and war. The Pope was a key figure in Europe. Kings and Emperors ruled their territories with the guidelines from Rome. In 1522, a German theologian, Martin Luther King, started a move that would become the mother of modern day Protestant Churches. The movement, marked by the drafting of 95 Theses, led to the formation of different protestant churches across Europe. The new churches no longer influenced the political dynamics of countries. The leaders of the Church of England were participants in the political decision making in England. Today, the protestant church is very widespread in the West. The Lutheran Church in particular embraces the principles of Protestantism to a big extent. In the History of American Churches Series, the Lutheran Church is said to be candid, honest, and outspoken .. and has always felt that she dare not allow the clearness of her testimony to be in any way clouded or compromised. She has ever realized her divine commission to testify to all things concerning which her Lord has given commandment The missioners from the Church of Scotland and the Church of England participated in the establishment of colonies in Africa and Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Church of England today sends representatives to the British Parliament in the House of Lords. There are marked differences in the role of the church prior to the 1500, through the 1800 and today. As mentioned earlier, the Roman Catholic Church and particularly the pope had ultimate powers of key political decisions. In the present Western world, the church exemplifies a philanthropic and soul-saving body of the society. It does not partake in the elections but keeps the incumbent governments in check through outright rebuking of political evils like corruption.
The socio-economic status of people improved greatly after the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution is an important period in history. It happened between 1750 to 1850 in both Europe and America. Prior to the revolution, societies were majorly agrarian, producing food in small irrigated farms that were localized around water bodies. Moreover, there were no defined social systems and people lived independently. In addition, people were scattered over large places and one had to travel over long distances to take a message. In the wake of Industrial Revolution, goods were produced in an industrial scale. This massive production of goods called for a lot of labor and raw materials. As a result, people moved to the cities that gradually formed around industries. Due to the intense rural-urban migration, the cities residential areas became dearth. Consequently, shanties and other informal settlement cropped up to accommodate the increasing number of rural immigrants. Life became harder for industrial workers as industrial owners gave meager pay for hard work and longer hours. In Britain, the social stratification affected even the voting system. The poor people had no right to vote or representation in parliament. In 1838, the industrial workers wrote a letter to the British parliament called the Peoples Petition. In part, this letter read: We are bowed down under a load of taxes; which, notwithstanding, fall greatly short of the wants of our rulers; our traders are trembling on the verge of bankruptcy; our workmen are starving; capital brings no profit, and labor no remuneration; the home of the artificer is desolate, and the warehouse of the pawnbroker is full; the workhouse is crowded, and the manufactory is deserted. It highlighted the plight of poor industrial workers who faced a lot of challenges in life. The fruits of Industrial Revolution are evident hitherto. Goods are manufactured in large and commercial scale in industries distributed all over Europe and America. This production of goods has led to the increases in global trade, which in turn brings cultural exchange in the world.
Contemporary democracy and human rights have evolved over time in the West. Today, we understand democracy as equal representation of the people in government. This implies that the people in power are given those positions by the people and so the people are partakers in the government. In the early history of Europe, people were organized into social groups under a certain form of leadership. Oligarchy, aristocracy and dictatorship were common before and after 1500. In France, for example, monarchs ruled the Kingdom of France form 489 up to early 1800s. The monarchs rose to power as a result of familial inheritance. Only families that had a reputation rose to the throne. The leadership of the monarchs was absolutism. They controlled all the state powers and subjected people to harsh territorial laws. The Empires in France also didnt practice democracy. Napoleon Bonaparte established an empire that covered a large area of Europe. He conquered neighboring empires through wars that resulted in the death of many people. In Britain, democracy was not heard of until 1832 when the Reform Act was enacted. The Act allowed people from poor boroughs like Manchester and Dunwich to partake in the voting. After 1832, however, only 14% of males were allowed to vote. Peasant men and all women were not allowed to vote until 1867 after the rise of Chartism in Britain. In the United States, there was massive violation of human rights and democracy prior and after 1500. After drafting of United States constitution in 1789, basic human rights and freedoms were constitutionally provided. The various amendments to the constitution made clear the rights and freedoms of people of the United States, making the country an ultimate democracy in the world. In the 20th century, there were some instances where there was abuse of human rights. In Germany, for instance, the Nazi subjected non-Germans to belligerence in and out of Germany. The Holocaust of 1940s is a remarkable historical event when Nazi Germany subjected Jews to torture. Today, the West is the blueprint for 21st century democracy. The fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals are respected and upheld. Various institutions have been put in place to enforce these rights such as the International Criminal court and the United Nations.
The Age of Enlightment is associated with ideological change and embracement of self as opposed to dogmatic inclination. This era swept across Europe at a time when the society was very much oriented to the traditional lifestyle provided by the church. People adopted a new way of expression. In this age, there developed scholarly interest in philosophy and other natural sciences. In addition, there was observed a paradigm shift in literature and art. Around the time that Enlightment was affecting nations in Europe, parallel ages like Romanticism happening. Romanticism was marked by overly expression of self-ideas in art and literature. The artists explored various maverick themes in paintings like mythology and mystery. The effects of romanticism were carried over to the later generations. The scientific revolution was a product of Enlightment. Several enlightened people became curious about certain things and processes and sought to improve on them. The telephone and steam engine were thus produced out of this curiosity. Enlightment is arguably the dominant philosophy today. There is widespread freedom in the West. People determine the kind of leadership they want through ballot voting. In addition, people engage in many kinds of interactive activities like social media networking, sports and games. They start and run the businesses they want; they marry spouses of their choice, join and form civil groups and so on.
The field of medicine has progressed in leaps and bounds since 1500. The infamous Black Death of Europe left Europe with 1/3 less its population. It was caused by a bacterial plague that swept across Europe. In the later centuries, the land was plagued by other pathogens like polio and small pox viruses. It was a major scientific breakthrough in medicine that marked the beginning of the end to these plagues. In 1796, Edward Jenner discovered the small pox vaccine and brought an end to the infection that killed many people in Europe and other parts of the world. From the time of Jenner, other important discoveries in the field of medicine have taken place. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic. Currently, many innovations in the field of medicine have alleviated problems facing mankind. Gene therapy is the epitome of such discovery today.
Conclusively, Western Europe and America have changed remarkably much since 1500. Significant eras since then include industrial revolution and democratization. These eras are responsible for the development in politics, economics and the society. Some of the major developments in the history are in the fields of politics, international relations, socialization and technology. In a nutshell, the world is a completely changed place, but the earlier developments are the foundation on which contemporary West is built.
Beiser, Frederick C. Enlightenment Revolution and Romanticism. Harvard University Press, 2013.Duiker, William, and Jackson Spielvogel. World History, Volume II: Since 1500. Vol. 2. Cengage Learning, 2012.
Lovett, William. Life and Struggles of William Lovett in His Pursuit of Bread, Knowledge, and Freedom: With Some Short Account of the Different Associations He Belonged to and of the Opinions He Entertained. Vol. 1. AA Knopf, 1920.
Mode, Peter George. Source book and bibliographical guide for American church history. Boston: JS Canner, 1921.
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