Changes in Early Modern Europe

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Early modern Europe, specifically Spain and England, was going through major growing pains in the period before discovery and settlement of the New World. Recovery from the Black Plague, religious reformation, and newly formed nation-states were on the forefront of these changes. The political environment, economy, and religion were all intertwined during the upheaval of the Old World which proved to be a driving force in the search for and eventual settlement of new lands.

The Reformation and the Counter-Reformation were major motivating factors in early modern Europe leading to exploration of new lands. This began with Martin Luther’s break from Catholic doctrine in 1519. By the time the Reformation came onto the European stage, Spain had already discovered the New World and started settling there. One of their goals was to establish colonies and convert the Natives to Catholicism, so that religion gained an early foothold in the New World. The Protestant Reformation taking place in England was driven by the Christian Church to return to the “purity of early Christianity.” This group was tired of the worldliness of the Roman Catholic Church that came about during the Renaissance age. Another major change was the printing press, which allowed quick access to Luther’s ideas. According to the text, “the printed word and the ability to read it were to become revolutionary weapons.” Out of Luther’s concepts came John Calvin who created Calvinism, which further refined Luther’s ideas. Both Calvinism and Lutheranism appealed to the common man.

Another major religious change was Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church. He created the Church of England, which aligned itself more closely with Protestantism than Catholicism. ...

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...ation boiled down to three common ideas; God, gold, and glory. The desire to colonize in the name of God, the need to obtain the riches in gold and raw materials, and the glory of colonizing in the New World were major motivating factors. Add to that the advantages of the Europeans such as weapons, horses, and immunity to their own diseases made the New World ripe for conquering. The great changes in religion, politics, and economics set up a perfect environment for overseas exploration and settlement.


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