Changes in the Social and Political Fabric in 16th and 17th Century Europe

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The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were periods of questioning and searching for truth. The practice of challenging traditional institutions, including the Church, was revolutionary. Individuals began to use reason to guide their actions and opinions and realized the oppressive nature of the Catholic monarchy. Individuals strove to act in their own best interest and in the name of what was true to them. The consensus was that society would be better off with an economy that shifted away from agriculture, looked globally, and decreased monopolies and the importance of Guilds, as economic opportunities would surface for all classes of men. This type of economy was only possible in light of religious reform, as religion was the foundation of all traditional aspects of the political and economic world.

Religious reformers offered alternatives to Catholicism that attracted men from all social and economic classes. They delineated the problems associated with rule under a Catholic dominated state that the majority of men could relate to. A questioning of the nature of government resulted, and the role that religion should have in politics was addressed. Different opinions surfaced, and because of both differing religious views and an increased awareness of the Church's abuse of political power, religion lost its cohesive ability and diminished in importance in local politics. As individuals experienced life absent of former traditional and religious restraints, benefits were realized, many of which were economic. Additionally, economic ventures led men to encounter other cultures, increasing appreciation of differing spiritual views.

Luther and Calvin offered alternatives to Catholicism, feeling that superstition guided man...

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... questions considered heresy. In effect, the common man felt deceived by his passivity and realized that his world was quite different from the image constructed by the Church. Two of the most significantly effected aspects of people's lives during the 16th and 17th centuries were their religious practice and economic pursuits. People increasingly used reason to determine what their beliefs were and how they should carry out their lives. Absent of the stringent limitations posed by traditional Catholic culture, individuals could secure themselves better economic opportunities and lifestyles.


Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: Fourth Edition. Vol. 2: Since 1550. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2000.

Walker, Mack. "Guilds." Social History of Western Civilization. Vol. 2.

Golden, Richard M. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. 28-39.
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