World Before 18th Century and End of Feudalism
World before 18th century
characteristics of the period
- End of Feudalism in England (Feudalism ended much later in rest of Europe)
- Increase in the number of towns and cities.
- Increase in trade.
- Transition to a money-based economy from land-based economy of Feudalism.
- Rise of Merchant classes and Absolute Monarchs (*England had Democracy and after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was supremacy of Parliament instead of Monarchy). Decline in power of the Catholic Church
- Mercantile Capitalism.
- British-French rivalry at its zenith.
- Feudalism was a new social and economic system that came to prevail in Western Europe and later in other parts of Europe in the Medieval period (600-1500 AD)
- Under this, society was divided into rigid classes, politically there was no central authority and the economy was based in villages, which were self-sufficient and produced little surplus for trade. Hence, it was marked by a decline in trade as well as towns
- there was lack of a central political authority and it were the numerous Feudal Lords who controlled the affairs of the society
- ‘Serfdom’ became an important feature of Feudalism
- Church extended beyond religious affairs in Europe
- Feudalism developed due to lack of a single central political authority in Western Europe as it had disintegrated into many small and big kingdoms
Features of Feudalism
- economy in the Feudal system was village based and the villages were self sufficient
- Land, not money, was the main source of power.
- Peasants were classified into
- worked on the land of the Lord for free
- had to perform all labour for master as he desired
- This system came to be known as Serfdom.
- got their lands from the Lord. They were free and only paid a tax fixed by the Lord
- they also got their land from the Lord.
- For a fixed number of days they worked for the Lord but otherwise they were free and paid tax in form of a part of their agricultural produce
- Freemen: they were the Serfs freed by their Lords on their discretion.
Emergence of Trade, Towns and Cities
- Crusades in the 7th century brought Europe in contact with the Arabs
- exposed them to the rich Arab civilizations and their luxury goods. The demand of luxury goods from the East increased among the Lords.
- These factors led to an increase in trade with the east.
- The crafts and the Towns (where crafts were produced) also increased in importance
- Gradually, the peasants started to work as Artisans (i.e. Craftsmen) and the Merchants started to settle in these new towns
- As the number of Artisans increased in the towns, the latter expanded to become cities.
- mainly along the land-based trade routes or around the sea ports
- Italy witnessed the maximum development of cities (e.g. sea-port cities like Venice & Genoa) due to its location and the geographical advantage of having good natural harbours which facilitated trade with the East.
Change in Method of Production: Guilds
- The Merchants and craftsmen in towns started to organize themselves in Guilds, which were specific to the good being produced, e.g. Guilds of Goldsmiths,
- Under the Guild system, there was a Master Craftsman with three to four workers or apprentice working under him
Rise in influence of Merchant Class
- The towns slowly freed themselves from Feudal control.
- They had their own government, militia and courts.
- The people were not tied to the land, had freedom of occupation and could move around freely.
- The extent of social mobility that these towns offered attracted peasants from villages.
- The Serfs were free in Towns and they provided the necessary workforce for the Merchants.
- influx of more peasants provided a domestic market for the goods produced in towns.
- Gradually, the Merchants started influencing not just the social and economic, but also the political life in towns.
Transition to Capitalist Economy
- cash based economic system
- profits, in form of money, could be reinvested in trade and industry unlike the idle-wealth in form of gold and silver. Such wealth or money is called ‘capital’.
- From 14th to 17th century some important developments like Renaissance and Reformation took place, which resulted in an end to Feudal order
Renaissance & Reformation
- Renaissance means ‘rebirth’
- The period of Renaissance began from 14th Century & lasted till 17th century
- began first in Italy because trade had brought maximum prosperity to Italian cities,
- It began as a movement to revisit the old scriptures and learn about ancient Greece and Rome. But soon, it turned into a movement of new ideas in art, religion, literature, philosophy, science and politics.
- resulted in decline of Church’s influence in the intellectual & cultural life of Europe.
- Humanism was at the core of Renaissance
- The concern for the other-worldly matters was rejected and the focus was on the living man, his joys and sorrows
- Artists like Da Vinci, Michealangelo and Raphael were prominent artists of the Renaissance movement. The subject/theme of paintings in Churches shifted from heaven and hell to human forms.
- Renaissance resulted in ascendance of local European languages in literature, instead of Latin. Thus it helped in linguistic development and thus, in development of national consciousness.
- In The Prince, Machiavelli gave a new concept of state which was superior to religion and was vested supreme authority in political matters.
- Political matters came to be treated as separate from religion.
- Thus Secularism can also be linked to Renaissance.
- invention of Printing Press in first half of 15th century led to further spread of education & new ideas.
- Scientific Revolution was also a product of the transformation and began towards the end of the Renaissance era
- 16th Century also witnessed Reformation which can be classified into Protestant Reformation & Catholic Reformation
- Protestant reformation (early 16th century) was a movement against the practices and authority of the radical Catholic Church
- Under Martin Luther, a monk who opposed the Letters of Indulgence and other Church evils, the first Protestant Church was setup in Germany (from 1520-1545) under the King’s support
- Catholic Reformation or Counter Reformation (late 16th century)
- In Spain, the reformers formed an organization of clergymen to work as “Soldiers of Jesus”. The members of this organization came to be known as Jesuits and they went to France and Germany to win back followers. They also setup missions in India, China, Africa and America
- The violence against Protestants in England resulted in their migration to North America where their colonies later laid foundation of USA
- Rise of Absolute Monarchies
- King-Merchant nexus and the decline of Feudalism by the end of Middle Ages (600 AD to 1500 AD) helped the Kings in consolidating their hold on power
- The English Civil War (1642-51) was fought between the Parliamentarians and the pro-Monarchy Royalists
- The Parliamentarians were against the absolute rule of King Charles I who believed in the Divine Right of the King to rule
- They opposed the levy of tax by the King without the consent of Parliament
- execution of the King
- an end to monopoly of Church of England (which was pro Catholics, had adopted only some reformation principles like allowing divorce) over Christian worship in England.
- Establishment of the principle that the King cannot rule without the consent of Parliament.
- Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England legally established the supremacy of Parliament.
- Parliament, for the first time, appointed the King
- King was removed and his son-in-law, the William of Orange from Holland was made the King.
- Thus, from a limited constitutional monarchy established by the English Civil War (1642–1651), England transitioned to a Democracy with supremacy of Parliament
Seven Year Global War (1754-63)
- between France and Britain
- Other European powers like Spain, Prussia and Austria also got engaged in the war.
- It is called the Global War since it was fought on different battlegrounds including North America, Caribbean, India, West Coast of Africa and in Europe
- main reason behind the war was the quest for hegemony over colonies between Britain and France.
Treaty of Paris of 1763
- Treaty of Paris of 1763 signed after the 7 Year War had the following clauses
- Britain got Canada from France and Florida from Spain
- France was allowed to retain its Caribbean sugar islands
- Spain’s control over Cuba and Philippines was recognized
- The effect of the Seven Year War on world politics was that it reduced the domination of France, while Britain consolidated its colonial power
- Also, it laid the ground for American Revolution (1765-83) and French Revolution (1789)