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religion Middle Ages

The history of the modern world derives from thousands of years of human history.  Embedded in its history are the many eras of man which have constructed our modern learning, art, beliefs, and order.  The middle ages, although represented as dark, backwards, and idle, were in fact a bridge linking the classical and modern world.  Medieval society may not have been in a sense glorious, but the era of itself was a prime foundation of the modern worlds newfound stability, a revival of the law and teachings from the classical era, a reinvestment and reform in the church, and a precursor to the golden age of art.
The government of the middle ages, as convoluted and variable as it was, ended up giving way to a powerful revival of monarchial control.  The feudal age had erupted due to the monarchs inability to rule and defend holistically its country during Norse and foreign invasions in the 700s to 1000s AD.  The emphasis shifted instead to local lords and nobles who drew the kings power for greater local stability.  This system flourished under an influenced and uneducated nation, however, the rise of the middle and working classes put a change to that.  Skilled merchants began to form guilds, universities and learning groups educated citizens, and a strengthening economy led the middle classes to object to feudal lords taxes and form their own charters of towns.  The educated middle class was now able to run their town fairly efficiently, which in turn, decreased influence of feudal lords and revived the power and influence of the monarchy.  The king could now depend on his educated townspeople to run their town.  AS revolutionary as the transition was to the feudal system, the practice proved to be efficient in the modern world.
The influence of universities and merchants, as seen, changed the kingdom.  Medieval universities were first formed in the 12th century AD after a need for educated public officials became evident.  Schools like the Law School at Bologna as well as medical schools gave towns lawyers, judges and capable local officials.  Other schools like the University of Paris taught scholars literature and theology.  The breed of Renaissance thinking was most likely developed in such places.  Scholars like Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas led an interest in the study of classical Greek and Roman philosophy.  This interest, along with challenged perspectives of the time eventually led to modern science.  Guilds, as afore-mentioned, were monopolistic practices over certain trades set by merchants.  They virtually eliminated competition and ensured quality.  Compared to Renaissance art, and Shakespearean and Elizabethan literature the precursor saw little.  However, works like Chaucers Canterbury Tales were popular, and the Gothic architectural style laid a foundation for many cathedrals and buildings.  It is still a dominant facade in todays world and was relished in modern Western Europe.  A powerful education system and study of art are necessary for societys to flourish and carry its roots into the next era; the effects of the middle ages therein are obvious.  The middle ages staged to recall and then reform the religious concepts of the day.  Since all aspects of society, including religious, are influenced by a changing society, the religion of the middle ages progressed accordingly.  The feudal age of religion may have witnessed a hierarchy in its system, but as the ages progressed, society, including kings and church scholars, argued for a reform in church government.  Likewise, as scholars found contradictions in religion, church practices were challenged and the very popes and bishops were unpopular.  The ideas and preaching of those like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus faced the church with a possible full-scale rebellion.  The church willingly compromised, however these were early warning signs of the reformations of the modern world.  The church, try as it might, could not barge a developing society and mind.  
The developments of the political, cultural, and religious societies of the middle ages influenced each other and were in turn influenced by the people.  The early middle ages and the whole age in general might be looked at as backward, however the changes it inspired need only be seen in the vibrant modern world that would follow.  Solely based on its ... more

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Enlightenment Ideas And Politcal Figuers Of The Era

Intro to European History
3-3-99
Enlightenment Ideas and
Political Figures of
The  Enlightenment Era


The Enlightenment of the 18th century was an exciting period of history.  For the first time since ancient Grecian times, reason and logic became center in the thoughts of most of elite society.  The urge to discover and to understand replaced religion as the major motivational ideal of the age, and the upper class social scene all over Europe was alive with livid debate on these new ideas.
A French playwright who went by the pseudonym Voltaire is the most recognized and controversial Enlightenment author.  Because of his trademark acidic wit, he was forced to flee the country after giving offence to a powerful nobleman.  He spent the next two years in England where he came in contact with the pivotal Enlightenment idea of religious freedom and the freedom of the press.  When he returned to France, he had some scathing things to say about the less than enlightened policies followed by the French monarchs, especially concerning religious intolerance.  Because his ideas were generally offensive to the ruler of his country, the need to be able to leave France quickly to avoid prosecution was a consideration when deciding where he should live, which eventually was on the Swiss boarder.  There he continued to treat on society and anything else that caught his imagination.
Along with Voltaire were many other Enlightened thinkers, or philosophes, as they came to be known.  A man by the name of Rousseau was also a very influential personality.  His essays mainly treated on social inequality and education.
An Italian by the name of Cesare Beccaria also discussed society, but more in terms of social control and matters of crime and punishment.  He was an opponent of torture, capital punishment, and of any punishment that was done to excess or didnt fit the crime that warranted it.  He arrived at his conclusions through the logic that was so popular of the day.  An excellent example of this logic is in this phrase concerning capitol punishment:  Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?  Rational arguments such as these permeated Enlightened conversations and didnt fail to be noticed by many of the great national rulers of the day.
One monarch who seemed to be particularly inclined to the Enlightenment philosophies was Emperor Joseph II of Austria.  After the less enlightened reign of his mother, Empress Maria Theresa, he was able to finally institutionalize many of the ideas he had been mulling over and thinking about for years.  His mother, being a staunch Catholic, saw little use for such trivial issues, but once Joseph finally attainted complete control over the empire, his reforms were widespread.  Possibly to spite his mother, one of the first thing he did as emperor was seize much of the land occupied by various monastic sects, which he accomplished through his Edict of Idle Institutions.  True to his Enlightened nature, he promptly turned the seized lands into schools and other institutions of learning.  He abolished the death penalty, made everybody equal in the eyes of the law, and ratified legislation that called for complete religious toleration.  He even attempted to make the Jews living in Austria more acceptable to society as a whole.  He had only limited success on this front, but the attempt itself was a drastic step for a monarch of any country to date.  He made great progress economically as well.   Joseph II ended the monopolies that had unnaturally influenced his economy for decades and eliminated stifling internal trade barriers.  After all was said and done, he had created around 11,000 laws in an attempt to transform his country into an embodiment of Enlightened ideals.  Has he himself put it once, I have made Philosophy the lawmaker of my empire, her logical applications are going to transform Austria.
Despite his hopes, the reforms set forth by Joseph II were not as successful as he had hoped.  He angered the nobles by releasing the peasants from serfdom, and the peasants were similarly distressed over the newfound freedoms which they had no experience dealing with.  His reforms were simply ... more

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