History of the 17th-Century West

History of the 17th-Century West

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The history of the 17th-century West is part of the Early Modern period of Europe, whose impact on the world was increasing. It was characterized by the culture of the Baroque, the Spanish Golden Age, and the Dutch Golden Age. France’s Grand Siècle was dominated by Louis XIV, as the Scientific Revolution was by Sir Isaac Newton. The global spirit of the age was seen in the Dutch East India Company, which became the world’s first global corporation from its lucrative role in the Dutch takeover of Portugal’s Spice Empire. However, the 17th Century was always in crisis from war: the Thirty Years’ War that killed nearly a third of Europe; the Great Turkish War; the Mughal–Safavid Wars; and the Anglo-Mughal Indian War. With the discovery of the Americas by Colombus, European colonization of the Americas hastened. But Spain’s massive exploitation of the silver deposits of the New World brought inflation and decay to the Spanish court.

The monarchy of France’s Sun King Louis XIV grew stronger as the semi-feudal French nobility weakened and was subjugated to the power of the absolute monarchy. Louis XIV converted the Palace of Versailles from a hunting lodge to a gilded prison, in which the intrigues of the bloated royal court could be observed and manipulated. Then, with domestic peace thus assured, Louis XIV embarked on a campaign to expand the borders of France. In England, the monarch became a figurehead who answered to Parliament, unlike most of European government, especially France. As technology dawned, Europeans became fascinated with logarithms, electricity, the telescope and microscope, calculus, universal gravitation, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and measuring and calculating machines. All of this was due to the Scientific Revolution and its galaxy of talent that included Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, Pierre Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Christiaan Huygens, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Along with science, the culture of the 17th century flourished in theater, music, visual arts and philosophy.

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​Pre-Modern West Index | 17th Century Index | Society: CrisesPopulationRevoltWitchcraft | Culture: Architecture: Baroque | Art: BaroqueMannerismRococo | Literature: Novels | Music | Power: ProgressionThirty Years’ War: Bohemian PhaseDanish PhaseSwedish PhaseFranco-Swedish Phase | Economy: BankingCommerceTrade | Austria: Power | Central Europe: Power | England: CulturePower: Governance | English Civil War: Charles ILong Parliament | Glorious Revolution: Revolutionary SettlementResponses | France: Culture: ArtDrama | Power: ProgressionGovernanceEconomy | Iberia: CulturePower | Italy | Netherlands: CulturePower: GovernanceUnited Provinces of the NetherlandsEconomy | Poland: Power | Prussia: Power | Russia: SocietyPower | Scandinavia: Power

Pre-Modern West: Index

17th-Century West: Index






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Architecture: Baroque


Art of the Baroque

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Art: Mannerism

Art: Rococo


Literature: Novels



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Power: Progression

Thirty Years’ War

Thirty Years’ War: Bohemian Phase

Thirty Years’ War: Danish Phase

Thirty Years’ War: Swedish Phase

Thirty Years’ War: Franco-Swedish Phase

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Economy: Banking

Economy: Commerce

Economy: Trade


Austria: Power

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Central Europe

Central Europe: Power


England: Culture

England: Power

Power: Governance

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English Civil War

English Civil War: Charles I

English Civil War: Long Parliament

England: Glorious Revolution

Glorious Revolution: Revolutionary Settlement

Glorious Revolution: Responses


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France: Culture

Culture: Art

Culture: Drama

France: Power

Power: Progression

Power: Governance

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France: Economy


Iberia: Culture

Iberia: Power



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Netherlands: Culture

Netherlands: Power

Power: Governance

United Provinces of the Netherlands

Netherlands: Economy


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Poland: Power


Prussia: Power


Russia: Society

Russia: Power


Scandinavia: Power

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