Pre-Modern West (Members Only)

Digital History of the Pre-Modern West

a key to global education: Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

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Perspective


Western civilization emerged from the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, whose antecedents gave rise to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and liberal democracy. Celtic and Germanic peoples of pre-Christian Europe contributed to the cultural mix, as did Roman Judea and the early Jewish diaspora. Christianity also played a prominent role in the formation of Western civilization, which came to be seen as largely equivalent to Christian culture. Western civilization wielded immense global influence in the rise of the civilizations of modern Americas and the Pacific.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Europe experienced a power vacuum that was filled by the Catholic Church. The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire continued for another thousand years, and by the 12th century, art and learning in Western Europe were flourishing. Great cathedrals were built, medieval universities were established, and contact with the Islamic world burgeoned in Spain and Sicily, where Arabic scientific and philosophical works were rendered into Latin. The Renaissance endured from the 14th through the 17th centuries, though interrupted by the firestorm of religious rebellion against the Church during the Reformation. Mercantile city-states in Italy ushered in an era of scientific and artistic advance, and the curiosity of the age lent impetus to the rise to the global empires of Portugal, Spain, France, and the Netherlands in the new Age of Exploration.

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