Part 2 Modern period

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Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490

The modern period was after the Middle Ages, circa 1500. Can also be seen as starting at the Fall of Constantinople (1453), or the discovery of the New World (1492). Can be divided into:

  • Early modern period was circa 1500–1750 AD; it can also be seen as starting at 1453 or 1492 (see above); and ending at the French Revolution (1789), or at 1800. The early modern period was characterized by the ascendancy of Russia, which curtailed the expansion of Sweden after the Great Northern War. Within and outside of the Holy Roman Empire, Brandenburg (which would become Prussia) and Austria (ruled by the House of Habsburg) would dominate geopolitics. The House of Habsburg would have important wars against the Ottoman Empire, and the French in Italy; they would also gain the Spanish crowns. In France, the House of Bourbon would ascend to the throne, and later on would gain the Spanish crowns from the Habsburgs. With the Reformation, Protestants would break with the Catholic Church, leading to the European wars of religion. It was also the Age of Discovery, and vast colonial empires ruled by European countries would result. Philosophy, the arts, science and technology would greatly develop during this period, especially with The Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment.
  • Late modern period was circa 1750–1945, or 1800–1945. It was characterised with three periods of intense conflict, surrounded by periods of relative peace: the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815); World War I (1914–1918); and World War II (1939–1945). The Age of Revolution would see many revolutionary movements, and was especially notable for the American Revolution and the French Revolution. It was also a time of European unification, with the formation of the German Empire, and the Risorgimento (Italian unification). Imperialism continued, especially with Scramble for Africa; but the Ottoman Empire would decline during this period, and with the Spanish American wars of independence and other decolonisation, most empires would eventually be lost. The Industrial Revolutions resulted in huge increases in mechanisation and industry.
  • Contemporary period was from circa 1945 (post World War II) to the present time. It was characterised by the Cold War, in which much of the World would be divided in two groups, largely divided by communist and capitalist ideologies; a flurry of proxy wars occurred between the two dominant superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union. With the fall of communism, this stalemate would mostly be ended, and the risk of full-blown nuclear conflict largely averted. Decolonisation gained traction during this period, with most territories of colonial empires made independent by 1975. With the European Economic Community and European Union, Europe would enter an era of free trade and movements of many Europeans, with some degree of political union. Huge technological developments occurred, particularly in computing and communications.

← Late Middle Ages · Brief History of Europe · Early modern period part 1 →