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Middle Ages

Transition to the Modern World

The transition from the medieval to the modern world was foreshadowed by economic expansion, political centralization, and secularization. A money economy weakened serfdom, and an inquiring spirit stimulated the age of exploration. Banking, the bourgeois class, and secular ideals flourished in the growing towns and lent support to the expanding monarchies. The church was weakened by internal conflicts as well as by quarrels between church and state. As feudal strength was sapped, notably by the the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, there emerged in France and England the modern nation state. A forerunner of intellectual modernity was the new humanism of the Renaissance. Finally, the great medieval unity of Christianity was shattered by the religious theories that culminated in the Protestant Reformation.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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