We explain what the Modern Age is and in what context it developed. Also, what are its general characteristics and main changes.
What is the Modern Age?
The Modern Age is the third historical period in which Universal History is commonly divided , between the 15th and 18th centuries, after the Middle Ages , and before the so-called Contemporary Era .
The Modern Age is considered an era of consolidation of the ideals of progress , communication and reason, which from then on will be considered the values of modernity and will continue more or less in force until today. This, contrasted with the considerations of obscurantism and isolation of the Middle Ages, resembles the Modern Age with the Antiquity or Classical Period , in which philosophy and the Fine Arts flourished .
Its main protagonists were the Western nations of Europe and America (later) , which is why this division of Universal History has been accused of being Eurocentric or at least restricted to Western Civilization . However, the so-called “Age of Discovery” in America and Australia takes place here, as well as the emergence of the first world economy , so its importance and impact were universal.
Context of the modern age
The Modern Age is usually located more or less between the XV and XVIII centuries , but the events that mark its beginning are usually considered the taking of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire and with it the end of the Eastern Roman Empire , or according to other authors the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Events, however, that sentence usually end the French Revolution of 1789 or the independence of the United States in 1776. According to other authors also could be taken as markers of an end to the Spanish American Wars of Independence , thereafter we would speak of the Contemporary Age or the Contemporaneity.
Modern Age Division
Given the magnitude of the changes that took place in the Modern Age, certain historians of the Anglo-Saxon school usually divide it into two stages: the Early Modern Age (XV-XVIII centuries) and the Second Modern Age (XIX-XXI centuries) . According to this classification we would still be living in modern times.
One of the great revolutions that the Modern Age brought with it had to do with the new breath to the arts and Western thought , the result of the exodus of Greek thinkers from ancient Byzantium, conquered by the Ottomans, to Italy . Another important source of aesthetic and humanistic discoveries came from the Reconquest of Spain , which had been under Arab rule for five hundred years of mestizo cultural flourishing.
This return of thought and the arts was known as the Renaissance and originated in Italy, with the prominent participation of artists, philosophers, politicians and thinkers such as Leonardo DaVinci , Miguel Ángel Buonarotti , Raphael and many more. This influence soon spread throughout Europe and produced an explosion of knowledge from which many of the works that today we understand as classics in the different artistic and knowledge genres come.
Political changes of the modern age
The Modern Age will bring with it numerous political changes, many of which had already begun to take shape in the Middle Ages, such as the emergence of the mercantilist bourgeoisie , which would later assume the leading political role in substitution of the old aristocracy and the clergy. This political and social revolution will have its first announcement with the French Revolution of 1789, where the Kings of France will be beheaded.
Another important change will be the split between State and Church , which will take place gradually as the kingdoms of yesteryear become nation-states. This means that legal codes and social regulations and provisions will cease to obey the moral commandments of the Church and will therefore develop as their own and independent discursive body: the laws .
However, the great European empires will not see their decline until the end of the Age , when they begin the processes of change that lead to the loss of many of their colonies. During the modern era, rather, they will consolidate themselves as world powers, once their navigators and explorers discover the continents of America and Australia , approximating for the first time territories that have ignored each other since prehistory .
Economic changes in the modern age
The meeting between the various world regions (Eurasia, America and Australia) will give rise to the construction of a global market for goods that will have as its epicenter the large cities of the European and Asian kingdoms. This also led to slavery and the subjugation of the young peoples of the new and brand new world, which boosted the economy of the dominant nations, in an unprecedented historical looting. In fact, the slave trade and the smuggling of goods were extremely lucrative activities during the time.
Towards the end of the era, mercantilism was born and later capitalism , which gave rise to the bourgeoisie and the constitution of a consumer society , once the Industrial Revolution occurred . This will lead to the growth of European and American cities, many of which will be city-states.
Religious changes of the modern age
The new insurgent urban society soon came into conflict with the great Western religions, especially Christianity , whose Church, already split from the Orthodox, suffered numerous reformist movements. This gives rise to Luther's Protestant Reformation, and to the conservative response of the Counter-Reformation , led mainly by Spain and transmitted to the New World through its colonies.
This will divide the European religious landscape in two, with greater Protestant influence in the Nordic and Anglo countries , and Catholic in the Mediterranean South. This will bring particularly fierce consequences in the counter-reformist countries, at the hand of the Holy Inquisition of the Catholic Church.
Philosophical changes of the modern age
The Modern Age, and especially the Renaissance, will center their perspective on man , which in medieval times focused on God . Man will become the measure of all things, and through the recovery and revaluation of the cultures of pagan antiquity, especially the Greco-Roman tradition, faith in human reason will be promoted.
Thus arise humanism , rationalism and later the enlightenment , doctrines of thought that will give an enormous boost to the arts and especially to the sciences , which will be lavish in discoveries, theorizations and manufacture of new instruments, particularly when they are not subjected to the inquisitorial surveillance in Protestant countries.
The contributions of Nicolás Copernicus , Galileo Galilei , Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton and many others that laid the foundations of contemporary science stand out.
Artistic changes of the modern age
The arts will have an enormous growth in the Modern Age that will be expressed in numerous aesthetic movements, among which there will be neo-classical positions , Renaissance , Baroque (especially the Hispanic, influenced by its new Moorish heritage) and Rococo . These movements will have influence on architecture , theater , painting , literature , music and sculpture , rejecting medieval motivations (the "Gothic") and betting on the construction of great works that reflect the newfound faith in man.
The creation of the Latin American continent , through the confluence of the Indian, black and white races, will also provide the world with a unique culture, the fruit of syncretism and mixture, which although initially it will take place under the Spanish Catholic yoke, will soon take its own roads and drifts.
Art belonging to this period is known as Art of the Modern Age , and not "Modern Art", a term used for later artistic productions.
Naval exploration of the modern age
The great western kingdoms: France , Germany , England , Spain, Italy, Holland and Belgium, above all, the American, African, Australian and Asian (minor) continents will be distributed, giving rise to a cultural, economic and racial exchange whose clearest example it is the incorporation of the African race to the American continent, where it will form a vital component of the Latin American and Caribbean constitution.
The paradox of the modern age
In the midst of this rise of progress, modernity and its enlightening values, there were also paradoxical manifestations of backwardness and cruelty, such as the persecution and burning of witches in northern Europe , much more violent than in the southern Mediterranean and the American colonies. , which were supposed to be more backward and barbaric.
Many nations and cultures resisted the modernizing influx from Europe , closing around themselves with greater or lesser success, as is the case with China or Japan . The latter remained isolated and avoided the relations of colonial dependency that were inherent to opening up to the world market.
Other nations like Tsarist Russia, on the other hand, viewed European modernity favorably and approached it as closely as possible. Much later they would pay the price for it with the Russian Revolution in the 20th century.
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