10 Major Events in European History


10 Major Events in European History

Shafqat Javed

The European history has developed many stages of ups and downs to reach the current status. This region has long been a seed of political, cultural, and economic influence. The power of its countries has stretched far beyond the continent, touching every corner of the Earth. Europe is known not only for its revolutions and wars but also for its socio-cultural changes, including the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and colonialism. The effects of these changes can still be seen in the world today.

  1. The Great Plague1

It was the final major epidemic of the bubonic plague to take place in the Kingdom of England. It took place within the centuries-long time period of the Second Pandemic, a long period of irregular bubonic plague epidemics which started in Europe in 1347, the first year of the “Black Death”, an eruption which was consisted of other forms like pneumonic plague, and continued until 1750.



  1. The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a cultural and socio-political movement of the 15th and 16th centuries that emphasized on the rediscovery and application of texts and believed from classical antiquity, happening in Europe. This movement actually began over the course of a few centuries, occurring as the class and political structures of medieval Europe began to break down. 2The Renaissance got its start in Italy but soon encompassed all of Europe. This was the time of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. It saw revolutions in thinking, science, and art, as well as world exploration. The Renaissance was a cultural rebirth that touched all of Europe. It also brought along a lot of change on the periphery of Europe. Islands such as Malta experienced great upheaval as wars such as the ones between Muslims and Christians in the Great Siege of Malta defined whether the rest of Europe would remain under the influence of the existing rulers, or whether it would be the beginning of the dominion of the Turks.



  1. Colonialism and Imperialism3

Europeans have conquered, settled, and ruled a huge proportion of the Earth’s land mass. The effects of these overseas empires are still felt today. Historians generally agree that Europe’s colonial expansion happened in several phases. The 15th century saw the first settlements in the Americas and this extended into the 19th century. At the same time, the English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and other European countries explored and colonized Africa, India, Asia, and the continent that would become Australia. These empires were more than governing bodies over foreign lands. The impact also spread to religion and culture, leaving a touch of European influence throughout the world.



  1. The Reformation

The Reformation, or the Protestant Reformation, was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. It introduced Protestantism to the world and created a major division which lasts to this day. Historians usually date the start of the Protestant Reformation to the 1517 publication of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” 4Its ending can be placed anywhere from the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in Germany, to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The key ideas of the Reformation—a call to purify the church and a belief that the Bible, not tradition, should be the sole source of spiritual authority—were not themselves novel. However, Luther and the other reformers became the first to skillfully use the power of the printing press to give their ideas a wide audience. The Protestant Reformation was both a spiritual and political revolution that led to a number of reform churches. It helped shape modern government and religious institutions and how those two interact.

  1. The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment has been defined in a lot of manners, but at its widest was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. The major thinkers of the Enlightenment stressed the value of reason over blind faith and superstition.5 It pointed to reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought over doctrine, and superstition. This movement was spearheaded over the years by a group of educated writers and thinkers. Logic was now emerging in a worldview which stated that empirical observation and the examination of life could disclose the truth behind human society, as well as the universe. The philosophies of men like Hobbes, Locke, and Voltaire led to new ways of thinking about society, government, and education that would forever change the world. Likewise, the work of Newton reshaped “natural philosophy.” Many of these men were persecuted for their new ways of thinking. Their influence, though, is undeniable.



  1. The Seven Years’ War6

The Seven Years’ War happened between 1754 and 1763 with the key conflict being in the seven-year period 1756–1763. Most of the great powers were participants and the war influenced Europe, North America, Central America, India, and the Philippines. In the historiography of certain countries, the war is named after fighters in the respective theatres: the French and Indian War as it is named in the United States.

  1. The French Revolution

Between 1789 and 1802, France was hit by a revolution which thoroughly changed the government, military and culture of the state as well as get Europe involved into some wars. 7The Revolution, which began in 1789, affected every aspect of France and much of Europe. Quite often, it is called the start of the modern era. It began with a financial crisis and a monarchy that had overtaxed and overburdened its people. The initial revolt was just the beginning of the chaos that would sweep France and challenge every tradition and custom of the government. In the end, the French Revolution was not without its consequences. Chief among them was the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. He would throw all of Europe into war and, in the process, redefine the continent forever.

  1. The Industrial Revolution

The second half of the 18th century saw scientific and technological changes that would radically change the world. The first “industrial revolution” began around the 1760s and ended sometime in the 1840s. During this time, mechanization and factories altered the nature of economics and society.8 In addition, urbanization and industrialization reshaped both the physical and mental landscape. This was the age when coal and iron took over industries and began to modernize production systems. It also witnessed the introduction of steam power that revolutionized transportation. This led to a great population shift and growth as the world had never seen.



  1. The Russian Revolutions9

In 1917, two revolutions convulsed Russia. The first led to civil war and the overthrow of the Tsars. This was near the end of World War I and ended in the second revolution and the creation of a communist government. By October of that year, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks had taken over the country. This introduction of Communism in such a great world power helped transform world politics.

  1. Interwar Germany

Imperial Germany collapsed at the end of World War I. After this, Germany experienced a tumultuous time which climaxed with the rise of Nazism and World War II. The Weimar Republic held control of the German Republic after the first war. It was through this unique government structure—which lasted only 15 years—that the Nazi Party rose. Led by Adolf Hitler, 10Germany would be faced with its biggest challenges, politically, socially, and morally. The devastation caused by Hitler and his counterparts in World War II would permanently scar Europe and the entire world.


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