Table of Contents
- Earliest Civilizations: Before 500 AD
- Rise of Christendom
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- The Fall of Rome
- Reintroduction of Greek philosophy to the West
- Magna Carta
- Rise of Western Schism
- The Fall of Constantinople in 1453
- Renaissance: 14th to 17th Century
- The Reformation: 1500 to 1650
- The Age of Discovery: 1500 to 1800
- Enlightenment: 1500-1800
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Earliest Civilizations: Before 500 AD
The earliest civilizations of the world influenced the growth of the West. About 10,000 years ago, Mesopotamian civilization started flourishing between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris due the domestication of animals like goats and sheep and the introduction of new crops like the new wheat hybrids (Kishlansky, 2007). The Babylonians, Assyrians, Sumerians, and Akkadians also prospered in the region. By the fourth millennium BC, the Pharaohs of the antique Egypt had unified the Nile valley, which spread to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea that provided shipping routes to Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Mediterranean was a point of western civilization development. By 1500 BC, metallurgists in the region had acquired iron ore smelting skills, and by about 800 BC, iron weapons and tools were available in the Aegean Sea and used to advance agriculture, crafts, and warfare in Greece.
Rise of Christendom
In 587 BC, Nebuchanezzar II of the Neo-Babylonia Empire destroyed the Jewish temple thus forcing the Jewish leaders into exile. The aftermath of the two events was the spread of Judaism’s traditions, values, and texts. Jesus of Nazareth’s followers like Paul and Peter enhanced this by spreading his teaching throughout the Roman Empire and beyond its territory. Christianity changed the reasoning of the people in the western world. It liberated their thinking.
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The Fall of Rome
In 476, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, was removed by a Germanic chieftain called Odoacer. Before this, the empire was slowly declining. The Western Roman Empire had had control over France, Italy, Spain, England, and Portugal for many centuries. Its decline and eventual destruction was brought about by a combination of economic decline, plaque, and an abridged military strength that allowed incursion of barbarian tribes. With their incursions, the growing Western civilization was destroyed.
Reintroduction of Greek philosophy to the West
The works of Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, were reintroduced to the West in 12th century. This led to the emergence of a new school of thought called scholasticism. This school stressed on scientific observation. Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Anselm who lived in that period tried to use philosophical means to prove God’s existence (Spielvogel, 2000). This school of thought was the foundation of scientific and technological advancement in Europe.
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On 15 June 1215, Magna Carta was sealed under the oath of King John at Runnymede on the river Thames’ bank. This was the first document to be imposed by the feudal barons upon an English king in an effort to legally limit his powers and defend human rights. According to Magna Carta, King John had to proclaim certain liberties and assure that he will not breach them. For example, he accepted the law that protects people today against unlawful punishment in England. This charter enabled the development of democratic nations.
Rise of Western Schism
Due to the conflict between the French crown and the Papacy, the court of the papacy was situated between 1305 to 1377 at Avignon. Gregory XI restored it to Rome due to Saint Catherine of Sienna’s request. In 1378, another group of seven Avignon Popes was set up as a rival to Rome. This happened due to the breakdown of relation between Urban VI who succeeded Gregory and the Cardinals of the Catholic Church. This event weakened the status of the papacy and consequently supported the cry for Protestant reformation as it liberated people’s thinking from papacy teachings.
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The Fall of Constantinople in 1453
In 1453, the Ottomans under the control of Sultan Mehmed II fought and defeated a small army of Constantine XI. They destroyed the walls of the ancient city with terrifying new weaponry. The Ottoman invasion forced the Greek scholars westwards who then went to revive the western knowledge of classical antiquity. The revival helped the westerners to come out of the unexamined church doctrines.
Renaissance: 14th to 17th Century
The Renaissance started in Italy and brought in a new period of intellectual and scientific development. Merchant cities like Genoa, Florence, Nuremberg, Ghent, Zurich, Geneva, Seville, and Lisbon hosted patrons of science and arts. Johannes Gutenberg created a printing press in 1450, which allowed quick spread of literature work (Spielvogel, 2009). Renaissance led to the spread of knowledge and the use of critical thinking skills, which made people create new things.
The Reformation: 1500 to 1650
The Reformation started in 1517 when a Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther wrote down 95 theses denouncing the corruption, wealth, and the belief system of the Catholic Church. This led to his excommunication from the Catholic Church and the growth of Lutheran Church that became the largest church in the northern Germany. Other reformers followed him that lead to the development of Protestant churches. Luther’s activities freed people’s mind and encouraged them to use reasoning.
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The Age of Discovery: 1500 to 1800
By 1500, before even the fusion of science and technology, Westerners had began using their new technologies to conquer new lands. They started in 1492 when Christopher Columbus under the backing of the Spanish Crown sailed to Asia across the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of reaching Asia, he ended up in Bahamas. This led to the establishment of the western civilization in the Americas. Spanish were followed by other European nations who later went to colonize Africa.
During the period between 1500 AD and 1800 AD, most European powers had the absolute rule. However, during the same period, intellectual movements were opposing the total power of the monarch. Philosophers who were also known as enlightenment thinkers emphasized that a government should only exist with the consent of its subjects. They based their augments on the Roman Republic and the Athenian democracy.
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