Modern Age, urban life and social changes –

We continue with our analysis of the transformations produced in Western Europe during the beginning of the Modern age (15th and 16th century). We already started in our previous article by analyzing the economic transformations associated with the development of mercantile capitalism. Now we will study the changes that occur in the Social.

Social Transformations in the Modern Age: urban life and new social groups

The transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age was not an easy step. It was not a change caused by a revolution, or motivated by the sudden changes produced in society, nor by the monarchy or in the ecclesiastical estates that dominated in the Middle Ages and who wanted to continue exercising such power. On the contrary, the passage towards this Modern Age is a slow and gradual transformation, which had been forging since the last centuries of the High Middle Ages. The passage from the Middle Ages to a Modern Age meant the change from a dark society, in which absolute power was inflicted by monarchs, nobles and priests, a theocratic society in which everything revolved around God, and an economic system based on in feudalism, towards a new era, in which new ideas appeared, such as the humanism, the bourgeoisie, states and nations, the cities, and the arts and new currents of thought were enormously developed. For example, it was during this period that voyages were made to discover new worlds, such as Columbus’ voyage in 1492, which led him to discover America, although that was not his initial idea. During this time there were slow but profound economic and commercial changes, mainly the passage from a feudal system to one based on mercantile capitalism. Of course, this also produced important changes at the social level, as we see below.

  • The demographic increase (population growth) prompted the development of cities and population movements (peasants migrating to the city), giving rise to new social groups.
  • In the cities, the commercial and financial upper bourgeoisie became a social group with great economic power, and -in addition- began to participate in state positions. This social group is growing more and more, facilitated by the growth of cities and the increase in trade.
  • Other urban social groups of intermediate social and economic status (middle bourgeoisie: artisans and small merchants) or low (urban workers, beggars) also live in the cities.
  • In the rural area, the exploitation of the peasantry by the nobles (relations of serfdom) is maintained in many places, but at the same time changes are being introduced in rural society that have to do with the intervention of the bourgeoisie in the rural economy (for eg home work).
  • Although it is true that monarchs, high clergy or nobles held dominant positions, their economic power was sometimes even surpassed by the upper bourgeoisie. Also, although the Church maintained its power, the upward trend of heresies would become even stronger during this time.
  • Although it continues to be a time of patriarchal power in which women are relegated to a subordinate role to men, the first associations in which the female gender had equal importance to men are also promoted, such as the Iroquois Confederation, formed by men and women alike.
  • Finally, there were profound changes in the ideas and conceptions of men about things. It is the time of the development of humanism, which rejects theological ideas, embraces critical thinking and defends the individualism of man.

To finish, we leave you with a video about the Modern Age and with some links of interest so that you can further complete the information in the article.

Video about the Modern Age

Do you want to know more about the Modern Age? In the following video you can see more INFO, explained by and for 12-year-olds. I’m sure it will help you in your notes!

Links of interest

In Superhistory we have many other articles related to historical periods that have been key in the development and evolution of man:

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