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Thread: Golden Ages within Europe: a succession of regional influences

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Golden Ages within Europe: a succession of regional influences

    One amazing thing about European history is that no country ever managed to conquer the rest of Europe, to unify the continent and create a single empire, unlike China, India or the Middle East, where several empires controlled their whole respective civilisation, each more populous than Europe at the same period.

    The Romans came the closest, lasted the longest (about 500 years), but never managed to conquer Ireland, Scotland, Germanic countries, nor Northeast Europe. Napoleon managed to get an ever bigger chunk of Europe under his control, but only for a few years, and the North was still missing.

    One particularity of European history is that there almost always was one country dominating the rest of the continent culturally at one point or another without actually controlling other countries politically or militarily. However this never lasted more than a few centuries each time. It started with the Greeks, who developed the first great classical culture of Europe, with an influence reaching all along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, from Spain to Ukraine. Then came the Romans in their footsteps. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantines took the relay as the dominant power.

    From the late 700's, Charlemagne unified what is now France, the Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Northern Italy (as far as Rome), the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Catalonia, and founded in Holy Roman Empire in 800. This is the Frankish Golden Age (which was some sort of Belgian Golden Age too, as the Carolingian dynasty had been established in Belgium since the late Roman period). Although France became an independent kingdom in 843, the Holy Roman Empire remained the default dominant power for the rest of the Middle Ages.

    The 9th and 10th century saw the Viking invasions, which spawned two of the future great monarchies outside Scandinavia (Britain and Russia), and played an essential role in the development of modern democracy (the world's two first parliament were established by the Vikings in Iceland and on the Isle of Man, and the Danes and Normans influenced the English parliamentary system).

    The Golden Ages of Northern Italy and Flanders lasted from the late 13th century to the mid-16th century and brought with them the arts of the Renaissance. Italian and Flemish masters inspired the rest of Europe artistically (especially for painting and sculpture) and became the bankers of Europe.

    Then came the advent of the Habsburgian Empire under Charles V (1519-1558), marking the Golden Ages of Spain (thanks to the colonisation of the Americas), as well as that of Flanders (birthplace of Charles V) and the northern half of Italy (still the richest and most developed part of Europe).

    England and France had very little weight in European affairs until the mid-16th century. The English Golden Age got a kick-start with the reign of Elizabeth I (1533-1603), an age of exploration (Drake, Raleigh), literature (Shakespeare, Marlowe) and science (Bacon). The 17th century was mostly dominated by the French politically (Louis XIV), but the Dutch and the English continued the colonial expansion and led the development of sciences (notably with the founding of the Royal Society in 1660). France asserted its political, cultural and scientific dominance in the 18th century, with Britain not far behind.

    Most of the 19th century was duel between France and Britain, to the advantage of the latter, although French remained the dominant language, and Paris outshone London culturally (but not economically). Germany joined the game from the late 19th century, asserting its supremacy over mechanical sciences, technology and industry - a situation that persists to this day.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 24-10-11 at 17:46.
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