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Early Modernity

Defining the elusive "Early Modern" period in European and World History. Trying to make a historiographical conundrum useful to history students.

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Early Modernity

  1. 1. Early ModernityWhat/When is “Early Modern” anyway?
  2. 2. Periodization Problem• Renaissance writers considered themselves modern, created concept of medieval era to close off past.• Modern meant "now" but industrialism and democracy seemed to mark a new transition, a new modern age.• So "Modern" moved up to the 19th century, but the earlier period was also "modern"; European historians separated "Early Modern" from "Modern," separated the past from the present• Then, other historians started trying to use the term, especially comparitively...
  3. 3. Early Modern Defined (briefly)• substantial period of growth and change, not a stable state.• State Formation and Sophistication• Economic Growth, especially Diversification• Social Mobility and Cultural Flourishing• Prior to – Industrialization – Democratization
  4. 4. When Is Early Modern?• Western Europe: 15th c. through 18th c.• Ottoman Empire: 15th c. to 19th c.• China: 11th c. through early 20th c.• Korea: 15th c. to late 19th c.• Japan: c. 1600 to 2nd half of 19th c.
  5. 5. State Formation• Centralizing state authority – weakening aristocracies – Bureaucratic and professionalized administration – Well-defined Law and Boundaries• Interest in Economic Development• Expanding State: Exploration and Imperialism• Increasing concern with public opinion
  6. 6. Economic Development• Rapid agricultural productivity improvement• Substantial and growing urban economies• Proto-industrial (aka “putting out”) production and diversification• Increasingly cash-based economy• Market and finance networks of great sophistication.• Globalization
  7. 7. Social/Cultural Change• Historically high rates of literacy (25% and up),• Literacy and prosperity support flourishing entertainment culture: drama, literature, art• Proto-nationalism• Physical and Social Mobility – Urbanization – Advancement through Education, Meritocracy
  8. 8. Historians’ Problems• Societies with some, but not all, hallmarks of Early Modernity: Eastern Europe• Societies which are somewhat Early Modern, but colonized: India, South & Central America• Societies that never pass through Early Modern stage at all: Africa• Is “Early Modern” a necessary stage for successful Modern Age? Or is this a hindsight error? (aka, "Whiggish teleology")
  9. 9. References• Background Photograph “East India Tea Company Crates” taken at the Falls of Clyde in Honolulu, Hawaii, by Jonathan Dresner –• See discussion of “Early Modern Periodization” by Morgan Pitelka, arly-modern-periodization/

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  • AbrahamTsehay

    Nov. 28, 2016

Defining the elusive "Early Modern" period in European and World History. Trying to make a historiographical conundrum useful to history students.


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