From a political point of view, the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism had a formative effect on the early modern period, which culminated in the Thirty Years’ War. Confessionalization leads to a profound change in all areas of life, which can also be understood as a modernization process. The resulting struggles bring about a new order in Europe, which recognizes Old Believers and Protestants as religious communities with equal rights. The absolute supremacy of Catholic Spain is gradually being pushed back.
At least in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, a new type of state is emerging. The territorial state with a territorial lord differs from the medieval structures in that the landlord saw himself exclusively as a liege lord or vassal of the monarch, while the territorial lord appeared as a sovereign of his country.
The formative form of government in the early modern period is absolutism. With it comes a new form of economy, mercantilism. The way the monarch sees himself in relation to his subjects changes. The “Sun King” Louis XIV of France takes the view: “L’État, c’est moi”, in English: “I am the state”. King Frederick II of Prussia, on the other hand, as a representative of “enlightened absolutism”, sees himself as the “supreme servant of the state”.
The great persecution of witches also took place in the early modern period (and not in the Middle Ages). According to research by Heide Wunder, from which the concept of the “working couple” emerges, in the early modern period the working worlds of women and men in marriage were equal and complemented each other. Only with the emergence of the bourgeois world did domestic work and women’s work begin to be devalued.
At the end of this epoch, processes of democratization of society come to a breakthrough. This is expressed most strikingly in the North American War of Independence and initially also in the French Revolution, both of which initially lead to republican reorganization of society. As the nobility in France lose their social privileges, a democratic constitution becomes the written basis of the legal order in the United States.
From an economic perspective, the Age of Revolution marked the end of feudalism, an economy based on land ownership, or rather the manorial rule of the landlord as liege lord or vassal of the monarch, and their possession of serf peasants. Furthermore, it means the end of the previous guild and estate system in the medieval towns. The expansion through increased seafaring and the associated discoveries led to new economic structures in world trade (see also India trade and China trade). It was replaced by a burgeoning colonialism and overseas trade by the great powers of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England and France and the development of manufacture. These developments laid the foundation for industrialization and capitalism. Silver mining had also undergone a profound change. The discoveries of silver deposits in the “New World” had led to the decline in traditional tin and silver mining in the Saxon and Bohemian Ore Mountains until this mining was finally discontinued. Absolutism brought with it a new form of economy, that of mercantilism. Capital gains based on trade give this system its name because the absolutist state used mercantile principles in its external relations. There is also the term early capitalism for this.
A major shift in industrialization came with the invention of the first fully functional steam engine by James Watt in the 18th century. This was preceded by steam engine designs which were far less efficient than, for example, those of Thomas Newcomen. This not only led to a revolution in almost all production conditions, especially in the iron industry, but also in the transport infrastructure through the introduction of the railway by George Stephenson, which began in England in 1825. However, this was also preceded by attempts by Richard Trevithick to construct a steam locomotive in 1804, which did not fail due to deficiencies in the locomotive technology, but due to the rail material. In a way, the invention of the railway heralded the end of the early modern period.