Religion played a significant role and was one of the essential features of life in the early modern states, from 1492 to 1789 in Christian Europe and its colonies, the Islamic world, and East Asia. In particular, it was the reason for the religious wars in Europe. It also served as a dogma of faith, which resulted in chivalry, crusades, expansion, and the relief of the poor’s condition. In the Islamic world, religion has played a large role in politics, particularly numerous conquests, and the flourishing of culture and enlightenment. Finally, in East Asia, it affects the internal development and the absence of contact at the global level.
Christian Europe and Its Colonies
Religion and its rituals were inextricably linked with the critical life events of people in Europe; simultaneously, it also led to wars. In particular, it was due to the schism in the middle of the sixteenth century between the Catholic Church and the reformers, led by John Calvin and Martin Luther (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). The popularity of their ideas forced the latter to make a series of corrections called the Counter-Reformation during the Council of Trent (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). It caused conflicts between the remaining predominantly Catholic population and the people, who resonated with Protestant ideas. During this period, there were many religious wars, in which hundreds of thousands of people died struggling for their faith.
At the same time, the schism occurred, and the emergence of individual confessions did not destroy the idea of Catholicism. By the seventeenth century, religious problems had subsided, and the population was already showing a higher degree of solidarity, contributing to the creation of the concept of a united Europe (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). Consequently, it created a clear picture of the European identity.
Moreover, the synthesis of the Greek spirit of research, the purposefulness of Judaism, and the Roman order contributed to the emergence of the dogma of faith, which resulted in chivalry, feudalism, and the crusades. As a result, these aspects inspired the expansionist policies of Mazarin, Richelieu, and Louis XIV (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). Moreover, religion also influenced attitudes towards the poor in Europe, as it was a central theme in Christian teaching. Thus, in 1785, the standard Vienna hospital had 2,000 beds (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). The necessity for prison reform, the abolition of slavery, and primary education for the poor were characteristic of the utilitarian spirit’s politics.
In the early modern states of the Islamic world, religion played an essential role in its politics. Within its framework, Islam was one of the main tools, the rulers of which were required to use. Consequently, they have historically used religious authorities as a source of legitimation, which assisted in numerous conquests. For instance, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its heyday, engulfing Hungary and the Balkans, and reached Vienna (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). The army consisted of a squad of janissaries, fighters following the Islamic warrior’s rules with the idea of expanding Muslim territory.
The impact of religion on culture and education in the Islamic world was also completely strong. During this period, a large number of mosques were built, decorated with magnificent ornaments. Furthermore, patterns of this kind were also present in textiles. In addition, the influence of Islam was to prohibit artists from portraying animals and people in their paintings (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). Enlightenment in Islamic countries was widespread; as a consequence, there was a school at every mosque. Frequently, the mullah acted as a teacher who taught children arithmetic, writing, and the Muslim religion’s tenets.
In East Asia, religion also plays a significant role and has a close relationship with politics and government. The early modern states’ historical period in these countries represents events associated more with internal development than with contact and extension of ties at the global level. For example, the authorities of the East China coastal region of Jiangnan contributed to the commercial economy’s growth and the prosperity of the nobility (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). Simultaneously, due to intellectual introspection and fear of anything perceived as foreign, characteristic of neo-Confucianism, China during the late Ming dynasty’s reign was isolated, which implied a prohibition of the construction of sea vessels.
However, often rulers were too passionate about religion and its positions they forgot about their government responsibilities. In particular, Taoist masters’ teachings, which gained prominence during the reign of Emperor Jiajing, led him to become so infatuated by these practices that he abandoned the state’s affairs (Miglietti and Morgan 2017). As a result, he received the moniker Daoist Emperor, and instead of him, the country was ruled by Taoist ministers.
To summarize, religion played an essential role and was of significant importance in the early modern states in Christian Europe and its colonies, the Islamic world, and East Asia. In particular, the split between the Catholic Church and reformers in Europe has led to numerous wars. However, subsequently, the established religious tolerance of the population contributed to creating the concept of a united Europe. Moreover, religion also influenced the emergence of the expansionist policy of rulers of the time and the poor’s attitude. As far as religion’s role in the Islamic world is concerned, it manifested itself in a political aspect concerning numerous conquests. Besides, it also contributed to the development of culture and education. In East Asia, religion likewise plays an important role and has a close relationship with politics. It is demonstrated in isolation from other countries and the focus on internal development.
Miglietti, Sara, and Morgan, John. 2017. Governing the Environment in the Early Modern World: Theory and Practice. Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis.