B. Economic Renewal and the Wars of Religion, 1560-1648

This unit explores the wars of religion and the concomitant economic renewal. We do not often equate war with renewal. We will explore how the sixteenth and seventeenth-century wars of religion were interwoven with the concurrent European economic renewal. We will focus heavily on the history of daily life for many of the budding social groups in Europe at the time. The commercial revolution and the religious wars produced greater social stratification. The peasants, the land-owning class, and the bourgeoisie all became more heterogeneous groups. Why did this social stratification take place, and how was it related to the economic renewal and wars of religion in the period? The geopolitical tides seemed to be turning in this period, with both England and France consolidating gains as the two greatest powers in Europe. We will understand how those two countries emerged in the commercial revolution and from the religious wars stronger than they had been before and strong than their neighbors. Conversely, we will look at the Thirty Years' War, which ravaged the German lands and how it determined Germany's social and political division for the centuries to come. 

B.1. Introduction 

B.2. The Opening of the Atlantic 

B.3. The Commercial Revolution 

B.4. Changing Social Structures 

B.5. The Wars of Catholic Spain: The Netherlands and England 

B.6. The Disintegration and Reconstruction of France

B.7. The Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648: The Disintegration of Germany


Key Vocabulary — Economic 

  • inflation 
  • bullion 
  • currency 
  • barter 
  • capital 
  • capitalism 
  • balance of trade 
  • mercantilism 
  • tariff

Key Vocabulary — Historical 

  • price revolution 
  • Christopher Columbus 
  • Ferdinand Magellan 
  • Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) 
  • putting-out system 
  • bourgeoisie 
  • Spanish Armada (1588) 
  • Huguenots 
  • Duke of Guise 
  • Admiral de Coligny 
  • Henry of Bourbon, a.k.a. Henry of Navarre, a.k.a. Henry IV of France 
  • St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572) 
  • politiques
  • Jean Bodin 
  • Edict of Nantes (13 April 1598) 
  • Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) 
  • Defenestration of Prague (1618) 
  • Peace of Westphalia (finalized 1648) 
  • state sovereignty 

Central Questions 

  • We do not often equate war with renewal. How were the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars of religion interwoven with the concurrent European economic renewal? 
  • The causes of the religious wars are easy to identify. But why did they last for so long? 
  • The commercial revolution and the religious wars produced greater social stratification. The peasants, the land-owning class, and the bourgeoisie all became more heterogeneous groups. Why did this social stratification take place, and how was it related to the economic renewal and wars of religion in the period? 
  • The geopolitical tides seem to be turning in this time period, with both England and France consolidating gains as the two greatest powers in Europe. How did those two countries emerge in the commercial revolution and from the religious wars stronger than they had been before and stronger than their neighbors? 
  • How did the Thirty Years’ War determine Germany’s social and political division for the centuries to come?

Main Characters

  • Christopher Columbus 
  • Ferdinand Magellan 
  • a banker 
  • Domingos of Kisuya kya Laseta 
  • Philip II of Spain 
  • Catherine de’ Medici 
  • Henry IV of France 
  • Cardinal Richelieu 
  • Gustavus Adolphus