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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
McKay/Hill/Buckler/Ebrey
Web Exercises
Chapter 15: Europe in the Renaissance and Reformation

In 1500, Joanna—daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and wife of Philip, duke of Burgundy, the son of Holy Roman emperor Maximilian—gave birth to a son, Charles, in Ghent. By 1516, Charles inherited all the Spanish possessions in the world as King Charles I. In 1519, he inherited all the territory controlled by the Hapsburg family in central Europe. That year he was also selected Holy Roman emperor Charles V. At age twenty, he ruled over an empire larger than any Christian monarch in history controlled. His possessions included Spain, Austria, parts of Germany, the Netherlands, most of Italy, and Spain's empire in the Americas. He had the potential to create a huge, pan–European Christian state that rivaled the other great empires of his age, such as the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the Ming Dynasty in China. He seemed closer than any ruler before him to completing Charlemagne's dream of a united Christian Europe. Instead, Charles V abdicated his thrones in 1556 and retired a broken and defeated man to a monastery in Spain, where he died in 1558. His legacy was a Europe increasingly divided along religious and nationalistic lines. These Internet activities explore the life and times of Charles V. His story represents the transition of Europe from the Middle Ages to the modern era.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • To understand the importance of the Holy Roman Empire in the early sixteenth century, go to The Holy Roman Empire and read "The Final Phase." In theory, what did the Holy Roman Empire represent during the Middle Ages? When did the concept of a Holy Roman Empire begin? In reality, what had the Holy Roman Empire become by 1500? How far did it extend? (See Map 1.) Why did it not include all the Christian lands in Europe? How much real power did Charles V inherit as Holy Roman emperor in 1519? What implicit, or theoretical, power did the title give him?
Activity Two:
  • To understand the scope of Charles V's empire, study Map 15.1 on page 460 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Fifth Edition). List the various territories that he ruled directly. Now make a list of areas over which he had a strong but indirect influence.
  • Go to Map 2. (This map may take a while to load.) What contemporary nations exist in what was Charles V's empire? What modern nationalities emerged out of his realm? The shift from the medieval notion of a united Christian realm in Europe to the rise of nation–states did not occur overnight. By the end of Charles V's reign, however, the process had begun. The rest of these activities explore this development.
Activity Three:
  • Charles V was a product of the Renaissance in western Europe. McKay, A History of World Societies (Fifth Edition) describes the Renaissance as "the cultural achievements of the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries" and adds that "those achievements rested on the economic and political developments of earlier centuries" (page 443). To explore this definition, take a virtual tour of the Renaissance at Renaissance: What inspired this age of balance and order? Be sure to look at some of the suggested links. How does this site define the Renaissance? What economic trends made the Renaissance possible? What role did the printing press play in the development of Renaissance ideas? Why does this site focus on the city of Florence? How did humanism differ from previous intellectual thought in western Europe? How did the Renaissance affect the Catholic church as an institution? How did it affect people's attitudes toward religion and the church?
Activity Four:
  • The forces unleashed by the Protestant Reformation challenged Charles V's efforts to create a strong, united Christian kingdom. There had been many challenges to the Roman Catholic church's hegemony in western Europe, but none had succeeded before Martin Luther's. To understand the context of Luther's successful challenge, return to Renaissance: What inspired this age of balance and order? Read "Printing and Thinking" and "Focus on Florence." How did Renaissance ideas inspire criticism of the church?
  • Go to The Reformation. Be sure to read this entire essay. What are indulgences? (For more information, go to Historical Development of Indulgences.) Why did Luther's protest against this church practice spawn a full–fledged revolt against the church? What role did the invention of the printing press play in the Reformation? What aspects of the Renaissance encouraged this rebellion against the church?
Activity Five:
  • Luther's defiance of the church, particularly the authority of the pope, inspired others to do the same. Thus, the Protestant Reformation was not a monolithic movement. To understand the different strains of this protest, go to The Reformation Guide. Make a list of the various Protestant offshoots of Luther's initial challenge. Next to each group, write a brief description of it. Now go to Map 3. Identify where these ideas took hold in the sixteenth century. Which of these areas were under Charles V's rule?
Activity Six:
  • To understand the impact of the Protestant Reformation on Charles V, read Phillip Schaff's essay The History of the Christian Church: Charles V. What were Charles's goals as Holy Roman emperor? How did the Protestant Reformation impede his progress toward these goals? Continue reading this essay by going to The Ecclesiastical Policy of Charles V. How did Charles attempt to confront the forces of the Reformation in his realm?
Activity Seven:
  • Go to Charles V. According to this site, what forces besides the Reformation challenged Charles V's attempts to reform the Holy Roman Empire? In particular, what foreign powers conspired against him? Why did they oppose his efforts? How did they affect his dealings with Protestants within his realm?
Activity Eight:
  • When Charles V abdicated his thrones, the dream of a unified Europe died. Instead, the trend was toward a system of nation–states governed by strong monarchs. Go to Map 4. List the major nation–states emerging in Europe by 1648. What happened to the idea of a Holy Roman Empire?
  • Review "The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648)" on pages 477–479 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Fifth Edition). Was this war about religion, or did it have to do with different loyalties? How does Map 4reflect these loyalties?
Activity Nine:
  • At the end of the sixteenth century, one hundred years after the birth of Charles V, two of the more powerful monarchs in Europe were Henry IV of France and Elizabeth I of England. Go to Henry IV and Elizabeth I. How were the lands over which Henry and Elizabeth reigned different from those of Charles V? What were their goals as monarchs? Did they achieve these goals? How? How did they deal with the religious divisions in their realms? What were their personal religious beliefs? How important were these beliefs in their duties as monarchs? Why were they more successful in achieving their goals than Charles V? How do they symbolize a new age in Europe?


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