Early Modern period introduced important changes in society.
One of the most fundamental variables in any economic system is population growth. The most important event in the late Middle Ages was the demographic crisis of the 14th century. This crisis known as t the Black Death of 1347-1351 lasted well into the 15th century. Only from around 1470 Europe’s population really recovered and it rose until 1560.
Growing population fueled a growing economy. People moved from the countryside to the city, and from small towns into very large cities. Some cities grew tremendously. By 1700, Europe had forty-three cities with populations over 40,000.
Society in Europe during the 16th century was formed by this groups:
- At the top was the UPPER CLERGY consisting of the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, abbots, etc. They often ruled their territories but also carried the hearts and minds of an ignorant people.
- ARISTOCRACY (2nd Estate), living on their great fiefs in the countryside. Nobles maintained their privileges but they lost political power.
- A new class had evolved in the towns known as the BOURGEOISIE, consisting of the mayors, merchants and master-craftsmen who had fought hard during the High Middle Ages to win freedom from the nobility. They were working continuously for increased political power.
- At the bottom , was the rest of society . In the towns there were the lawyers and teachers, the journeymen and apprentices, the unskilled labourers and the unemployed. In the country were the peasants who worked the land. Most were poor but were as yet seeking only an easier life.