Influences of Religion on History
When discussing the influences of forces on history, one must take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding religion. Religion is one of those topics that seems to have a hand in a number of different areas in history. Religion can be found in government, war, and can even be used as an explanation to an environmental change or natural disaster. For example, if there was a big storm coming from the sea, the Greeks used to claim that the god Poseidon was angry with them and would seek vengeance through forces of nature. Religion is a key concept that we can see jumping from culture to culture as man scrounges to make sense of his surrounding world. Christianity is one of the world’s largest religions, and has roots dating back as far as the Islamic religion. Christianity started to spread as a result of the teachings of Jesus Christ. As more and more people heard about Christianity they started to adopt this way of life into their own. Missionaries would travel from country to country trying to convert non-believers into followers of the Christian religion.
Spreading of the Christian Religion
We see the Christian religion spread and start to become a point of conflict not only amongst Christians of different denominations but also involving other religions as well. The Crusades were essentially a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims. This was started primarily to gain security of holy sites and land considered sacred by both groups. The Holy Land Crusades were among the most important forms of military mobilization to happen during the medieval period. Crusader mobilization had major implications for European state formation. Areas with large numbers of Holy Land crusaders witnessed increased political stability and institutional development as well as greater urbanization that came along with rising trade and capital accumulation, even after taking into account underlying levels of religiosity and economic development 1.
Religion also played a large role in governance in the middle ages. Governments would often be run and operated upon the basis of the religious practice of the country during the time. Throughout the time of the Catholic Church, we see the Pope taking a political stand against governments and kings. This is an example of how seriously the governments of the time took religion, and just a small look at how the influence of religion had its hand in the making of many governmental decisions that would alter history time and time again.
Catholic Church and Invention of Printing
Inventions had a big impact on history as well. The printing press came around the year 1440, and immediately began to alter history in Europe. Up until that time books were rare and only the rich and highly educated could afford them. Education was rare due to books being so scarce. The printing press made education possible for those willing to pay the price. The Catholic Church was also very pleased with the invention of the printing press. For the first time, the church had a way to efficiently and quickly produce bibles and spread their religion. Martin Luther, an influential leader during the Protestant Reformation, saw an opportunity to reform and reinvent the ideologies of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther believed that the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church corrupted the purity of the Christian religion, and he began to speak out. Luther published many books as a way of opening people’s eyes to the wrongs of the Catholic Church, and how the Christian religion was supposed to function according to the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church tried to oppress Martin Luther and his writings against them, but the force of the new invention of the printing press was too much. Martin Luther was printing, producing, and distributing books faster than the Catholic Church could find them and burn them. As a result, many people started to leave the Catholic Church which sparked the movement for the formation of many different denominations all pointing back to Christian teachings.
The Black Plague remains today as one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. The Plague resulted in an estimated 75 to 200 million deaths spread throughout Europe and Asia from 1347 to 1351. The Plague resulted in a succession of religious, social, and economical debacles which had detrimental effects in the course of European history. In response to the Black Plague, the government enforced many policies and practices in efforts to ensure safety and well-being amongst citizens. Some of these policies included the banning of morning and burial customs. Burial graves had to comply with specific dimensions to avoid the risk of contamination from the infected body. One thing that they were missing from the policies was ordinances to secure God’s goodwill for the cities. Citizens needed the guarantee from their leaders that there would be good to come out of such a catastrophic time period 2.
Exchange between Societies and Social Groups
Exchange and trade amongst countries made a huge impact on the communication and relationships of societies and social groups. One of the most socially controversial topics of the trade movement was the Atlantic Slave Trade. Between 10 million and 12 million African people were enslaved and were forced to migrate from Africa to America in the mid 1400s. The Atlantic Slave Trade was a profitable enterprise. The goal of ship captains was to deliver as many healthy slaves as possible for as little cost as possible. Unfortunately, many slaves were believed to die along the voyage from Africa to America. Because of this, they would try to hold as many slaves as they could onto a single ship. Depopulation from slave raiding and warfare disrupted economic activities and development throughout much of Africa. The slave trade also contributed to the growth of racist stereotypes about Africans. Such stereotypes were used to justify their enslavement and the colonization of Africa by European powers 3. Using econometric techniques and historical sources, historians have been able to determine a linkage between Africa’s past and their current economic circumstances. Influential effects include various degrees of geography, climate, precolonial institutions and colonial experiences. The swell of the Atlantic slave trade fundamentally altered the regions involved. In Europe, it concurred with the rise of the merchant class. In Africa, the trade fundamentally altered the structure of societies involved. The trade may have affected development within communities through its effect on institutions. It is also highly likely that the slave trade incorporated political fragmentation within communities and institutions involved.
Our world today with reigning powers, political uprisings, economic degradation, and so much more can all be traced back to not only choices our world leaders made, but even events and occurrences that were beyond their control. We continue today to learn from our mistakes and accomplishments by studying and analyzing the laws, practices and even ideas of those who came before and essentially changed the world.