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written by ANTONY MBITHI on 11-05-2011

The modern state is a historical institution and it’s not ordained by God or determined by nature (Plumb H: 1961). The modern state has been fashioned by certain people at a certain time. Before the 16th century, there were no clearly recognizable sovereign states and these medieval times were a dark period in European history as it had forced a feudalist system on its people leading to a major decline in government and arts during this period. The major focus for governments and the arts were all religion oriented.

The Italian city states needed continuous dialogue with their neighbors and as a result the Duke of Milan did send a resident ambassador to Genoa in 1455. This practice was adopted by other city states and they did also send resident ambassadors to Paris, London and other European capitals. As a result of the permanent resident diplomacy, the resident ambassador endowed with diplomatic immunity. The French under King Louis XI invaded the Italian renaissance city states and as a result the French adopted the diplomatic methods and institutions that the Italian city states have developed. Another development that arose from this development that arose from this development of diplomacy and state system was writing and education. When diplomacy was conducted by orators who had studied Cicero and Quintilian, it was needful to have people who could write dispatches. Kings and great men had need of educated people to be secretaries who could reply in Latin and this led many clerks from London and Paris to frequently visit Rome to be fluent in Latin (Matteo Bandelo: 1950). Thus the city states way of diplomacy became the basis of the European way of Diplomacy for the future and many states including London and Paris had established permanent accredited diplomatic missions headed by ambassadors. This finally became the norm throughout Europe.

This development of diplomacy produced the basic elements of future European state system. It created the geographically sovereign international actor called the state. This placed an anarchical international environment wherein states struggled for power and rulers employed statecraft, diplomacy and military force for political expediency. This resulted to the development idea of the balance of power as a goal of the state system. This was done through the signing of treaties. The first of the alliance was struck between Florence and the States of Milan and Napoli both bitter enemies of each other, in the Treaty of Lodi. The treaty was to check the growing power of Venice; the Pope was a fourth party in the treaty as he had dispute with Venice over northernmost Papal States. Though the Pope, Alexander VI did not honor the treaty and attacked Milan, Milan did ask the French for help and this led to the formation of the League of Venice.

Empire was the pattern of political organization in Christian Europe over several centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. The states were not independent or sovereign as there were no clearly defined territories with borders (Bull and Watson: 1980). Power and authority was organized on both a religious and political basis. Kings and other rulers were subjects of higher authorities and their laws. At this time, states were not fully independent. Thus territorial political independence as we know it today was not present. The church engaged in worldly affairs wherein the churchmen were drawn from the nobility and were ruthless politicians whose central goal was the expansion of their political power and living lavish lives. This led to the rise of protestant reformation led by Martin Luther who called for the church to reform its corrupt policies (Hans J: 1945). At this time the German Princess stopped the flow of taxes to Rome and seize many church lands. This desire to be independent and sovereign led to endless wars. The solution came with the Peace of Westphalia which brought the war to an end. This peace of Westphalia made states to be recognized as the only legitimate political systems of Europe based on their own independent governments, and their own political subjects. The relations of the states were subject to international law. There was also balance of power between member states to prevent anyone from getting out of control and become a hegemony which would have established an empire again. This new political order in Europe created religious tolerance which was specified into three types of worship: domestic devotion, public religious services and communal worships by minority faiths. A new diplomatic process of the use of congress also emerged.

The increase in trade in the renaissance city states led to the invention of financial techniques which contributed so much to the modern states. The Medici bank of Giovanni di Bicci and his descendants Cosimo and Lorenzo de’ Medici (De Roover Raymond: 1966) protected the bankers against unlimited liability risk of complete financial ruin and did establish different geographical branches. The Medici bank introduced the partnership with branch managers in each location, separate sets of account books, close centralized oversight of branches through separate sets of account books and also through vast numbers of business letters between their branch partnerships. This finally led to a lot of social reforms in the modern states.

Thus the renaissance city states development in trade, the printing press, Protestantism, art, learning and the coming into existence of the peace of Westphalia did contribute so much to the modern states.


1. Bull, H and Watson A, “The expansion of International Society. Oxford Clarendon Press 1958

2. De Roover, Raymond, “The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank” New York 1966

3. Matteo Bandello, Biography (1485-1561)

4. Plumb J. H “The Penguin Book of the Renaissance” American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc, 1961

Date Submited: 11-05-2011

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