In his book, Centuries of Change, author and historian Dr Ian Mortimer explains which century saw the most change and why it matters to us. From his research, we bring to you the most significant change in each century from the eleventh century to the twentieth.
11th Century: Discontinuation of Slavery
Although the slavery continued long after this, and it exists in some parts even today, but the practice has been declared illegal almost everywhere in the world. And the foundational stones towards the abolition of slavery were laid from 900 to 1200 in European society. A number of social developments along with the economic development in Europe brought this idea.
12th Century: The Rule of Law
In addition to Roman law and canon law, the twelfth century saw the introduction of legislation. In medieval times, the religious leaders or the kings had a lot of power. And the way they executed their power, sometimes it seemed just, sometimes it did not. The legislation brought a whole new perspective. Now, the rules or laws were debated and carefully written down.
13th Century: Education
The public education has taken centuries of develop worldwide. But the roots of modern university education can be traced back to the thirteenth century Europe, when education began to spread. In fact, the first official use of the word universitas dates back to 1215. By 1300, universities were firmly established in Seville, Salamanca, Lerida, Lisbon, Oxford, Cambridge, Toulouse, Montpelier, Angers, Paris, Vercelli, Bologna, Vicenza, Padua, Piacenza, Reggio, Arezzo, Siena, Naples, Salerno. By this time, it had become usual for any cleric hoping to attain high office in the Church to read for a Masters of Art degree at a university.
14th Century: Nationalism
We live in nation states. But these nations did not always exist. The earlier empires worked under the light of a particular religion. As the religion was spreading, and more religious conflicts were arising, alongside the conflicts between popes and kings, the idea of a nation began to emerge based on culture, language, traditions etc. The world was also changing in terms of commerce, trade, and social development. In that regard, nationalism became a strong idea from the point of view of governance, administration, legislation, and justice.
15th Century: Individualism
Today we talk about individual rights. Were they always there? Certainly not. There is something interesting that happened in fifteenth century. Glass mirrors arrived. Earlier, the mirrors were rare, but now with the glass mirror, most people began to see their own identity more clearly. This is reflected in the changes that took place during the course of the time.
16th Century: Printed Books and Literacy
The publication of Bible in the local vernacular brought huge transformation in the printing and publications. In those times, especially in Europe, Bible was the only book people wanted to read, which meant, the book industry saw an unbelievable boom. The books existed prior to sixteenth century too. But most of them remained in the hands of a few wealthy people. Once, Bible reached thousands and thousands of people, it meant the reading culture had arrived and it was only going to grow from there.
17th Century: The Scientific Revolution
Science saw a massive revolution during the course of the seventeenth century. Newton, who was born in 1643 laid the foundation for the modern physics, and his contributions are such that we study his theories till date. Other scientists such as Kepler and Copenhagen also made tremendous contributions. Galileo, who made the first telescope in 1610, and looked up at the stars, which until then were perceived to be heavens, created a conflict between Science and Religion which would continue for long.
18th Century: The Industrial Revolution
The biggest challenge for our ancestors was to have enough yields of crops so that they could survive and indulge in higher pursuits as well. The agriculture developed enough in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, due to which the innovations in other sectors suddenly grew up. One of them was the industrial revolution. Thanks to the developments in Science and Technology, the mass production of the objects became convenient. The revolution was further enhanced by the use of steam engine, which created a new kind of world and capitalism began to establish itself.
19th Century: Social Reform
America had got freedom and become a democratic state in 1776. But its impact would be resonated around the world for the hundred years or more. French Revolution took place in the eighteenth century, which also led to the formation of the new French state. The idea of democracy popularised during this century. This not only meant that a new political system was being designed, but also that a large section of a society, which was previously not given its rights, became a part of the system. Women, blacks, people from different religions or castes – all started to participate. The progress was slow, but we got there, more or less.
20th Century: Computer and Internet
In the last one hundred years, the world has changed a lot. We saw two world wars and then we saw something spectacular taking place. Computer (the reason you are reading this right now). A lot of credit should be given to Alan Turing who worked on the first computer. Since then, the computers have changed the world. It was like the industrial revolution but its implications were much wider. Towards the end of the twentieth century, we also saw the arrival of the internet (which, once again, is the reason you are reading this) and the world began to connect which was not imagined ever before.