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Unit 2: How Trade and Travel Changed the World

Lesson E: Rise of Early Europe

Activity 3: The European Challenge

The decline of feudalism paved the way for the emergence of more distinct European states ruled by royal monarchies. These included England and France in Western Europe, Denmark to the north, the Scandinavian states of present day Norway, Sweden, and Hungary in central Europe, Muscovy and Ukraine (soon to become Russia) to the east, and the Italian states of Castile (soon to become Spain) and Portugal to the south and southwest. The map below shows the new borders of these states.

Map of Europe in the 1470's
Europe in the 1470s [1]

While these states emerged in Europe, larger empires still dominated the Middle East and Asia. The fall of the Christian Byzantine Empire and continued control of trade in the Middle East and southeastern Europe by the Ottoman Empire was an obstacle to European trade. Luxury goods from China, Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East had to flow through Ottoman lands. The size of the territory controlled by the Ottomans, the Indian Sultanates, and Ming/Qing Dynasties of China challenged Europe's ability to rule effectively.

Smaller European states in places such as Portugal and Italy controlled less territory and quickly developed strong governments and militaries that challenged the larger empires of Africa and Asia. City-states such as Venice and Genoa became the gateway between European and Asian centers of trade, where their territories spanned the trading areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Venetian and Genoese territories bordered the Ottoman Empire where they competed for trade routes and ports.

Map of Eastern Mediterranean
Eastern Mediterranean 1450 [2]


image of classroom blackboard with world history written on it

Classroom Activity - Differences in Trade Systems

Discussion Icon Discussion

Directions: Prepare a response to the discussion questions below. Follow your teacher's directions to participate in your class discussion.

Before you move on to a more specific discussion of some of the European states that emerged, predict the causes and effects of these changes to Europe by discussing the questions below as directed by your teacher.

  • What were the reasons for the changes to boundaries on the map of Europe?
  • What were the advantages of smaller European states compared to larger empires of Asia and Africa?
  • How might the states of Europe have challenged the power of the Ottomans and other empires?

Download Icon Select the link to review the Discussion Scoring Tool (pdf).


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Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Europe_in_1470.png is licensed under the terms of the GNU License Agreement.

[2] Source: This image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eastern_Mediterranean_1450_.svg is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution. Attribution: MapMaster.