Western Civilization History is full of events that have helped to shape the lives of those who lived in later years. Much debate has been given to how the world might have been different had the Greeks maintained mastery of the world rather than the Romans, for instance. In identifying three key events that have helped to shape Western civilization, it seems clear that the human rights and equality experienced by today’s generation, while not perfect, has been brought about by a long series of events that pulled society one step closer to what we know today. Beginning with the Age of Discovery, when practices of domination and oppression were becoming formalized, the American Revolution established the possibility that a group of individuals, working for the common good, might bring about tremendous change and inspired an entire generation in the 1960s to work for a better life for their own children. The Age of Discovery refers to the time in history when Europeans discovered the Americas. Explorers following the ships of Christopher Columbus found, on their own planet, a new land mass inhabited by humans. Of all mankind’s explorations, this period of discovery had the most impact on the future of the world’s collective societies. It caused the questioning of Christian religious dogma which encouraged the further use of critical thought on a widespread scale thus allowing society to advance both in knowledge and in the concept of human thought (Kreis, 2002). Until it was proved differently, church officials deemed it heresy to suggest the Earth was round because the Bible refers to the ‘four corners of the world.’ In addition, if God flooded the world and only Noah’s family survived, where did these people come from? The scientific boom that began in the 1600’s and continues to this day owes much to the Age of Discovery that preceded it. The church was no longer able to stifle scientific knowledge following the events of this era. Additionally, the economy of Portugal, then Spain, Europe and Asia among others experienced a revival due to the increasing slave trade and the lifestyle and cultural traditions of the native people of the ‘new world’ were forever altered. The term ‘discovery’ would indeed accurately describe this ‘age’ more so than any other era in human history. Simply finding the new land mass populated by humans would itself qualify the definition (Kreis, 2002). This era in history ushered in the practice of Imperialism, in which technologically advanced countries continued to move into less advanced nations and assert their dominance, enforcing their own standards and belief systems while undermining and eliminating any opposition and, often, enslaving those natives unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. The American Revolutionary War was of significance because its conclusion marked the beginning of a new country that would eventually become the greatest economic and military force in human history. Britain had ruled over the thirteen colonies in America for more than 200 years prior to the Revolution. By the beginning of the Revolution, the wars against France fought on both sides of the Atlantic had burdened Britain with a massive national debt. To ease the national debt, Parliament imposed taxes on the colonists believing it only fair that they bear part of the expenses incurred by the British military in protecting them from Indian attacks and French invasions. The colonists thought taxation without representation in the British government to be unjust and openly protested these laws which led to hostilities between British troops and the Massachusetts Minutemen in 1775. This and other conflicts with the ‘Red Coats’ led to colonists forming the Continental Congress which immediately created the Continental Army and in 1776, signed the Declaration of Independence (The American Revolution, 2006).
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