The sixteenth century witnessed some of the most abrupt and traumatic transformations ever seen in European society and culture. Population growth strained the old fabric of community and economic relations. New supplies of precious metals from east and west re-wrote the rules of finance and commerce. Politics was dominated first by the gladiatorial struggle of two great Renaissance monarchs, then by the bitter and bloody entanglement of religion and politics. Society became more disciplined but also more fragmented. Yet this was also the age when the Renaissance became a European rather than just an Italian phenomenon, an age of art, architecture, and literature, of unprecedented reflection on the thinking person's role in government and civic life. It was theera of the Reformation and Catholic reform, when the ideals and priorities of the life of faith were examined and reshaped in the light of new readings of Scripture. For the first time Europeans not only learned more about the world beyond their continent; they reached out and grasped huge new overseas empires. Six leading scholars in their respective fields have here contributed their insights into the challenging and tumultuous sixteenth century. The economy, politics, society, and secular and religious thought all receive careful thematic treatment and analysis. A detailed picture also emerges of how Europeans made and managed their overseas empires. The volume challenges, tests, and revises the received wisdom of past accounts in the light of the most modern scholarship. The diverse experiences ofregions of Europe often ignored, including the East and the Mediterranean, receive particular attention where their destinies were different from the more better-known experiences of France and Germany. Many clichés of textbook history, from the multiple 'revolutions' to the rise of thenation-states, emerge transformed from this account.