Concurrent with the political and diplomatic developments just described, and exercising a significant influence upon them, there occurred a vast overseas expansion of Western Civilization. Although the Crusades were the first phase of this expansion, not until the early modern period did European energies burst forth with sufficient vigor that their impact became worldwide. In the intervening centuries such things as the growth of commercial capitalism, the rise of the strong national state, and the intellectual upsurge associated with the Renaissance prepared Europeans for the mighty task of discovering, exploring, and colonizing areas in all parts of the globe. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "3. The Expansion of Europe. Pt IX: Early Modern Europe, 1500-1789." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 18-24.