AP Euro Period 1 Review (1450-1648)

7 min readdecember 21, 2021

AP European History 🇪🇺

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Period 1: Renaissance, Reformation, and Exploration (1450-1648)

In AP® European History, period 1 spans from 1450 to 1648 CE. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for this era, focus on the key concepts! You can request the full Ultimate Guide to AP European History here.


STUDY TIP: You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.
1348-1351 - The Black Death
1453 - End of the Hundred Years’ War
1455 - Printing Press invented
1492 - Columbus to New World
1517 - Protestant Reformation begins
1555 - Peace of Augsburg
1588 - Defeat of Spanish Armada
1598 - Edict of Nantes
1600 - Dutch East India Company founded
1618 - Defenestration of Prague
1643-1715 - Reign of Louis XIV in France
1648 - Treaty of Westphalia

Past Essay Questions from Period 1

STUDY TIP: Content from the this era has appeared on the essays twenty-one times since 2010. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!
*The AP European History exam was significantly revised in 2016, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. All prompts from 1999-2015 can be found here.


*The following outline was adapted from the AP® European History Course Description as published by College Board in 2017 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

1.1. Works from Ancient Greece & Rome influenced Europeans’ view of their world.

1. Revival of classical texts led to new methods and values in society and religion.
  1. Italian Renaissance humanists promoted revival (Petrarch, Valla, Ficino, Mirandola)
  2. Spread of ideas by the printing press shifted education from theology to classic texts.
  3. Secular models developed because of influence of Greek & Roman politics.
2. Printing aided the dissemination of new ideas.
  1. Printing press helped spread Renaissance ideas beyond Italy.
  2. Also used by Protestant reformers to spread ideas (Martin Luther).
3. Visual arts prompted personal, political, and religious goals of Renaissance.
  1. Italian Renaissance artists commissioned to incorporate classical styles.
  2. Northern Renaissance was more religious, led to more human-centered naturalism.
  3. Mannerist & Baroque artists used distortion, drama, and illusion.
4. New scientific ideas challenged classical views.
  1. Innovations in astronomy led to heliocentrism (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton).
  2. Medical and anatomical discoveries challenged Galen (William Harvey).
  3. New methods in mathematics promoted experimentation (Bacon, Descartes).
  4. Natural philosophers continued to hold traditional views (Paracelsus, Cardano)

1.2. Religious Pluralism in Europe

1. Protest and Catholic Reformations dramatically changed Europe.
  1. Christian humanism (Erasmus) used Renaissance ideas to reform religion (More).
  2. Martin Luther and John Calvin criticized Catholic abuses.
  3. Some Protestants viewed wealth as sign of God’s favor (Calvinists).
  4. Catholic Reformation revived the church but cemented divisions in Christianity.
2. Religious reform increased state control of religious institutions and justified challenging authority.
  1. Some monarchs initiated religious reform from top down (Henry VIII).
  2. Some Protestants refused to recognize the subordination of the church (Calvin).
  3. Religious conflicts caused by groups challenging the monarch’s control (Huguenots).
3. Conflicts between religious groups overlapped with competition within and among states.
  1. Religious reform made conflicts between the monarchy and nobility worse.
  2. Habsburg rulers attempted to restore Catholic unity across Europe in the face of Ottoman expansion (Charles I, Charles V).
  3. States exploited religious conflicts to promote state interests.
  4. Some states allowed religious pluralism to keep the peace (Poland, Netherlands).

1.3. Age of Exploration

1. Europeans were motivated by commercial and religious reasons to explore.
  1. European states wanted direct access to gold, spices, and luxury goods.
  2. Mercantilist policies promoted commercial development of overseas colonies.
  3. Christianity motivated explorers and justified oppression.
2. New technologies allowed Europeans to establish overseas colonies.
  1. Navigation (compass, sternpost rudder) and military tech (horses, guns).
3. Europeans used coercion and negotiation to establish overseas colonies.
  1. Portuguese established colonies along African coast, Asia, and South America.
  2. Spanish became dominant with colonies in Americas, Caribbean, and Pacific.
  3. France, England, and the Netherlands established colonies in North America.
  4. Competition for trade led to conflict (Seven Years’ War, Treaty of Tordesillas).
4. Global exchanges resulted in a shift toward European dominance.
  1. Center of Europe shifted from Mediterranean to Atlantic states.
  2. Columbian Exchange resulted in population increase in Europe and destruction of populations in the Americas.
  3. African slave trade expanded to support plantation economies in Americas.

1.4. Capitalism shaped European society and everyday life.

1. Although social hierarchies remained, new social patterns appeared.
  1. Cities became centers of finance because of innovations in banking.
  2. Growth of commerce created new elites (Gentry in England, Nobles in France).
  3. Social status continued to be defined by class, religion, and gender.
2. Agriculture continued to be the center of livelihood for Europeans.
  1. Most Europeans practiced subsistence agriculture.
  2. Agriculture became commercialized after the price revolution (enclosures).
  3. Western Europe adopted free peasantry, while serfdom remained in the East.
  4. Peasants revolted when landlords attempted to abolish traditional rights.
3. Cities expanded as populations increased.
  1. Prices of goods increased more than wages, which lowered living standards.
  2. Migrants to cities challenged urban elites.
  3. City governments regulated public morals (secular laws, codes).
4. Family structures shifted, but remained the primary social and economic centers.
  1. Men and women worked on separate, but complementary tasks.
  2. The Renaissance & Reformation triggered debates about roles of women.
  3. Economic and environmental crises delayed marriage and childbearing.
5. Popular culture and leisure activities became more common.
  1. Activities for leisure were communal and organized by religious and agricultural calendars.
  2. Rituals of public humiliation remained popular to enforce communal norms.
  3. Accusations of witchcraft peaked between 1580 and 1650.

1.5. Political centralization and the struggle for sovereignty

1. New political institutions were created as ideas of sovereignty and secularism spread.
  1. New centralized monarchies monopolized taxes, military force, and justice.
  2. The Peace of Westphalia accelerated the decline of the Holy Roman Empire.
  3. Commercial and professional groups gained economic and political power.
  4. Secular political theorists developed new concepts of state (Machiavelli).
2. Competitive states created new patterns of diplomacy and forms of warfare.
  1. The balance of power came into question as religion declined as a cause for war.
  2. Military technologies defined the balance of power and changed warfare.
3. Government authority was affected by competition between monarchs and minority groups.
  1. English Civil War was fought between monarchy and parliament.
  2. Monarchies sought more power and faced challenges from nobles.
  3. Competition between minority and dominant national groups (Celtic, Czech).


STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 1 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!
  • 95 Theses
  • Act of Supremacy
  • Age of Exploration
  • Anabaptist
  • Andreas Vesalius
  • Atlantic Slave Trade
  • balance of power
  • British East India Company
  • bureaucracy
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Catholic Reformation
  • centralization
  • Charles I of England
  • Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Christian Humanism
  • Columbian Exchange
  • Commercial Revolution
  • constitutional monarchy
  • Council of Trent
  • crop rotation
  • Divine Right of Kings
  • Dutch East India Company
  • Edict of Nantes
  • Elizabeth I of England
  • Enclosure Movement
  • English Civil War
  • Erasmus
  • Ferdinand & Isabella
  • Francis Bacon
  • French Wars of Religion
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Gentry
  • Glorious Revolution
  • God, Glory, and Gold
  • Gustavus Adolphus
  • Hanseatic League
  • Henry IV of France
  • Henry VIII of England
  • Henry VII of England
  • Huguenots
  • humanism
  • individualism
  • Isaac Newton
  • James I of England
  • Jan Van Eyck
  • Jesuits
  • John Calvin
  • joint-stock companies
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Little Ice Age
  • Martin Luther
  • mercantilism
  • military revolution
  • nepotism
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Nicolaus Copernicus
  • Northern Renaissance
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Peace of Augsburg
  • Peace of Westphalia
  • Petrarch
  • Philip II of Spain
  • Price Revolution
  • printing press
  • Protestant Revolution
  • Puritans
  • putting-out system
  • Renaissance
  • Rene Descartes
  • Roman Inquisition
  • Scientific Revolution
  • secularism
  • serfdom
  • Sir Thomas More
  • social dislocation
  • Spanish Armada
  • Spanish Inquisition
  • St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre
  • The Fronde
  • Thirty Years' War
  • Triangular Trade
  • Ursulines
  • vernacular language
  • War of Three Henries
  • William Harvey
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🎨Unit 1 – Renaissance & Exploration
⛪️Unit 2 – Reformation
👑Unit 3 – Absolutism & Constitutionalism
🤔Unit 4 – Scientific, Philosophical, & Political Developments
🥖Unit 5 – Conflict, Crisis, & Reaction in the Late 18th Century
🚂Unit 6 – Industrialization & Its Effects
Unit 7 – 19th Century Perspectives & Political Developments
💣Unit 8 – 20th Century Global Conflicts
🥶Unit 9 – Cold War & Contemporary Europe
🚀Thematic Guides
📝Long Essay Questions (LEQ)
📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

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