This period brought much change throughout Europe. The defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English fleet began the shift of overseas authority from Spain to England. Elizabeth I of England was one of the most outstanding royal personalities of all time, therefore the period has become better known by the names of the two English leaders.

In Italy, the Counter-Reformation resolved the doubt and confusion that had prevailed in the late sixteenth century. Germany was caught up in a religious debate, culminating in the Thirty Years' War, which started at the end of the period.

The art during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century continued to be anti-natural, still displaying the intricacies and tensions of mannerism. It was during this time that America also began to figure directly into Western history.