A PROBLEM THAT PREOCCUPIES the historian most particularly is that of change. In human affairs, as in nature, nothing remains stable for any length of time; all is in more or less rapid flux. It is with events, with those things that undergo or bring about change, that the historian deals. It is no accident that historical studies have seen their greatest development at the time of greatest historical change. The period of accelerated rates of change, of transformation in all realms, is the "modern period" of history—usually counted from the end of the Middle Ages and the beginnings of the Renaissance. Today, I wish to single out one perspective on the process of "modernization" that has characterized the last few centuries, a process that started in Western Europe in roughly the sixteenth century and has conquered the whole known globe.