Historian Ian Mortimer, author of Centuries of Change, has assembled an intriguing list of the ten biggest changes of the last 1000 years.
Above: The French Academy of Sciences was established in 1666
The list, published at The Guardian, focuses mostly on the UK and Europe, though a Eurocentric perspective on the last 1000 years isn't exactly surprising (see the top comment here). Still, it's a thought-provoking collection. Here's the entry on the 17th century's scientific revolution:
One thing that few people fully appreciate about the witchcraft craze that swept Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries is that it was not just a superstition. If someone you did not like died, and you were accused of their murder by witchcraft, it would have been of no use claiming that witchcraft does not exist, or that you did not believe in it. Witchcraft was recognised as existing in law – and to a greater or lesser extent, so were many superstitions. The 17th century saw many of these replaced by scientific theories. The old idea that the sun revolved around the Earth was finally disproved by Galileo. People facing life-threatening illnesses, who in 1600 had simply prayed to God for health, now chose to see a doctor. But the most important thing is that there was a widespread confidence in science. Only a handful of people could possibly have understood books such as Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, when it was published in 1687. But by 1700 people had a confidence that the foremost scientists did understand the world, even if they themselves did not, and that it was unnecessary to resort to superstitions to explain seemingly mysterious things.
The entry on the 16th century's decline of personal violence is also interesting, but debatable. We particularly like the notion that the twentieth century "invented the future" – though this, too, is disputable. Read the entire list here.