The technological history of the Middle Ages was one of slow but substantial development. In the succeeding period the tempo of change increased markedly and was associated with profound social, political, religious, and intellectual upheavals in western Europe.
The emergence of the nation-state, the cleavage of the Christian church by the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance and its accompanying scientific revolution, and the overseas expansion of European states all had interactions with developing technology. This expansion became possible after the advance in naval technology opened up the ocean routes to Western navigators. The conversion of voyages of discovery into imperialism and colonization was made possible by the new firepower. The combination of light, maneuverable ships with the firepower of iron cannon gave European adventurers a decisive advantage, enhanced by other technological assets.
Technology performed a service for science in this revolution by providing it with instruments that greatly enhanced its powers. The use of the telescope by Galileo to observe the moons of Jupiter was a dramatic example of this service, but the telescope was only one of many tools and instruments that proved valuable in navigation, mapmaking, and laboratory experiments. More significant were the services of the new sciences to technology, and the most important of these was the theoretical preparation for the invention of the steam engine.