The European landscape began in 1450 as rising nation-states within the Holy Roman Empire, which was beginning to fracture. Due to failed crusades that killed so many knights, vassals and kings, and the plague which took away 2/3 of the continent's citizens, feudalism was giving way to guilds and fairs, while universities were rising from the rebirth of ancient knowledge in the Renaissance. One also cannot overstate the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg's printing press, which disseminated information and knowledge faster than anyone had ever seen or imagined! Latin books on chains gave way to mass-produced books in one's own native language, resulting in thoughts of church reformation, neoplatinism, other philosophies, sciences and humanism capturing the European imagination. The working life became only a sector of human existence, as the leisure middle class burgeoned, appreciating and promoting all kinds of arts. The Holy Roman Empire became obsolete due to the emergence of new Christian denominations with footholds all over Europe, ending the Roman Catholic monopoly on church doctrine, practice and language. By 1750 and beyond, and the rise of Napolean Bonaparte and his imperial domination of all of continental Europe, except Russia, empires would come and go, like Franco-Prussia, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire to name a few. World maritime exploration had enriched such empires as Spain, which Sir Francis Drake and Elizabethan England hunted down and plundered so decisively that Britain's empire became worldwide and Iberia never quite recovered.