Brief History of Europe/Early modern period

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The early modern period was circa 1500–1750 AD, or ending at the French Revolution (1789), or at 1800.

See also: Wikipedia:Early modern period

States and territories of the early modern period[edit]

Europe in 1519, near the beginning of modern history
Europe in 1700

States and territories of the early modern period included:

Northern Europe
The Kingdom of England (which included Wales from 1284) would later become the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800) by including the Kingdom of Scotland; the Kingdom of Ireland (1542–1801) was a client state of the British. The end of the Kalmar Union (1397–1523) led to two states: Denmark–Norway (1523–1533 & 1537–1814); and the Swedish Empire (1611–1721), which included Finland.
Western and Central Europe
Included France; and the Holy Roman Empire, with lands of Brandenburg-Prussia and the lands of the Austrian Monarchy. The Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1794) would become the Seventeen Provinces (1549–1581), covering the Low Countries. The Seventeen Provinces gave rise to the Dutch Republic, an independent state from 1581–1795 with seven provinces of: Guelders, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Overijssel, Frisia, and Groningen; and the Southern Netherlands (until 1794), which included Flanders (including Walloon Flanders), Artois, Tournai, Cambrai, Luxembourg, Limburg, Hainaut, Namur, Mechelen, Brabant, and Upper Guelders. The Old Swiss Confederacy (c. 1300 – 1798) gained de facto independence from the Holy Roman Empire after the Swabian War (1499), where it fought against them and the Swabian League; it formally gained independence after the Thirty Years' War (1648).
Eastern Europe
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania created a bi-confederation with the Kingdom of Poland to create the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795). The Terra Mariana (of present day Estonia and Latvia between 1207–1561) collapsed into separate states. The Duchy of Prussia (1525–1701) was a Protestant secularization of the earlier Teutonic State. The Balkans were dominated by the Ottoman Empire, with vassals such as Wallachia and Moldavia; there were also the Habsburg lands of the Hungarian crown, Venetian possessions and the Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro (1516–1852). Further east was the Tsardom of Russia/Russian Empire (1547–1721 & 1721–1917).
Iberian Penisinula
The Spanish Empire included present day Spain (Castile and Aragon); but extended over Europe, including much of Italy and the Habsburg Netherlands. Possessions in Italy and the Netherlands were lost during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). It would also include Portugal during the Iberian Union (1580-1640).
Italian Peninsula
Included the Papal States and Venice. Other northern Italian states were nominally within the Holy Roman Empire, but many Italian city-states had de facto independence: important ones (in the 16th century) included Genoa, Florence, and Savoy; the Duchy of Milan became part of the Spanish Empire, as well as the southern states of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Lesser northern Italian states at that time included Siena, Modena, Ferrara, Lucca, Montferrat, Saluzzo, Asti, and Mantua.

Russia and Sweden[edit]

Territory of Russia in 1500 (dark green), 1600 (intermediate green), and 1700 (light green)
Swedish Empire

Tsardom of Russia (1547–1721): was instigated in 1547 by Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV Vasilyevich) the grandson of Ivan III; he assumed the title of "Tsar of Russia" (1547–1584), after ruling as Grand Prince of Moscow (1533–1547). Ivan the Terrible conquered the Khanate of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Sibirean khanates. Later on, the rest of Siberia would fall to the Russians, and by the mid-17th century Russia had expanded to the Pacific Ocean. The Cossacks (an East-Slavic people), emerged, after the Pereyaslav Council of 1654, as a powerful military force in maintaining and expanding the Russia.

The House of Romanov became rulers of Russia from 1613 until the 1917 revolution, beginning with Michael I, and ending with Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. They replaced the earlier Rurik dynasty, who had been rulers of Kievan Rus' (after 882), as well as the successor principalities of Galicia-Volhynia (after 1199), Chernigov, Vladimir-Suzdal, and the Grand Duchy of Moscow; they also ruled the Tsardom of Russia until 1610 and the Time of Troubles.

Swedish Empire (1611–1721) was a great power in Europe and a rival to Russia in Eastern Europe. The Swedish Empire was founded by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (or Gustav II Adolf, who reigned 1611–1632); he led Sweden to military supremacy during the Thirty Years' War, including great victories such as the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631).

Great Northern War (1700–1721): a Russian coalition contested the supremacy of a Swedish Empire coalition in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. It began when Russia, Denmark–Norway, Saxony and Poland sensed an opportunity and declared war on the Swedish Empire, then ruled by the young Charles XII. The Caroleans (the soldiers of the Swedish kings Charles XI and Charles XII) had some great victories against the Russians and other countries during this period, in many cases defeating far larger armies. But the eventual victory by the Russian coalition helped to establish Russia as a power in Europe, and led to the decline of the Swedish Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Russian Empire (1721–1917): was declared by Peter the Great (Peter I), who reigned 1682–1725; as well as being emperor he retained the title of tsar. Peter the Great won the Great Northern War, and he moved the capital to St. Petersburg in 1712, which remained there until 1917. The Empress Catherine the Great (Catherine II), who reigned 1762–1796, presided over a golden age, with rapid expansion of the empire, and the Russian Enlightenment with advancement particularly in the arts. Alexander Suvorov was an outstanding general for the Russians, particularly during the Russo-Turkish Wars during the late 18th century; the Russo-Turkish Wars continued from the 16th to 20th centuries. The Russian Empire continued until the 20th century, until the Russian monarchy was deposed, and the empire was succeeded by the Russian Republic (1917). It then became the Russian SFSR (Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) (1917–1991), which became a part of the Soviet Union or USSR (1922–1991).

Sweden, after the Great Northern War, had a period of decline, losing most of its territories, culminating with eastern Sweden to Russia in 1809, which became the highly autonomous Grand Principality of Finland in Imperial Russia. During the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden allied itself with France; and after the Battle of Leipzig (1813), and a military campaign, the Swedish King Charles XIII managed to force Denmark–Norway, an ally of France, to cede Norway, in exchange for northern German provinces; Sweden–Norway lasted from 1814 to 1905. The 1814 campaign was the last time Sweden was at war.

Holy Roman Empire and Brandenburg-Prussia[edit]

     Brandenburg-Prussia (1618)      Holy Roman Empire (1618)      Connected to the Holy Roman Empire (1618)      Outside the Holy Roman Empire (1618)

In 1500 and 1512, within the Holy Roman Empire, Imperial Circles where created. These included Bavarian, Franconian, Upper and Lower Saxon, Swabian, Upper Rhenish, Lower Rhenish–Westphalian, Austrian, Burgundian, and Electoral Rhenish Circles. Outside the Imperial Circles were the lands of the Bohemian Crown (included Silesia), the Old Swiss Confederacy (1291–1798), as well as the Italian territories. Imperial Circles consisted of Imperial Estates, ruled by imperial princes. The Imperial Diet, the highest representative assembly, consisted of three colleges: an Electoral College of seven Prince-electors, who elected the emperor; a college of Imperial Princes; and a college of Imperial Cities.

Since the 13th century the Holy Roman Emperor had began to lose power and territory. Voltaire in 1756 quipped “... the Holy Roman Empire was in no way holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”. Gradually, the Holy Roman Emperor's power became largely nominal, with real power going to the rulers of the highly autonomous Imperial Estates; they held "immediacy", meaning that they were answerable only to the emperor. Two major power-bases within the Holy Roman Empire grew in influence:

  • Austria (as a Duchy or Archduchy, 1156–1918): which would provide the basis of the Austrian Monarchy, which would later become the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary.
  • Brandenburg (as a Margraviate or Province, 1157–1945): which would provide the basis for Brandenburg-Prussia and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia would de facto lead the North German Confederation of 1867, which gained a new constitution as the German Empire in 1871, under the permanent presidency of Prussia.

Both Austria and Brandenburg would gain territories both inside and outside of the Holy Roman Empire. The rest of the Holy Roman Empire power-base was split between miscellaneous states: larger ones in the early modern period included Bavaria (north was formerly Franconia); Saxony; Hanover; and Lorraine.

Brandenburg and Prussia[edit]

Brandenburg-Prussia (1618–1701): was formed from territories that initially included, within the Holy Roman Empire, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, the Duchy of Cleves, and the counties of Ravensberg and Ravenstein. Outside of the Holy Roman Empire it initially included the Duchy of Prussia. It would later considerably expand its territories, both inside and outside the Holy Roman Empire. Prussia had developed from the State of the Teutonic Order, a state founded after the Teutonic Knights had conquered the lands of the Old Prussians (who were pagan Balts), after the Prussian Crusade of 1217–1274 (one of the Northern Crusades). It then became the Duchy of Prussia (1525–1701), a protestant state; it then entered personal union with Brandenburg in 1618, when John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, became Duke of Prussia.

Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918) succeeded Brandenburg-Prussia, and was established after Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, crowned himself "King in Prussia" as Frederick I on 18 January 1701. Early kings would be styled as "King in Prussia" rather than "King of Prussia"; this continued until 1772. It would gain much territory both inside and outside of the Holy Roman Empire and successors. It would eventually form the nucleus of the German Empire (1871–1918).

Frederick the Great (or Frederick II or "The Old Fritz"), of the House of Hohenzollern, ruled the Kingdom of Prussia 1740–1786; he was the first Elector of Brandenburg to claim to be "King of Prussia" in 1772, rather than "King in Prussia". He had many military successes, particularly in the Silesian Wars (of 1740–1763) where he gained Silesia (a Bohemian territory) from the Austrian Monarchy. He also acquired Polish territories during its partition. Apart from his military successes, he was seen as a leading monarch of the Enlightenment.

Frederick fought in three Silesian wars against Austria:

  • The First Silesian War (1740–1742) and the Second Silesian War (1744–1745) were theaters of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), in which Prussia fought against Austria and its allies. This led to the annexation of Silesia from the Habsburgs.
  • The Third Silesian War (1756–1763) was a theater of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), where Prussia was part of the Great Britain coalition, and was opposed by Saxony (who he occupied), and Austria, France, Russia and Sweden. The Prussians maintained all their territories, and it was considered as the "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg".

Houses of Habsburg and Habsburg-Lorraine[edit]

The House of Habsburg (or House of Austria) was a one of the most important dynastic royal houses in the history of Europe. Named after Habsburg Castle (in present-day Switzerland), they were powerful monarchs of many dominions across Europe during the Middle Ages and modern period. It was succeeded by the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (a branch of the House of Lorraine) with the extinction of the male line but the continuation of the female line.

The key monarchies for the Houses of Habsburg and Habsburg-Lorraine were the following:

  • Monarchs of Austria between 1282 and 1918, as dukes, archdukes or emperors, or female equivalents. The Austrian branch gained many dominions both inside and outside of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Monarchs of Spain (Castile and Aragon) between 1516 and 1700. The Spanish branch was mostly separate from the Austrian branch, and would have a significant presence in the New World, the Netherlands (then covering the Low Countries), and Italy and its surrounding islands.
  • Holy Roman Emperors for most of the period 1440 to 1806. It was an elective monarchy, and usually held by the Austrian monarch.

Austrian Monarchy[edit]

Austrian Monarchy, or Habsburg Monarchy (1282–1804), is an unofficial umbrella term for lands held in personal union with the monarchs of Austria (of the House of Hapsburg and later Habsburg-Lorraine). After 1804 it would be known as the Austrian Empire (as the Archduke of Austria also became Emperor of Austria); and then from 1867 to 1918 as Austria-Hungary (after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867). Lands would be gained from both within and outside of the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrian Monarchy would include:

  • Within the Holy Roman Empire: the Hereditary Lands, which included the Archduchy of Austria (1453–1806), Inner Austria, County of Tyrol, and Further Austria. It also included the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (1526–1918), which early on included Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia.
  • Outside of the Holy Roman Empire: it included the Lands of the Hungarian Crown (1527–1918): Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia (after 1699), and the Principality of Transylvania (after 1711), as well as some military frontiers. N.B. that Croatia today is Croatia proper, Slavonia, Istria and Dalmatia. They also gained the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan and Sardinia after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). Later on, during the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795), they gained some of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

When the Habsburg Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor 1711–1740) died, he was succeeded by Charles VII (Holy Roman Emperor 1742–1745) who was House of Wittelsbach, and the first non-Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor for three centuries. Charles VII was succeeded by Francis I (Holy Roman Emperor 1745–1765), of the House of Lorraine; he was also Archduke of Austria through his marriage to Maria Theresa, daughter of Charles VI, who was also Holy Roman Empress and Archduchess. The uncertainty over the Austrian succession through the female-lineage of Maria Theresa led to the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). After that, the House of Habsburg-Lorraine would be Holy Roman Emperors to 1806; and rulers of Austria to 1918, as archdukes or emperors.

Italian and Ottoman wars[edit]

Italian Wars (also called the Habsburg–Valois Wars, 1494–1559): were principally the Habsburgs (including Charles V) against the French kings of the House of Valois, for Italian possessions, principally the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. It stemmed from a French claim to the Kingdom of Naples with the death of Ferdinand I of Naples. The Italian Wars were largely unsuccessful for the French; at the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), the French recognized the Habsburg King Philip II of Spain as heir of Naples, Sicily and Milan.

Ottoman–Habsburg wars (1526–1791): the Ottomans were victorious at the the Battle of Mohács (1526), between forces led of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent. It resulted in the partition of Hungary between Ottoman Hungary (of the Ottoman Empire), Royal Hungary (of the Habsburg Monarchy), and the semi-independent Principality of Transylvania. It marked the beginnings of the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, a 250-year struggle between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire for European territories.

Great Turkish War (1683–1699): was a campaign in the Ottoman–Habsburg wars. At the Battle of Vienna (1683), the Ottomans were defeated after a two month siege of the city. John III Sobieski, the King of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, helped the Austrians in the battle, along with a Holy Roman Empire army; the Winged Hussars, an elite Polish cavalry, delivered a final deadly blow. The Holy League of 1684–1699 that formed afterwards eventually ended the Great Turkish War with the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), and Slavonia was gained by the Habsburgs. Transylvania fell to the Habsburgs in 1711. The Ottoman–Habsburg wars ended the Ottoman expansion into Europe.

Habsburg Spain and the Eighty Years' War[edit]

Habsburg dominions in 1700, including Habsburg Spain (red) and the Austrian Monarchy (yellow)
Crown of Castile possessions in the 17th century

Habsburg Spain (1516–1700) began with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 1519–1556. His other titles included:

  • King of Spain (Castile and Aragon, 1516–1556) as Carlos I
  • Archduke of Austria, but only between 1519 and 1521
  • Duke of Burgundy (1506–1555), and therefore Lord of the Netherlands
  • By being Holy Roman Emperor he also had the titles King of Germany, and King of Italy (the last Holy Roman Emperor to claim the title)

The Crown of Aragon consisted of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia. Aragon had previously controlled Milan, and this was recaptured by Charles V, and later recognised by the French in 1559. The Crown of Castile would encompass a huge colonial empire. After the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) Castile and Aragon would be unified. Burgundy included what would become the Seventeen Provinces (covering the present-day Low Countries), and the Free County of Burgundy (also known as Franche-Comté).

Charles V inherited the Spanish House of Trastámara bloodline through his mother Joanna of Castile (who was nominally a co-monarch, but was imprisoned after being pronounced insane); who had married his father Philip I of Castile (by right of his wife King of Castile for a short time before dying). But he actually succeeded his mother's parents, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon; Ferdinand II ruled Aragon as king, and Castile as Governor and Administrator after the death of Isabella. As king of both Castile and Aragon, he was the first monarch of both crowns (if you ignore his mother), with his grandparents being the first co-monarchs. Charles V was heir to Austria through his father's father Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor; but after two years this passed to his brother Ferdinand I. He was Duke of Burgundy through his father Philip I of Castile, who had inherited his dukedom from his mother Mary of Burgundy.

Charles V was involved in three major conflicts: the Italian Wars (with France), the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, and the Protestant Reformation (which he opposed). He also quelled some rebellions. Charles V brought about the divergence of two ruling branches of the Habsburgs:

  • The junior branch of the Austrian Monarchy, with Charles being succeeded by his brother Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor 1556–1564, who was also Archduke of Austria and king of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia.
  • The senior branch of Habsburg Spain (1516–1700), with Charles being succeeded by his son Philip II of Spain.

Philip II of Spain: was King of Spain (1556–98), Duke of Burgundy, King of Portugal (1581–1598), and King of England and Ireland (during his marriage to Queen Mary). In Europe, Philip's empire included the Spanish Netherlands, and the Italian states of Naples, Sicily, Milan and Sardinia. He also had hegemony over all of Italy, with only Savoy and Venice having true independence. His colonial empire included, most importantly, the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which included the Spanish East Indies, Spanish West Indies, and a substantial portion of North and Central America; South America included the Viceroyalties of New Granada, Peru and Rio de la Plata. In 1714, long after his reign, the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan and Sardinia were ceded to Austria, and Sicily was ceded to Savoy.

Philip II presided over the start of the Spanish Golden Age (1556–1659), a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain. Philip financed the Holy League, who would have a great naval victory against the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. During his reign the Iberian Union (1580-1640) temporarily united Portugal and Spain, which would last until the Portuguese Restoration War (1640–1668). He sent the Spanish Armada to invade Protestant England in 1588, which ended in failure; several state bankruptcies also occurred during his reign.

Eighty Years' War, or the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648): resulted in the Dutch Republic gaining independence from Spain. The Southern Netherlands (of roughly modern day Belgium and Luxembourg) remained under Spanish rule; it later became the Austrian Netherlands (1714–1794) until annexed by the French.

House of Bourbon and France[edit]

The House of Bourbon was a branch of the Capetian dynasty; it succeeded the House of Capet (987–1328) and House of Valois (1328–1589) as French monarchs. Branches would also become Spanish monarchs (see below), and Grand Dukes of Luxembourg (1964–present), as well as holding many other titles.

Henry IV, the Great (1589–1610) was the first Bourbon monarch, who ascended during the turmoil surrounding the French Wars of Religion. He was succeeded by Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. Louis XVI was deposed in 1792 by the Great French Revolution (1789–1799). The Bourbons were later restored 1815–1830, with Louis XVIII and Charles X; and Louis-Philippe I (of the House of Orléans cadet branch) ruled 1830–1848. Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII's chief minister between 1624–1642, helped transform France into a modern state.

Louis XIV (the Great or the Sun King) ruled France between 1643–1715. An absolute monarch, he greatly expanded the Palace of Versailles, and revoked the Edict of Nantes (leading to persecution of Protestants). Louis fought the Habsburgs and Dutch in the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), which resulted in some territorial gains for France. Louis also fought the Grand Alliance (of the Habsburgs, English and Dutch) in the Nine Years' War (1688–97), which resulted in some territorial changes. He also fought in the War of the Spanish Succession (see below).

Second Hundred Years' War: the French had a great rivalry with the British during this period, mirroring that of the Habsburgs. As well as the Nine Years' War and War of the Spanish Succession, they also fought the British in the War of the Austrian Succession (1742–1748), Father Le Loutre's War (1749–1755), 2nd Carnatic War (1749–1754), Seven Years' War (1756–1763) and Anglo-French War (1778–1783). These wars, along with later wars after the fall of the Bourbons, the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), are sometimes considered to be the Second Hundred Years' War. With the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette married, and Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France, while Prussia became an ally of Britain.

Bourbon Spain and Spanish history[edit]

Bourbon Spain: from 1700, members of the House of Bourbon dynasty ruled Spain, beginning with Philip V; the Spanish Empire included territories in the New World and Europe.

War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) had France (under Louis XIV) and their allies fighting the Grand Alliance, which included Austria, England and the Dutch Republic. The war was precipitated by the Habsburg ruler Carlos II of Spain (or Charles II) dying childless, and naming his successor as Philip of Anjou (later Philip V), the Bourbon grandson of Louis XIV and Carlos's half-sister Maria Theresa of Spain. The caused consternation for the Habsburgs, and the risk of a France–Spain superstate if both monarchies fell to a single ruler; therefore the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI claimed the throne. The Battle of Blenheim (1704) was a notable victory for the Grand Alliance. The war confirmed the Bourbon rule of Spain over the previous Habsburg monarchs; but Philip V had to renounce his place in the French succession; he also lost the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan and Sardinia to Austria, and Sicily to Savoy.

The Spanish Bourbons were allies with the French Bourbons for some of their wars against the British: the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, and the Anglo-French War. But during the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720) France fought against Spain (and Great Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Dutch Republic).

Bourbon monarchs ruled the Kingdom of Spain between 1700 to 1808, interrupted by Joseph Bonaparte (1808–1813), who was installed by Napoleon during the Peninsular War. After this the Bourbons were restored (1813–1868). During the reign of Ferdinand VII (1808, 1813–1833), the Spanish colonies in the New World were lost, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. Carlism was an attempt to promote a rival branch of the House of Bourbon to the Spanish monarchy; it stemmed from Infante Carlos, Count of Molina, who claimed the monarchy after the death of his brother Ferdinand VII in 1833, over Ferdinand's daughter Isabella II (who reigned 1833–1868). This led to the Carlist Wars for the monarchy, which were unsuccessful, although Isabella II was later deposed in the Spanish Glorious Revolution (1868).

This was followed by the Sexenio Democrático (six democratic years) following the Glorious Revolution: Provisional Government (1868–1871), King Amadeo I (1871–1873), and the First Spanish Republic (1873–1874). The Bourbons were then restored for the second time during the period known as the Restoration (1874–1931). This was followed by the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939). General Franco was proclaimed Head of State in 1936; during and after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) he ruled Francoist Spain (1936–1975). In 1947, Spain was declared a kingdom, but without a monarch; not until 1969 did Franco establish Juan Carlos of Bourbon as the heir to the monarchy. After Franco's death (1975), democracy was slowly established under a constitutional monarchy with a Bourbon monarch, the third restoration of the Spanish Bourbons; this continues to this day. Juan Carlos I (who reigned 1975–2014) was succeeded by Felipe VI (2014 to present).

Reformation and religious turmoil[edit]

Protestant Reformation at its peak (1545-1620)

The Protestant Reformation was the establishment of Protestantism by in a 16th-century western Europe, whose religion was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, at Wittenberg, Saxony, when Martin Luther sent his Ninety-Five Theses to the Archbishop of Mainz; these protested against the sale of plenary indulgences by the clergy.

This was not the first time that Catholic reform had been attempted. In the High Middle Ages, the Cathars of southern France had broken with Catholic doctrine; this led to the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) and genocide of the Cathars. In the 15th century the Hussites, a Christian movement of the pre-Protestant Bohemian Reformation, had established the Hussite religion in Bohemia after the Hussite Wars (1419–1434); this lasted for two centuries until their suppression after the Bohemian Revolt (1618–1620) of the Thirty Years' War.

Early Protestant movements included:

  • Calvinism, or the Reformed tradition, was based on the teachings of Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and others; they included Presbyterians, Puritans, and Huguenots. Calvinism spread to the Dutch Republic, Scotland and southern France, and to a lesser extent in Germany, Hungary and England.
  • Lutheranism was based on the teachings of Martin Luther, and Lutheran chutches became dominant in the north of Germany, and especially in the Scandinavian countries.
  • Anglicanism was created by Henry VIII, and became the dominant religion of England as the Church of England; it incorporated aspects from the Reformed and Lutheran churches.
  • Anabaptism was an early offshoot of Protestantism, and Anabaptist churches include the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites fellowships.
  • Unitarianism is an nontrinitarian theological movement, and Unitarian churches began in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Transylvania.

The Peace of Augsburg (1555) of Charles V allowed rulers within the Holy Roman Empire to choose either Lutheranism or Roman Catholicism as the official confession. Calvinism was not allowed in the Holy Roman Empire until the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

English Reformation[edit]

English Reformation: took place during the 16th century, when Henry VII established the Anglican faith, followed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Gunpowder Plot (1605) was an attempted assassination of the Protestant King James I of England by Catholics. The English Civil Wars (1642–1646, 1648–1649, 1649–1651) were partly religious in origin, and were part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (of England, Ireland and Scotland) between 1639–1651.

Anti-Catholic hysteria resulted in the Popish Plot (1678–81), a fictitious Catholic conspiracy to dethrone Charles II. The Glorious Revolution (1688) resulted in the ousting of the Catholic King James II by Parliament, who was replaced by the Protestant King William III and Queen Mary II. The Jacobite risings, especially prominent in 1715 and 1745, were failed Catholic uprisings that sought to reinstate James II and his descendants, including James Francis Edward Stuart ("The Old Pretender"), and Charles Edward Stuart ("the Young Pretender" or "Bonnie Prince Charlie").


Counter-Reformation: was a period of Catholic resurgence in response to the Reformation. It began with the 25 sessions of the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which led to reform of Church doctrines and teachings, the foundation of seminaries for the training of priests, and new religious orders such as the Jesuits. The Inquisition was used to enforce the Counter-Reformation; it included the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition, and Portuguese Inquisition.

European wars of religion[edit]

European wars of religion of the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, were largely a result of the religious differences stemming from reform. There were many wars, but the following were especially notable:

  • The French Wars of Religion (1562–1598), with Roman Catholics against the Huguenots (French Protestants) following the death of Henry II of France, led to three millions deaths. The Bartholomew's Day massacre was the massacre of between 30,000 and 100,000 Huguenots across France. Henry IV, a former Huguenot, issued the Edict of Nantes (1598) assuring conditional religious freedom. Later on, Huguenot rebellions (1621–1629) erupted after intolerance by Louis XIII. Louis XIV's Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) revoked the Edict of Nantes, and resulted in further persecution.
  • Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). The Catholic Habsburg states and allies included the Holy Roman Empire Catholic League, Austria/Hungary and Spain. They fought against the anti-Habsburg states, including some Holy Roman Empire states like Bohemia, Saxony, Brandenburg-Prussia; the Dutch Republic; Scandinavian states (Denmark–Norway and Sweden); England and Scotland; and France (despite being Catholic). It began as a religious war (the Bohemian and Danish phases); but it became a political clash (the Swedish and French phases), with (Bourbon) France versus the Austrian/Spanish Habsburgs, despite both being Catholic. It included some of the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659).
Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the The Thirty Years' War. The war weakened the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs, and formally ended their rule in the Protestant Switzerland and the Dutch Republic. Sweden and Brandenburg-Prussia gained territories. France gained much of the Burgundian lands, Savoy and some of Italy. Spain still held the Spanish Netherlands, and a great part of Italy. There were eight million fatalities, including soldiers and civilians. There was widespread famine and devastation of the Low Countries as a result of the war.

Other major European wars of religion include: the War of the Three Kingdoms (1639–1651) of England, Scotland, and Ireland; the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) resulting in independence of the Dutch Republic from Spain; and the German Peasants' War (1524–1525) of the Holy Roman Empire. There was also a rise in witch trials between 1580 and 1630; over 50,000 people, mostly women, lost their lives, and religious tensions may have been a factor.

Age of Discovery and colonial empires[edit]

Spanish Empire
Rise and fall of colonial empires (animated)

Age of Discovery: from circa 1400 to 1800. Lands include the Americas (the New World); southern Africa; Congo River; West Indies; India; Maluku Islands (Spice Islands); Australasia; New Zealand; Antarctica; Hawaii. Largely coincided with the Age of Sail (1571–1862).

Spanish Empire (1492–1975): Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492. This was followed by La Conquista, the Spanish colonization of the Americas by the conquistadores. Cortes conquered the Aztecs after the Spanish–Aztec War (1519–21). In 1532 Pizarro conquered the Inca empire in Peru. The Maya and many other peoples were also conquered.

Portuguese Empire (1415–1999): Vasco da Gama, during his voyage to India (1497–1499), performed the first navigation around South Africa, to connect the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. This would lead to Portuguese dominance in trade routes around Africa, particularly in the spice trade for around a century. Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano achieved the first global circumnavigation, 1519–1522. Portuguese influence in the East Indies and South Africa was curtailed by the Dutch–Portuguese War (1601–1663).

The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) split the world between regions of Spanish and Portuguese influence, but this was ignored by other nations. This resulted in the Spanish being particularly active in Americas, while Portuguese influence in the Americas was limited to Brazil. The Portuguese established a large number of trading posts around the coasts of India, the East Indies, Africa and Arabia.

Major colonial empires that followed included the English (from 1583, which in 1707 became British); Dutch (from 1581); and French (1534–1980). In North America, the British, French and Spanish dominated. South and Central America was mainly Spanish, with the Portuguese in Brazil. Dutch colonies were split between the Dutch East India Company (particularly in the East Indies and South Africa) and Dutch West India Company (mainly on the east coast of the Americas). The Dutch discovered Australia in 1606, and New Zealand in 1642; both of these would later colonised by the British. Anglo-Dutch Wars: were a series of four wars fought in the 17th and 18th centuries; largely a result of English and Dutch rivalry, mainly over trade and overseas colonies; most battles were fought at sea. Apart from the Americas, France colonised much of North Africa, and French Indochina (today Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).

The Danish empire (1536–1953) included Norway, Iceland and Greenland. The Swedish empire (1638–1663 and 1784–1878) mainly consisted of Finland and the Baltic states.

Golden Age of Piracy: spans the 1650s to the late 1720s. Main seas of piracy were the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. It includes colorful pirates of the Caribbean such as Henry Morgan, William 'Captain' Kidd, 'Calico' Jack Rackham, Bartholomew Roberts and Blackbeard (Edward Teach).

Later on, in the late modern period (19th and early 20th centuries), Italy, Germany, Belgium, Japan and the USA established empires. The British Empire rapidly expanded in this period, and eventually included India, Australia and much of Africa.

Rise of philosophy, the arts, science and trade[edit]

The Renaissance of Italy and then Europe, was from the 14th to 17th centuries. It literally meant "rebirth", as it was seen as a rebirth of Classical learning and culture. There were developments in philosophy (particularly humanism), science, technology, and warfare. There were also artistic developments, including architecture, dance, fine arts, literature and music. There was renewed interest in Classical Roman and Greek texts, but also translations of Arabic texts. Early writers included Dante Alighieri, who wrote the Divine Comedy c. 1308 to 1320. Petrarch (1304–1374) was a particular proponent of humanism. The invention of the printing press, which was greatly improved by Johannes Gutenberg circa 1439, helped in the dissemination of learning. The High Renaissance, with Leonardo da Vinci, early Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante, was between circa 1495 to 1520, ending with the death of Raphael.

The House of Medici ruled Florence (as the Republic then Duchy of Florence, and as the Grand Duchy of Tuscany), for most of the period from 1434 to the early 18th century. They were patrons to many intellectuals associated with the Renaissance; these included Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei and Sandro Botticelli.

Roman Inquisition began in 1542, and suppressed some aspects of the Renaissance. It made some books forbidden, such Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Sphere; it also held trials against intellectuals; Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), who supported the work of Copernicus in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), was put on trial.

Baroque Period (17th and 18th centuries) was characterised by highly ornate styles in architecture, music, painting, and sculpture. Baroque composers included Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, and Henry Purcell. Rococo, or "Late Baroque", spread across Europe in the mid-18th century. The Classical period of music was roughly between roughly 1730 and 1820, with Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert.

Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason was during the 18th century, and sometimes extended to the 17th century. Ideas that were developed were characterised by being secular, pluralistic, rule-of-law-based, with an emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. There was also an emphasis on science. Prominent scientists included Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, who built on the earlier work of Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism. Prominent philosophers included René Descartes, John Locke, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, and Montesquieu. Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin greatly influenced the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The encyclopedia Encyclopédie (1751–72) edited by Denis Diderot, was a great success of the period.

Enlightened absolutism, the use of the the Enlightenment to espouse absolute monarchy, was a curious side effect; much later it was followed by the concept of the benevolent dictatorship. Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor 1765–1790, was a prominent monarch of the Enlightenment and enlightened absolutism, along with Catherine the Great of Russia, and Frederick the Great of Prussia.

Rise of capitalism: capitalism became a dominant force in the sixteenth century, with the abolition of feudalism. Mercantilism, the exporting goods from countries, also rose in importance, particularly as a result of colonialism.

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