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16th century

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The world map by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci (from whose name the word America is derived) and Belgian Gerardus Mercator shows (besides the classical continents Europe, Africa, and Asia) the Americas as America sive India Nova', New Guinea, and other islands of Southeast Asia, as well as a hypothetical Arctic continent and a yet undetermined Terra Australis.[1]

The 16th century began with the Julian year 1501 (represented by the Roman numerals MDI) and ended with either the Julian or the Gregorian year 1600 (MDC), depending on the reckoning used (the Gregorian calendar introduced a lapse of 10 days in October 1582).[2]

The 16th century is regarded by historians as the century which saw the rise of Western civilization.

The Renaissance in Italy and Europe saw the emergence of important artists, authors and scientists, and led to the foundation of important subjects which include accounting and political science. Copernicus proposed the heliocentric universe, which was met with strong resistance, and Tycho Brahe refuted the theory of celestial spheres through observational measurement of the 1572 appearance of a Milky Way supernova. These events directly challenged the long-held notion of an immutable universe supported by Ptolemy and Aristotle, and led to major revolutions in astronomy and science. Galileo Galilei became a champion of the new sciences, invented the first thermometer and made substantial contributions in the fields of physics and astronomy, becoming a major figure in the Scientific Revolution in Europe.

Spain and Portugal colonized large parts of Central and South America, followed by France and England in Northern America and the Lesser Antilles. The Portuguese became the masters of trade between Brazil, the coasts of Africa, and their possessions in the Indies, whereas the Spanish came to dominate the Greater Antilles, Mexico, Peru, and opened trade across the Pacific Ocean, linking the Americas with the Indies. English and French privateers began to practice persistent theft of Spanish and Portuguese treasures. This era of colonialism established mercantilism as the leading school of economic thought, where the economic system was viewed as a zero-sum game in which any gain by one party required a loss by another. The mercantilist doctrine encouraged the many intra-European wars of the period and arguably fueled European expansion and imperialism throughout the world until the 19th century or early 20th century.

The Reformation in central and northern Europe gave a major blow to the authority of the papacy and the Catholic Church. In England, the British-Italian Alberico Gentili wrote the first book on public international law and divided secularism from canon law and Catholic theology. European politics became dominated by religious conflicts, with the groundwork for the epochal Thirty Years' War being laid towards the end of the century.

In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire continued to expand, with the sultan taking the title of caliph, while dealing with a resurgent Persia. Iran and Iraq were caught by a major popularity of the Shia sect of Islam under the rule of the Safavid dynasty of warrior-mystics, providing grounds for a Persia independent of the majority-Sunni Muslim world.[3]

In the Indian subcontinent, following the defeat of the Delhi Sultanate and Vijayanagara Empire, new powers emerged, the Sur Empire founded by Sher Shah Suri, Deccan sultanates, Rajput states, and the Mughal Empire[4] by Emperor Babur, a direct descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan.[5] His successors Humayun and Akbar, enlarged the empire to include most of South Asia.

Japan suffered a severe civil war at this time, known as the Sengoku period, and emerged from it as a unified nation under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. China was ruled by the Ming dynasty, which was becoming increasingly isolationist, coming into conflict with Japan over the control of Korea as well as Japanese pirates.

In Africa, Christianity had begun to spread in Central Africa and Southern Africa. Until the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, most of Africa was left uncolonized.

Significant events[edit]


Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–1506, one of the world's best-known paintings


Afonso de Albuquerque


Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition that circumnavigated the globe in 1519–1522.


Spanish conquistadors with their Tlaxcallan allies fighting against the Otomies of Metztitlan in present-day Mexico, a 16th-century codex


Nicolaus Copernicus


The Islamic gunpowder empires: Mughal Army artillerymen during the reign of Jalaluddin Akbar


The Mughal Emperor Akbar shoots the Rajput warrior Jaimal during the Siege of Chittorgarh in 1567


The Battle of Lepanto


The fall of Spanish Armada


Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak presenting Akbarnama to Mughal Azam Akbar, Mughal miniature



Inventions, discoveries, introductions[edit]

Related article: List of 16th century inventions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Modern reference works on the period tend to follow the introduction of the Gregorian calendar for the sake of clarity; thus NASA's lunar eclipse catalogue states "The Gregorian calendar is used for all dates from 1582 Oct 15 onwards. Before that date, the Julian calendar is used." For dates after 15 October 1582, care must be taken to avoid confusion of the two styles.
  2. ^ Modern reference works on the period tend to follow the introduction of the Gregorian calendar for the sake of clarity; thus NASA's lunar eclipse catalogue states "The Gregorian calendar is used for all dates from 1582 Oct 15 onwards. Before that date, the Julian calendar is used." For dates after 15 October 1582, care must be taken to avoid confusion of the two styles.
  3. ^ de Vries, Jan (14 September 2009). "The limits of globalization in the early modern world". The Economic History Review. 63 (3): 710–733. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009.00497.x. JSTOR 40929823. S2CID 219969360. SSRN 1635517.
  4. ^ Singh, Sarina; Lindsay Brown; Paul Clammer; Rodney Cocks; John Mock (2008). Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway. Vol. 7, illustrated. Lonely Planet. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-74104-542-0. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  5. ^ Babur (2006). Babur Nama. Penguin Books. p. vii. ISBN 978-0-14-400149-1.
  6. ^ "16th Century Timeline (1501 to 1600)". fsmitha.com. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009.
  7. ^ "History of Smallpox – Smallpox Through the Ages" Archived 2019-09-24 at the Wayback Machine. Texas Department of State Health Services.
  8. ^ Ricklefs (1991), p.23
  9. ^ "A LIST OF NATIONAL EPIDEMICS OF PLAGUE IN ENGLAND 1348–1665". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  10. ^ a b Ricklefs (1991), page 24
  11. ^ The Sweating Sickness. Story of London.. Accessed 2009-04-25. Archived 2009-05-03.
  12. ^ Sandra Arlinghaus. "Life Span of Suleiman the Magnificent 1494–1566". Personal.umich.edu. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
  13. ^ a b c d e Ricklefs (1991), page 25
  14. ^ "La Terra De Hochelaga – Jaques Cartier a Hochelaga". jacquescarter.org. Archived from the original on December 23, 2008.
  15. ^ "The Lusiads". World Digital Library. 1800–1882. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  16. ^ Schwieger, Peter (2014). The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: a political history of the Tibetan institution of reincarnation. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231538602. OCLC 905914446.
  17. ^ Miller, George, ed. (1996). To The Spice Islands and Beyond: Travels in Eastern Indonesia. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. xv. ISBN 967-65-3099-9.
  18. ^ Luc-Normand Tellier (2009). "Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective". PUQ. p.308. ISBN 2-7605-1588-5
  19. ^ a b c d e f Ricklefs (1991), page 27
  20. ^ a b Ricklefs (1991), page 28
  21. ^ Polybius: The Rise Of The Roman Empire, Page 36, Penguin, 1979.

Further reading[edit]

  • Langer, William. An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed. 1973); highly detailed outline of events online free

External links[edit]