15th Century, 1401 to 1500
Timur conquers Damascus and reconquers Baghdad.
Timur wins a great battle at Angora (Ankara). He is concerned about
having helped Christians by defeating a Muslim army. He sends envoys to
the Christian knights ruling Smyrna and demands that the knights
convert to Islam or pay tribute. They refuse both, and Timur attacks
and orders the city's entire population, including women and children,
annihilated. The heads of the defeated, it would be said, are displayed
in a pyramid.
A Ming dynasty emperor, Yongle (or Zhu Di), orders one of his eunuchs,
Zheng He, a Muslim who has traveled to Mecca and knows the world a
little better than others in China, to sail a fleet of ships on the
high seas in pursuit of his cousin, the former emperor.
China's emperor, Zhu Di, sends troops that begin an eighteen-year
attempt to conquer Annam (Vietnam).
The geography of Ptolemy, an ancient Greek, is introduced in Europe.
This holds that the earth is the center of the universe and that all
heavenly bodies revolve around it in perfect circles.
London has a new institution - a place for the insane called Bethlehem
In Britain, John Wyclif's England language bible has been published.
Prelates meet at Pisa to name a pope to replace the two claiming to be
pope. The two existing popes refuse to step aside.
A Germanic force, the Teutonic Knights, are trying to gain control of
Poland. The knights are allied with the kings of Bohemia and Hungary.
Their army has volunteer "crusaders" and numbers around
27,000. An army of 39,000 fighting for the Polish king,
Wladyslaw Jagiello, includes Lithuanians, Ruthenians and Tatars in
addition to Poles, and they defeat the Germans. The Teutonic Knights
decline in power and Eastern Europe does not become a German colony.
In England, followers of John Wyclif, dead since 1384, hold that the
Bible is the only rule of faith. They appeal to the Catholic clergy to
return to the simple life of the early Church. They oppose war, the
doctrine of transubstantiation, confession, and images in worship. They
march on London, and Henry V, fearing social disorder, suppresses the
John Hus, a Czech and former dean of philosophy at the University of
Prague, travels to the Council of Constance to propose his reforms for
the Church. Upon his arrival he is tried for heresy and burned at the
Prince Henry of Portugal, with a fleet of 200 ships and 20,000 men,
captures the port of Ceuta from the Moors.
Dutch fishermen are using drift nets.
Lately the Portuguese have been building latine-rigged ships, which can
tack into the wind. They are are exploring waters off the coast of
northern Africa, and they lay claim to the island of Madiera.
The Portuguese are fighting inhabitants of the Canary Islands, south of
In Austria, Jews are imprisoned and expelled.
In Florence, the first patent is granted - for a barge with hoists,
used for hauling marble.
In Japan, a Zen teacher, Ketsugan, is performing exorcisms.
Zen temples in Japan are contributing to cultural diffusion by
importing Chinese literature, aritistic styles and religious ideas.
Pope Martin V orders John Wyclif's bones exhumed and burned.
King Alfonso V, king of Naples and Sicily, orders Jews in Sicily to
convert to Catholicism.
The Hundred Years' War is still on, and, in May, Joan of Arc defeats
the English at Orleans. In August she enters Paris in triumph.
Some Englishmen see Joan of Arc as truly a witch and as an agent of the
devil - a common response to adversity in this age. Joan is captured.
The English turn her over to ecclesiastic authorities - the Inquisition
- and at the French town of Rouen, then under English rule, Joan is
burned at the stake.
The Mexica (Aztecs) have won a three-year war with the Tepaneca, who
have been dominant in central Mexico and to whom the Mexica have been
paying tribute. The Mexica have conquered the Tepaneca city,
Azcapotzalco. The Mexica establish an alliance with the Acolhua, of the
city Texcoco, and the Tepaneca, of Tlacopan. This alliance is to be the
foundation of a Mexica empire.
Admiral Zheng He of China leads a fleet of 52 ships, with nearly 30,000
men, to the east coast of Africa.
The Songhai have rebelled against the Mali Empire and are disrupting
Mali's trade on the Niger River. Mali is in decline. The Songhai are
able to sack and occupy Timbuktu.
In this pre-industrial age the biggest business is banking, and in the
Tuscan city of Florence a banking family, the Medici, begins to
dominate the city politically.
Portuguese start sailing past Cape Bojador, beyond which had been
considered a "Sea of Darkness" from which no European had returned.
Amid rebellion and turmoil, Sweden's parliament meets for the first
time, to be dominated by noble families and the body that maintains
Swedish national identity.
From the Caucasus region, al-Ashraf Qaytbay, at the age of twenty, is
brought to Egypt as a slave, purchased by a merchant for recruitment as
a Mamluk warrior. He is an able horseman, and his gifts are to catch
the eye of Egypt's leading militarists.
The Chanca tribe attacks the Inca city-state of Cusco from the north.
In defense, the Inca begin to reorganize their governmental system, to
expand their alliances and with force to build the Tahuantinsuyu Empire.
Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church leaders agree to reunify
these two branches of Christianity. The Russians do not agree and the
Russian Orthodox Church is to remain independent of the Vatican in Rome.
In one of their caravels, the Portuguese transport around 200 slaves
from Africa to Portugal.
In China, hyperinflation reduces the value of paper money 97 percent.
On a small island known as Arguin (Arguim), rougly 700 kilometers south
of Cape Bojador, the Portuguese build a castle and establish the first
European trading post in Africa.
The Russian Orthodox Church becomes independent of the Patriarch of
In Kyoto, the Ryoanji Zen temple is built. It has a garden of fifteen
rocks on raked white sand - an austerity to aid meditation.
The wealthiest state on Africa's east coast, Zimbabwe, is abandoned
after having suffered from overgrazing, eroded farmlands and a loss of
timber. Kingdoms neighboring Zimbabwe are conquered by Mwene Mutapa.
In Europe, metal plates are being used in screw-type presses.
There is famine in the Mexica (Aztec) city of Tenochtitlan.
Constantinople has been declining economically, in population and
military strength. Using European artillery and experts, the Ottoman
Turks break through Constantinople's walls. Disciplined Muslim forces
capture the city. This ends Constantinople as the center of Eastern
Orthodox Christianity and the heart of the remains of the Roman Empire.
The French capture Bordeaux, the last place the English hold except for
the port city of Calais, on the English channel. The Hundred Years' War
ends without a formal treaty signed and no renouncing of rights to the
French throne by an English king. Nationalism had increased,
and common people in England are upset at what they see as England
having lost the war. With the end of the Hundred Years' War, trade
revives and economic depression ends.
Forty-one Jews are burned at the stake in Breslau, Poland.
In the German town of Mainz, Johann Gutenberg, using metal type in a
screw-type printing press, prints the "Gutenberg" Bible. His printing
press is a step up from screw presses used in agriculture. He was the
first European to use type-setting, beginning around 1439. Printing was
to increasing the circulation of literature, stimulate a rise in
literacy, knowledge and science.
With humanistic leanings and an enthusiasm for literature and art, Pope
Nicholas V has in the last five years given rebirth to the Vatican
Library - putting it on course to becoming one of the largest libraries
in the world. He dies at age 58.
Judges and commissioners in the archbishop's palace in the city of
Rouen declare that Joan of Arc was innocent of the charges that led to
her execution - after nineteen years of appeal and almost one year of
hearings. The Archbishop declares the case ended.
The Ottoman Turks overrun Athens, begin a stay that will last 400
years, and they turn the Parthenon into a mosque.
The Ottoman Turks have taken control of all Serbia.
Two families, both descended from King Edward III (who reigned from
1327 to 1377 and was of the Plantagenet dynasty) have been at war for
years. One family is the House of York the other the House of
Lancaster. This is the War of the Roses. Edward, from the House of
York, defeats the Lancastrians at Mortimor's Cross. He is proclaimed
king and ascends the throne as Edward IV.
King Loius XI of France creates a postal service.
The Ottoman Turks expand into Bosnia. They execute Bosnia's king,
Stefan Tomasevic - the last of the Kotromanic dynasty. Assassination,
as a means of resistance to foreign rule, is viewed by the Serbs of
Bosnia as a heroic act.
The Songhai and Mali Empire fight over Timbuktu, with great loss of
life. The Songhai win and the Mali Empire is more obviously in decline.
An Albanian, George Kastrioti, also known as Skanderbeg, has led
another successful resistance against an Ottoman invasion, and he is a
hero across Christendom.
In Japan a dispute over succession of the Ashikaga shogunate begins the
Onin War, which exacerbates the strife between regional warlords
Skanderbeg has been ill and dies in bed, and the Ottomans absorb
In Egypt, al-Ashraf Qaytbay becomes the Mamluk sultan. He buys 46,000
more slaves from the his area of origin - the Caucusus. These slaves
are normally from ages ten to 20, shipped through the Turkish straits.
It is a trade in the hands of the Genoese.
Ferdinand of Aragon marries Isabella of Castile.
After having secured much of what today is central and northern Peru,
the Inca have expanded their empire into Ecuador. With a new king,
Tupac Inca, they begin to expand southward into Chile, Bolivia and
Benin is a walled city several kilometers wide in a forested region
inland from where the Niger River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its
king, Ewuare trades captives taken in battle, delivering them as slaves
to the Portuguese.
On one of his journeys the Mamluk sultan, Qaytbay, is rushed by
peasants. He waves back his bodyguards, greets them and allows them to
clutch at his garments.
France's Louis XI gains control of Burgundy.
In Japan the Onin War ends. The shogunate is weakened and power shifts
to feudal warlords (daimyo).
A conspiracy, that includes the Archbishop of Pisa and has the support
of Pope Sixtus IV, leads to an attack on the Medici while they are in
church. The Archbishop and several others are hanged. Pope Sixtus puts
Florence under the interdict and excommunicates the Medici leader of
Florence, Lorenzo de Medici. The pope forms a military alliance with
the King of Naples, and Lorenzo's diplomacy prevents an
After four years of war, Spain accepts monopoly trade for Portugal
along Africa's Atlantic coast and Portugal acknowledges Spain's rights
in the Canary Islands.
The Ottoman Turks and Venice have been at war since 1463.
Venice is defeated militarily and gives up that part of its empire,
along the Adriatic Sea, that the Ottoman Turks occupy.
Leonardo da Vinci of Florence, age 28, of invents the parachute.
Moscow's Ivan III feels strong enough to refuse to pay tribute to the
XI of France gains the territories of Anjou, Bar Mine and Provence.
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain employ the Spanish Inquisition to
investigate whether converted Jews are secretly clinging to Judaism.
Two Latvian monarchs are executed for murdering the Polish king,
Portuguese have founded new trading settlements on Africa's "Gold
Coast." They are trading ironware, firearms, textiles and food for
gold, ivory, food and slaves.
The Ottoman Turks occupy Herzegovina and join it administratively with
Bosnia. Its nobles and a large percentage of its peasants are to accept
Cairo is one of the largest and wealthiest of cities and is much
admired by western travelers.
Edward IV of England has died. His son succeeds him as Edward V, and he
is murdered. The Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of Edward IV,
usurps the throne and is crowned Richard III.
Pope Innocent VIII issues a statement deploring the spread of
witchcraft and heresy in Germany. He orders that cats belonging to
convicted witches be burned as well as the witches.
Henry Tudor, a relative of the Lancaster family, defeats Richard III at
the Battle of Bosworth. The Tudor family takes power and is crowned
Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York, uniting the Lancaster and York
families. The War of Roses is over.
King Charles VIII of France invades Brittany and forces 14-year-old Ann
of Brittany to marry him, adding Brittany to French territory.
Spain's monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, do their part in a war
against Islam - they annex Granada. Also they give Jews three months to
convert to Christianity if they are to avoid banishment from the
country. And the voyage that the monarchy is paying for, led by
Christopher Columbus, sets sail for China by going westward.
Christopher Columbus returns from the Caribbean, and later in the year
he sails back to the Caribbean.
Kings were doing what kings had been doing for ages: pursuing wealth,
territorial expansion and control over people. This year Christopher
Columbus - an agent for Ferdinand and Isabella - begins using people of
the Caribbean as slaves.
Piero de Medici has ruled since the death of his father, Lorenzo, in
1492. He makes peace with the French, who have invaded Tuscany (in
which Florence is located). A political rising drives him into exile.
Florence is in anarchy. A Dominican priest, Savonarola, is
anti-Renaissance. He is opposed to popular music, art and other
Jews are expelled from Syria.
Sultan Qaytbay dies at the age of 53 followed by grand amirs competing
to succeed him.
Boys working under Savonarola collect from homes things associated with
moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, pictures, books, fine dresses, the
works of immoral poets. Savonarola has these burned. Renaissance art
work is lost. Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Savonarola.
In Scotland, children are required by law to go to school
Toothbrushes appear in China.
Vasco da Gama reaches India.
Savonarola is hanged. An enraged crowd burns Savonarola at the same
spot where he ordered his bonfire.
Columbus sails from Spain with six ships on his third voyage to the
Jews are expelled from Nuremberg and Bavaria.
The Ottoman Turks invade Dalmatia and devastate land around Zara.
Venice goes to war again against the Ottoman Turks.
Portugal settles the islands of Sao Tome and Principe off the Atlantic
coast of Africa.
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