16 th Century, 1501-1600 AD
1501 The world has a population
of around 435 million - about one-fourteenth today's population of 6.4
1501 A military Sufi order in Persia known as the Safavids
have survived Timur (Tamerlane) and have adopted the Shia branch of
Islam. They have been eager to advance Shi'ism by military means. They
seize Tabriz in western Iran and make it their capital. They believe in
the glory of their king (shah) and in the old tradition of passing rule
and religious righteousness from father to son.
1502 Christopher Columbus begins his fourth and last journey
to the Caribbean. He still believes that the islands he has found lay
off the coast of India.
1504 Machiavelli is in France, learning about the strength of
a nation united under a single ruler rather than under various centers
1506 In the city of Lisbon, on April 19, religiously
empassioned Christians slaughter nearly 4,000 Portuguese Jews.
1506 May 20: Columbus dies in Spain.
1509 A Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, writes In Praise
of Folly. He is a devout Catholic who has been bothered by what he
calls absurd superstitions of most of the Christians of his day. He
favors the translation of the Bible from Latin to local languages so
that the masses can read it, and he believes that common people have
the capacity to understand Christianity as well as do priests.
1510 Portuguese ships are heavily armed with cannon and
dominate the Indian Ocean. Indian ships are smaller and held together
with coconut fiber ropes, instead of iron nails. Portuguese Catholics
establish a presence at the port at Goa on India's western coast, a
point from which Muslims had been debarking for pilgrimages to Arabia.
Goa begins to serve as Portugal's port and capital town in Asia. India
these days has a population of around 105 million - about one-twelfth
the number of people in Pakistan and India today
Timeline: 1511 to 1520
1512 Three sons of the aged Ottoman Sultan Bayezid
II are fighting for his throne. Janissaries are a power behind the
throne and choose the most warlike of the three: Selim. He eliminates
all potential future successor claimants except his favorite son.
1512 Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel.
1514 The Ottoman sultan, Selim - a Sunni - defeats the Shah
of Iran, Isma'il. Isma'il - a Shia - has been accustomed to
victory, and he and his Safavid followers believed that Allah was on
their side. They are bewildered by their defeat. Isma'il finds relief
from depression in wine. Selim annexes Diyarbekir and Kurdistan.
1514 Portuguese traders reach what today is Indonesia, then
the center of spice production.
1517 A Portuguese ship arrives at Guangzhou (Canton) in
1517 The Ottoman sultan, Selim, with superior
weaponry, routes the Mamluks. It is the end of Egypt's Mamluk
sultans. The last of them is hanged. Selim appoints a viceroy to rule
Egypt as pasha. Egypt will now acknowledge Ottoman suzerainty and pay
annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan.
1517 An Augustinian friar and professor of theology, Martin
Luther, lists his 95 theses.
1519 Gold mining in Hispaniola has dwindled. The value of
gold is still relatively high among Spaniards, and a search for gold
elsewhere in the New World begins. Spain's authority in the Americas
sends Hernando Cortez on a mission to Mexico.
1520 Luther has refused to retract some of his protests. He
has been printing pamphlets explaining his position. The papacy orders
Luther's works burned.
1520 Sweden is free from the rule of Danish kings,
1520 Henry VIII of England and King Francis of France, each
with army behind him, meet on June 7. They dismount and embrace in one
of the world's earlier summit meetings. There will be celebrations and
sermons on the virtues of peace.
Timeline: 1521 to 1530
1521 Charles V has been elected as the Holy Roman Emperor, and Pope Leo
X allies himself with Charles against Martin Luther. Francis of France
does not like Charles - a Habsburg. The Italian War begins with Francis
invading Navarre and the low countries. Francis is allied with the
Republic Venice. England's Henry VIII sides with Charles and the Papal
1521 The Ottomans continue to expand. Their sultan, Selim,
has died and his son Suleiman (Sulayman) succeeds him and captures
1521 Hernán Cortés (Cortes), with cannon and an enlarged army
of Spaniards and Indians, attacks the Mexica (Aztecs) at Tenochtitlan
(Mexico City). The people of Tenochtitlan have no guns and are weakened
by small pox. Their supply of water is cut. They are killed by the
thousands and defeated.
1522 Suleiman sends an armada of 400 ships and more than
100,000 men to Rhodes. He is using artillery and explosives. Rhodes
capitulates after a siege of 145 days.
1525 In Italy, King Francis of France is defeated at the
Battle of Pavia. Francis is taken prisoner and many of his chief nobles
are killed. France fails to regain territories in Italy.
1526 The printing press is introduced in Stockholm, Sweden.
1526 From Kabul a Muslim tribal leader, Babur, has been
making a series of raids through the Khyber Pass into the Indus Valley,
seeking plunder. He has found opposition forces weak, and at Panipat
(about fifty miles north of Delhi, he routes the forces of the Sultan
Ibrahim Lodi - an Afgan who has ruled much of India since 1489.
1526 Suleiman the Great defeats an army led by King Louis II
of Hungary and Bohemia, near Mohács, about 150 kilometers south of Buda
and Pest. King Louis falls under his horse into a river and drowns.
1527 Machiavelli dies of ill health never seeing the
unification of Italy that he desired.
1527 In South America a small pox epidemic devastates the
Inca people of Cusco. Five years of civil war begin over which of two
sons is to succeed the now dead king, Huayna Capac.
1529 From the Muslim town of Adal in what today is Somalia,
Ahmad ibn Ghazi has been leading a jihad against the Ethiopian
Christian emperor Anbasa Segad. According to the Ethiopian Royal
Chronicles, Emperor Segad has 16,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry.
Grazni is victorious with 560 cavalry,12,000 soldiers and firearms. In
coming years the Muslims will plunder southern Ethiopia, burn churches
and monasteries and compel Christians to convert.
1529 Suleiman sends an army from Hungary against Vienna:
325,000 men, 90,000 camels and 500 artillery pieces. Thousands of
camels are lost because of the spring rains and 200 of the heavier
artillery pieces are sent back. Suleiman's force finally arrives in
late September. Their attempts to get past Vienna's walls fail, and in
mid-October they withdraw.
Timeline: 1531 to 1540
1531 Martin Luther warns that Catholic clergy and monks are
1531 German Protestants form the League of Schmalkalden to
defend against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and the Roman
1532 Machiavelli's The Prince, written in 1513, is published.
1532 The Portuguese begin to ship slaves to Brazil, slaves
they have paid for in Africa with manufactured goods.
1532 In South America a Spaniard in his mid-fifties,
Francisco Pizarro, arrives in Inca territory with 102 men, 62 horses
and some interpreters. Meanwhile in the civil war between the two Inca
brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa, Atahualpa proves himself the superior
commander. His forces defeat Huascar’s forces.
1533 Pizarro has imprisoned Atahualpa, who offers a
room full of gold for his freedom. He is executed by the Spaniards for
the murder of his brother.
1535 Henry VIII breaks from Catholicism and declares himself
head of English Church.
1536 Japan's Toyotomi Hideyoshi is born in a thatched hut,
the son of a poor farmer.
1536 Henry VIII charges his second wife, Anne Boleyn, with adultery. He
has her beheaded and marries her lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour.
1538 At Preveza (on the coast of western Greece, 200
kilometers southeast of the Italian peninsula), a Barbary pirate,
Barbarossa, employed by the Ottoman Empire, destroys the combined
Christian fleets of the Pope, Venice and Spain. The Ottoman Empire
dominates the Mediterranean Sea.
1539 In Japan, trading monopolies end and a free market
1540 Babur's eldest son, Humayun, has been ruling in India,
but the empire he inherited has barely been held together by force of
arms. Humayan is dislodged from power by Islamic nobles allied with
Afghans. Humayun goes into exile and allies himself with the Safavid
sultan in Iran.
Timeline: 1541 to 1550
1541 John Calvin, 32, a Protestant, is driven out of France.
1541 Spanish conquistadors arrive in New Mexico.
1541 Suleiman captures the town of Buda.
1542 A Chinese vessel carrying hides from Siam and three
Portuguese is blown by a storm to a small island 20 miles southwest of
Japan's island of Kyushu. The Portuguese have muskets, which they
introduce to the Japanese.
1542 The Ming emperor, Jiajing, has focused on Taoism and
immortality, but his spiritualism has not made him worthy in the eyes
of eighteen of his concubines. They detest him and conspire to strangle
him while he sleeps. All of them are executed except the one who warned
1542 Ivan, to be known as The Terrible, is twelve-years-old.
He entertains himself by dropping dogs from the roof of a Kremlin wall
1542 Francis Xavier, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, lands in
1543 Nicolaus Copernicus is dead. He had waited until the end
of his life to defy Church doctrine with the publication of his work
"On The Revolution of Heavenly Bodies," explaining his theory that the
earth and other planets revolve around the sun rather than the sun
around the earth.
1543 John Calvin's theocratic government begins in Geneva.
1543 Michelangelo paints the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.
1545 The Council of Trent - the 19th ecumenical council of
the Roman Catholic church - begins, to be on and off again until 1563.
1545 In France, attacks to the Catholic clergy have occurred.
Troops are sent against the Protestant heresy in a cluster of towns.
About twenty towns are destroyed and about 3,000 Protestant men, women
and children are killed.
1545 Humayun is marching eastward with 14,000 Safavid troops
from Iran, where he had gone into exile and where he had allied himself
with the Safavid sultan. Humayun takes the Afghan city of Kabul.
1547 Henry VIII of England dies.
1549 Francis Xavier, a Catholic Portuguese missionary,
arrives in Japan.
1550 A Frenchman, Ambrose Pare, begins creating artificial
Timeline: 1551 to 1560
1551 In France, the works of Martin Luther, John Calvin and
others considered heretics are prohibited. In the cites of Paris,
Toulouse, Grenoble, Rouen, Bordeaux and Agners, various heretics and
those selling forbidden books have been burned at the stake. Another
massacre of Protestants occurs. More than 3,000 Protestants are to be
reported as having been killed and 763 houses, 89 stables and 31
1551 In Geneva, Robert Estienne, also known as Robert
Stephanus, is the first to print the Bible divided into standard
1553 Ivan (The Terrible) now of age and no longer under the
regency of his mother, takes the title Tsar Ivan IV.
1553 Henry's successor, Queen Mary, re-establishes Roman
Catholicism as England's state religion.
1554 Queen Mary marries a fellow Catholic - Spain's Habsburg
prince, Philip, eleven years her junior. The marriage gives Spain
influence in England's affairs.
1555 Philip's father, the Habsburg monarch, ruler of Spain
and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, concludes the Peace of Augsburg with
a league of Protestant German princes (the Schmalkaldic
League). The Peace of Augsburg recognizes the right of each prince in
the Holy Roman Empire to choose between Lutheranism and Roman
Catholicism and to impose the religion of his choice on his subjects.
1555 Humayun has recaptured that part of India that he had
inherited from his father, Babur.
1555 French Protestants (Huguenots), running from
persecution, are dropped off from three ships at a place that will
eventually be called Rio de Janeiro.
1556 Rushing to prayer, Humayun falls down some stairs and
dies. His thirteen-year-old-son, Muhammad Akbar, born by an Iranian
woman, succeeds him, becoming the third Moghul emperor. With a
multi-cultural background he will end Islam as the state religion and
declare himself impartial between Islam and Hinduism. He will encourage
religious tolerance, art and culture. And he will also expand his
empire by military means.
1558 Queen Mary dies and is succeeded by her half-sister,
Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Elizabeth re-establishes Anglican Protestantism as the state religion.
1559 An Italian invents ice cream.
1559 Machiavelli's The Prince appears on the Pope's Index of
Prohibited Books. Machiavelli advocated responses in foreign affairs be
based on empirical realities and with something other than prayer and
1559 Prince Philip is now Philip II of Spain. He appoints his
half sister, Margaret, as regent of the Netherlands. She pursues
Philip's order to wipe out Protestantism there, and she tries,
exercising the common belief that it was a king's prerogative to decide
how his subjects should worship. Margaret raises taxes in the
Netherlands to finance the intervention, and higher taxes add to the
hostility among the people of the Netherlands towards Spanish rule.
1560 Europe is still suffering from periodic epidemics and
famines. One-half of all infants born alive are dying before twelve
months (as in the poorest countries today). The wealthy might live to
between 48 and 56, and the poor, who do not eat as well, might live to
1560 The Portuguese drive the French Huguenots from Rio de
Janeiro, killing some of them. Portuguese begin building their own
Timeline: 1561 to 1570
1562 The English seaman John Hawkins raids a Portuguese ship
taking slaves to Brazil. He begins England's participation in the slave
trade by exchanging the slaves in Hispaniola for ginger, pearls and
sugar, a transaction that brings him a huge profit that interests other
1563 The Council of Trent, begun in 1545, is concluded. It is
decided that tradition is to be judged co-equal to scripture as a
source of spiritual knowledge, and that only the Church is to be
considered as having the right to interpret the Bible. The clergy is
ordered to be more disciplined and to have higher educational
standards. Clerics who keep concubines are to give them up. Bishops are
required to live in their own diocese. They are to have almost absolute
jurisdiction there and to visit every religious house in their
jurisdiction at least once every two years. Every diocese is to have a
seminary for educating and training the clergy, and those who are poor
are to be given preference in admission. Efforts are to be made toward
giving instruction to the laity, especially the uneducated, and sermons
are allowed in the language of common people. The sale of indulgences
and Church offices is condemned, and so too is nepotism. And music in
church is to fit with the occasion of solemnity, matching a new era of
choral music and composition.
1566 Selim II, son of Suleiman, becomes the new Ottoman
sultan. He is untrained in government or military affairs, unlike his
two older brothers, both of whom betrayed Suleiman. Selim II is the
beginning of disinterested sultans. He is devoted to the pleasures of
the harem and alcohol.
1566 In China the emperor Jiajing has been withdrawing from
governing for long periods. He has been pursuing a Taoist search for
everlasting life by taking potions. This leads to death by accidental
1566 In Antwerp, grain prices are high and people are
agitated. In the summer, Calvinists with axes and sledgehammers, urged
on by preachers, attack what they believe is false doctrine. They smash
up Antwerp's Cathedral of Notre Dame. They smash altars, stained glass
windows, ornaments, paintings, tombs. They destroy books,
ecclesiastical vestments and manuscripts.
1566 In Rome, Pope Pius IV begins a campaign against
1568 Civil wars have been ravaging Japan. Oda Nobunaga, lord
of Nagoya Castle, is one feudal lord who can afford to buy muskets in
significant number. Japan has been ready for the rise of a unifying
power. Nobunaga gains control of the region around Kyoto, Japan's
capital city, where the Ashikaga family has held power as shoguns. The
Ashikaga period of Japan's history has come to an end. The emperor, in
Kyoto, remains elevated by Shinto godly connection, above politics and
1568 Protestants in the Netherlands, led by Prince William of
Orange, revolt against rule by the Catholic monarch, Philip II. The
Eighty Years' War begins.
1568 A French architect, Philibert de l'Orme, has re-invented
the use of concrete.
1568 Akbar is expanding his empire in India, and it will be
reported that he has killed more than 30,000 Hindu peasants following
his conquest of Chitod. Akbar is keeping as subordinates some local
rulers, who are allowed to keep their own armies. At his palace, Akbar
begins his day with prayer, and at dawn he steps onto his balcony and
shows himself to his subjects who gather below, awed by his success and
power. Akbar describes himself as father to his subjects. Drawing from
Sufi philosophy he is described as having the attributes of the
perfect, or universal, man and a microcosm of the universe. At court
his kingship is described as a special emanation from God.
1570 A tidal wave destroys the sea walls from Holland to
Jutland. More than 1,000 people are killed.
1570 Hispaniola's Indian population, estimated at 100,000 in
1493, is down to around 300.
1570 Ivan IV (The Terrible) executes in public almost all of
1570 The first Japanese Jesuits are ordained.
Timeline: 1571 to 1580
1571 Tatars sack and burn the outskirts of Moscow. The
Russians drive them back.
1572 On August 24, St. Bartholmew's Day, about 3,000
Protestants in Paris are massacred. Across France within three days
approximately 20,000 Huguenots are executed. Catholics across Europe
rejoice and Protestants mourn and express anger.
1572 On July 9, nineteen Catholic priests are hanged in
1573 Porcelain is being produced in Tuscany, but it is
inferior to Chinese porcelain.
1574 In England horses have been replacing oxen as draught
animals. They are now 60 percent of the draught animals compared to 20
percent in 1068.
1575 Japan is in a period of battles with large armies. Oda
Nobunaga is expanding his control of Japan and has won the Battle of
Nagashino using 3,000 men with muskets. He has also been using long
pikes and ironclad ships and has been building roads that facilitate
trade and the movement of armies.
1575-76 It will be claimed that the Spanish explorer, Juan
Ferdandez, sights but sails past Tahiti.
1577 A Hindu monk, Tulasidasa, has written Tamacharitamanasa,
said to be the greatest of medieval Hindu literature. It increases Rama
worship in northern India.
1577 The Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, arrives at Macao.
1577 The first clock with a minute hand appears, developed by
Jost Burgi, a Swiss clockmaker.
1579 The population of China reaches 60 million. (It will be
22 times that in 2005).
1580 King Philip II of Spain declares Prince William of
Orange an outlaw.
1580 With the surrender of the last great Buddhist
fortress-monastery, in Osaka, Oda Nobunga becomes the master of central
Timeline: 1581 to 1590
1581 Seven northern provinces of the Netherlands, including
Holland, renounce their allegiance to Philip II. They form the United
Provinces of the Netherlands. The Eighty Years' War continues.
1582 Oda Nobunaga is assassinated. A conflict over succession
follows, with one of Oda Nobunaga's loyal military leaders, Toyotomi
Hideyoshi, winning against Oda Nobunaga's descendants.
1582 In Catholic countries in Europe the Gregorian calendar
adds a refinement to the Julian calendar, amounting to a 0.002%
correction in the length of the year. The change puts the date for the
celebration of Easter to that agreed to at First Council of Nicaea in
325 CE. Protestant countries will begin to adopt the new calendar a
century later, Orthodox Greeks in 1923.
1584 On his death-bed, Ivan IV appoints Boris Godunov as one
of the guardians of his son and heir, Feodor, age 27. Like many sons of
domineering men, Theodor is weak in will and initiative.
1584 King Philip II has offered a reward of 25,000 crowns for
the death of Prince William of Orange. He has called William a "pest on
the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race." William is
assassinated. The Dutch consider William the father of their country
and are saddened.
1585 Spaniards are besieging Antwerp. There the Dutch use the
first time-bombs, with small clocks floated on water.
1586 Italian humanist and philosopher Berdnardino Telesio has
published his nine books countering Aristotle. He rejects metaphysics
in favor of knowledge based on experience and experiment - science.
1587 Some Japanese have adopted European dress, and
Christianity in Japan has been growing. Hiseyoshi and some others
dislike this trend. Hideyoshi prohibits Christianity and expells Jesuit
1587 Philip II of Spain has been plotting to replace
Elizabeth I of England with Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scotland and a
Catholic. Mary has been a rallying point for all in England opposed to
Elizabeth. Elizabeth solves her problem with Mary by having her
1588 Upon hearing of Mary's execution, Pope Sixtus V promises
to pay Philip II one million gold ducats if his troops invade England.
An English fleet confronts the Spanish armada of more than a hundred
ships and 30,000 soldiers, heading for an invasion. Elizabeth's smaller
ships scatter Philip's armada. Only about 65 of Philip's ships make it
back to port.
1590 Mechanical inventions are on their way to advancing
science. A spectacles maker in the Netherlands, experimenting with
several lenses in a tube, discovers that nearby objects appear greatly
enlarged. The modern microscope is born.
Timeline: 1591 to 1600
1591 Ivan the Terrible has been dead for four years. Feodor
is still tsar but thought incompetent. Another of Ivan's sons,
nine-year-old Dmitri, a possible heir to the throne, dies after his
throat is cut. Officials claim that the boy accidentally cut himself
playing with a knife during an epileptic fit. Believing that Dmitri has
been murdered, mobs attacks and kill Dmitri's guardians.
1591 Toyotomi Hideyoshi expands his rule to all of Japan.
1592 Toyotomi Hideyoshi turns his attention to conquests
abroad. Drawing from his military successes he thinks his armies are
invincible, and he foresees himself conquering the rest of the world,
beginning with China, by way of Korea, which he invades.
1592 Pope Clement VIII states that "All the world suffers
from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit. They have
brought many unfortunate peoples into a state of poverty, especially
farmers, working-class people, and the very poor."
1593 In Italy, Galileo develops the first thermometer.
1594 The Protestant Bourbon King of Navarre, Henry, has
converted to Catholicism in order to extend his power to Paris. He is
crowned King Henry IV, France's first Bourbon monarch.
1595 An English actor and writer, William Shakespeare, age
30, is busy writing plays. He is a Renaissance man, his work less
devoted to God and more about the vanities of people than were the
writings that preceded the Renaissance.
1598 Hideyoshi fails in a second attempt at conquest in
Korea. His campaign ends with his death. He leaves an order for his
forces to withdraw from Korea.
1598 France's wars of religion are over. Tolerance between
Catholics and Protestants is proclaimed in the Edict of Nantes by
France's Henry IV.
1600 The Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno is burned at the
1600 Queen Elizabeth of England charters the British East
India Company to compete with the Dutch, who control the trade in
nutmeg from the Banda Islands.
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