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Europe: A.D. 1501 to 1600

Module by: Jack E. Maxfield. E-mail the author

EUROPE (The time of the Reformation and beginning of world exploration)

Back to Europe: A.D. 1401 to 1500

At the beginning of this century Europe had a population of about 69,000,000 and it was increasing rapidly. Commerce and financial transactions remained essentially linked to the great fairs held regularly at centers between northern Italy and Flanders and there was a continuous inflation year after year. In a little over 100 years in France, prices rose a total of 627.6% (i.e. from 1471 to 1598). (Ref. 260) In the second half of the century, private trading with traveling merchants became a common feature, probably because the public markets were becoming inadequate and too closely controlled. Advertising was already flourishing and land was bought and sold frequently. The commission system, whereby all merchants worked on commission for other merchants, who did the same for them, became quite common by the end of the century. (Ref. 292)

Braudel (Ref. 292) makes the interesting observation that the first 2/3 of the century was an age of accelerated social promotion, with the highest bourgeoisie group climbing from the trade background to join the limited ruling classes, all over Europe. As a section of the old nobility disappeared, it was replaced by these wealthy new-comers. At the end of the century this trend was reversed - "the door to social advancement was in effect slammed shut, the ladder pulled up." In general, successful merchant families only survived as such for 2 or 3 generations. After that they abandoned trade to live quietly on country estates or when possible slipped into the nobility class.

Roads in Europe were chiefly tracks a yard wide, suitable for horsemen, although sometimes there were adjacent footpaths for pedestrians and herds. When wheeled carriages appeared in large numbers in this century they posed real problems, making severe town surgery necessary in most places. The new thoroughfares, however, in the long run helped both hygienically and commercially. The inhabitants of towns of ten spent only part of their lives there because they had to participate in the harvests, even in such busy places as Flanders. Algerian pirates had no trouble taking Gibraltar in 1540 because, as they knew, all the inhabitants were outside the walls, helping with the grape harvest. (Ref. 260)

In spite of almost constant warfare and religious strife, or perhaps because of the latter, men of education in science, theology, art and medicine seemed to rove from one European country to another. Because many were born in one nation, educated in another and worked finally in a third or fourth location it would be difficult to describe all of them under the sectional divisions of this manuscript. Some of these remarkable men are therefore listed in this paragraph and one might just classify them as "Europeans". Vesalius, born in Belgium, but a student in France and Italy, wrote one of the greatest medical works of all time on the human anatomy. It was published in Basel, Switzerland in 1543 and included many illustrations drawn by the great artist, Titian. In fact it may be said that the year 1543 marks the beginning of the "Scientific Revolution" because of three features:

  1. The anatomical drawings of Andreas Vesalius
  2. the translation of Greek mathematics and physics of Archimedes
  3. Copernicus' treatise - "The Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs." (Ref. 21)
Roaming central Europe there was Paracelsus, part quack, part magician, part crazy, but posting some remarkable cures and establishing himself as the father of chemotherapy, as he used chemical drugs in place of vegetable remedies. Georg Agricola was a minerologist and mining engineer of this era. Geography was enhanced as Magellan's crew completed circumnavigation of the globe in 1518. The microscope was invented in 1590, the thermometer in 1592 and the pendulum clock by Huygens, late in the century. Simon Stevinus wrote an epochal treatise on "The Decimal" in 1585, Fracastoro of Verona wrote on syphilis, Ambroise Pare changed many of the concepts of military surgery and modern botany can be said to begin with Leonhard Fuchs of Bavaria. (Ref. 51, 8, 213, 125)

In spite of the advances in medical knowledge, general health in Europe was poor. Of every five children born, two died in infancy and one more died before maturity. The Royal College of Surgeons was established in England in 1505, stimulating medicine there.

By 1600 western physicians knew that scurvy could be prevented by green herbs or citrus fruits, but they were unable to convince the various admiralties. The potato, which was much smaller than that of today, was introduced to Europe through Spain from America about 1534, but it was not well accepted in some areas, some even thinking that the vegetable caused leprosy. After sugar cane had been taken from Africa to South America, the importation of colonial sugar from Brazil and the Caribbean became very significant in international trade. The Portuguese dumping of molasses at Antwerp soon doomed the honey-bee, because the price was so much lower than honey. (Ref. 122, 211) But grain, flour, and bread were the food of Europe. Obtaining bread was the major preoccupation of all and whenever the price went up, violence was threatened. (Ref. 260)

To understand the political intrigues of a very complicated Europe in this century one must realize that there were eight different, powerful factions present, which may be enumerated as follows:

  • Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain
  • The nobles of Germany
  • The Protestants of Germany and later of France
  • Francis I, King of France
  • The nobles of France
  • The Pope
  • Henry VIII, King of England
  • The Turks

There was almost constant warfare and strife throughout the continent, and these eight factions lined up in various ways at various times and on various sides, to battle each other. For example, Francis I remained Catholic, but at times helped Protestant nobles in Germany and Charles V at other times, but he also made alliances with the Turks against the emperor and with the Moors against Italy. The pope alternately warred against Charles V and then was on his side. Henry VIII backed the French part of the time and Charles and the Germans at other times. (Ref. 51) It is hoped that in the following paragraphs some of these complications may be partially unraveled.


The Mediterranean was no longer able to feed itself and it had to buy Baltic grain so that there was a resulting movement of Spanish silver (from America) to north Europe. The Mediterranean world was now always close to famine and this tended to dictate the course of world events, including the politics and wars. (Ref. 213)


In this century the Turks ran the Venetians out of Cyprus but the latter held on to their other possessions. In 1522 Suleiman the Magnificent appeared off Rhodes with 700 warships containing an army of 200,000. Although the Knights Hospitallers, with about 500 knights and 6,000 soldiers, held out for 6 months, they finally had to withdraw. A few years later the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V gave the Knights the islands of Malta and Gozo for their headquarters and they henceforth were known as the "Knights of Malta". Suleiman attacked them also on Malta in 1565 with 373 warships and 40,000 men. Terrible warfare continued for nearly 5 months and about 2/3 of the attackers were killed and only about 600 of the 9,000 defenders were left alive and unwounded, but they held. Turkish sea-power was crippled by this defeat. The Knights regrouped, started work on a new capital city and a great hospital. (Ref. 38, 86)


All of the Balkan area, including Greece, was under nominal control of the Ottoman Turks, but in some areas there was considerable local autonomy. At the end of the century (1593) when the Turks were again at war with Austria, Sigismund Bathory, Prince of Transylvania (central Romania) sided with the Austrians. The emperor, however, took Transylvania from Bathory and then Moldavia from Michael, to dominate this area for the remainder of the century. In the more southern areas a feudal aristocracy maintained estates and fiefs through many generations. (Ref. 119, 292) Although some Greek families and merchants living in Constantinople and coastal cities, such as Smyrna, were very prosperous, Greece itself sank into obscurity and poverty. (Ref. 38)

The eastern Balkans were a great source of cattle for Central Europe and Italy, sending some 200,000 head each year. (Ref. 260) Even so, as in Eastern Europe, large areas moved back into a "second" serfdom - producing raw materials only - not finished goods. Idria, in the Julian Alps of Yugoslavia, became an important source of mercury, which was shipped clear to America for use in the silver mining process. The Austrian state took over these mines as a monopoly, in 1580. (Ref. 292)


France and Spain had begun to fight over possession of Italy at the end of the last century, when French armies under Charles VIII invaded, using new batteries of light, mobile, bronze, field artillery, firing iron cannon balls. "Modern warfare" might be said to have begun in great battles at Ravenna in 1512 and Marignano in 1515. (Ref. 213) "The peninsula then became a theater of war where foreign powers competed for control of the Italians' superior wealth and skill."1 For awhile the stronger city-states held out, as for example in 1508, when the Venetians stood against the League of Cambrai, which included Pope Julius II, Emperor Maximilian and the kings of France and Spain. Even Rome did not escape the terror of foreign invasion. In 1527 Emperor Charles sent the Duke of Bourbon south against the papal forces and the Venetians, with Spanish troops and German mercenaries. When the Duke reached the gates of Rome, he asked permission to march through, was ref used and so fought his way into the city. Although Bourbon was killed, his men slaughtered every man, woman and child they encountered on the streets. The pope and his cardinals fled, while looting went on for 12 days, stopped only by the promise of large monetary settlements from the Catholic hierarchy. In general, the Italian cities hated each other, yet managed to support each other against invaders. (Ref. 292)

The primacy of Italian cities further declined as the Mediterranean became the scene of struggles between the two power-houses of the time - the Spanish Habsburgs and the Ottoman Turks. Milan became ruled by a Spanish governor; Naples, Sicily and Sardinia by Spanish viceroys. Genoa retained its western colony of Corsica, but only after a long revolt late in the century (1551-1569), with the insurgents receiving help from the Turks. Otherwise Genoa, too, was tied economically to Spain. This link with wealthy Spain and the richness of the town of Genoa, itself, did not alleviate the wretchedness of the lower class. The homeless poor of Genoa sold themselves as galley slaves every winter. (Ref. 260) One redeeming feature was an attempt at rejuvenation of the old "Champagne" fairs, which had first moved to Geneva, then to Lyons and finally now to Piacenza, near Genoa. It cannot be denied that it was mainly Genoese who financed the credit operations allowing Spain and others to develop the great trade operations with the New World, at least up until 1568. After that the Piacenza fairs centralized the Genoese business transactions and international payments. (Ref. 292)

Venice was threatened by land and sea, but struggled to stay independent, although it had frequent famines with people begging and often dying in the public square. The entire population was also temporarily incapacitated in 1588 by what was later called "grippe". Even the Grand Council was completely empty. The disease then spread to Milan, France, Spain and even the Americas. (Ref. 260) The famine, felt throughout the Mediterranean, was partially relieved in 1591 when wealthy merchants organized a spectacular diversion of northern ships, loaded with wheat and rye, into the Mediterranean. Portuguese merchants of Antwerp were among those making allegedly 300% profit on these ships, but that did not matter to starving Italians. (Ref. 292)

Naples was one of the largest cities of Europe and an extravagant place, with the Neapolitan nobles striving to keep favor at the court of the Spanish viceroy. (Ref. 292) In general, southern Italy was Spain's and northwest Italy belonged to France. The other great powers, England and Germany, by remote measures changed sides from year to year and there was much confusion. In the end, Italy was devastated and financially exhausted. To add insult to injury, both syphilis2 and typhus appeared in Europe during the long series of Italian wars, lasting from 1494 to 1559. In Italy syphilis was called the "French Disease"; the Spanish called it "Naples Disease". Gonorrhea was also rampant. Typhus swept the peninsula in 1505 and again in 1528 while the first great influenza epidemic struck in 1510 and plague was in Rome in 1522. (Ref. 8, 140, 125)

The papacy had its own history in this century. Caesar Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI and a former cardinal, attempting to save Italy for the papacy in 1502 in his capacity as the Duke of the Romagna, joined the French in an attack on Naples to free it from the Spanish. The new pope, Julius II (1503-1513), frustrated his schemes, however, and he then turned to the Spanish side. Julius II, one of the greater popes, was a warrior and somewhat morose. He was followed by happy Leo X, who believed that joy should be unconfined, but who failed to realize the seriousness of the developing theological situation. Rome reached new heights of liberty and sexuality. Martin Luther came, saw Rome, was shocked and went home to Germany to initiate the reformation. (Ref. 51)

In contrast to the turmoil on the political and religious scenes, however, the first half of this century also marked the apogee of the Renaissance, with intellectual and artistic supremacy. Michelangelo and Raphael continued their works and Titian added his classical art. Leonardo da Vinci lived well into this century, now residing chiefly in Milan and supported by the French King Louis XII, who controlled Milan most of this period. Subsequently he was subsidized by Francis I. It was also the time of Aretino, Santi, Cellini and last but not least Machiavelli, the amoral, political philosopher, who undoubtedly influenced the monarchies of the world for years to come. Wealth and urban development was concentrated chiefly in the Mediterranean and in Italy in particular, with the only cities of more than 100,000 in the western world being Naples, with 300,000, Venice, Milan, Constantinople and Paris. Rice was now grown throughout the peninsula, actually as an emergency foodstuff and the hard work involved began to make a sharp demarcation between the proletariat laborers and the capitalist owner. (Ref. 260) Communications were difficult, as evidenced by the fact that a message took 27 days to go from Venice to London, 46 days to Lisbon, 37 days to Constantinople, 80 days to Damascus, 65 days to Alexandria and even some 22 days just to go to Palermo, Sicily. Even so, Tuscany, Venice and Genoa moved tens of thousands of tons of grain from the Baltic and the Black Sea, through international merchants and letter of exchange in Nurenberg and Antwerp. (Ref. 260) Venice had commerce with the Hanseatic League through Flanders and Genoese merchants had similar connections as well as contact all over the Mediterranean and particularly at Seville, as we have seen. Florence bankers of the Medici family still controlled the capital in most northern European capitals. However, when Cosimo de Medici created a guard of 2,000 horsemen in Florence in 1531, the cost of the horses ruined him. (Ref. 260, 121, 8)

People, in general, were not what we might call "cultured" in the 16th century. Silver forks were used at table in Venice about 1581, but the custom did not last long and they were not used elsewhere, except in France. At this time the potato, corn, beans and squash spread to northern Italy. (Ref. 45, 50)



Germany consisted of a number of autonomous states and in the beginning of the century, at least, Austria was just another German-speaking sub-kingdom, all a part of the Holy Roman Empire. As noted previously, the "Electors" of the various German states chose an emperor, who was nominally over all, although his actual power over any particular state was probably little or none. Maximilian I (Habsburg) of Austria opened the century as that emperor and made his capital at Innsbruck. He married into the House of Burgundy and had his son marry Juana of Castile and Aragon, as well as arranging that his grandchildren marry into the royal families of Bohemia and Hungary. Thus, at the end of his reign, the Habsburgs were well entrenched in all of central and western Europe and their home base of Austria was a power to be reckoned with. Maximilians' grandson followed him as king of Austria as Ferdinand I, a ruler who had constant troubles with the Turks on the eastern border. In 1529 the Ottomans were actually under the walls of Vienna, where they were supplied by camel trains. But there were also peasant revolts in both Germany and Austria in 1525 and latent social war continued for more than another century. Peasants everywhere shared more or less constant poverty and low living standards, yet managed to snatch a precarious existence from the soil. (Ref. 292)

Ferdinand's brother, Charles of Ghent, raised in Flanders, inherited the throne of Spain, where he was known as Charles (or Carlos) I. In 1520 he was chosen as the Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V and by 1550 the Habsburg Empire was at its height, including all of Spain, the Balearic Islands, Italy (excepting the papal states and Venice), Sardinia, Sicily, the Netherlands, all of Germany, Austria, Hungary (that part not held by the Turks), Bohemia and parts of Serbia. On the European continent proper, only Portugal and France and the small areas of Italy previously mentioned, were out of the empire. In addition there were vast overseas holdings in the Americas.

The Fuggers, with headquarters at Augsburg, furnished the money for Charles V and their operations stretched from Danzig to Lisbon and from Budapest to Rome, to Moscow and even to Chile, where their interests extended to silver, copper and mercury mining. Jakob Fugger had learned double-entry bookkeeping in Venice while it was unknown in Germany at that time. The Augsburg merchants also owned silver mines in Bohemia and the Alps and their city rivalled Antwerp as a trade center, particularly for central and eastern European communities. In this connection we must also mention the Welsers of Augsburg, whose financial dealings also penetrated Europe, the Mediterranean and even the New World. But the state always kept a hand in. Augustus I of Saxony owned 2,822 Kuxen (shares) in the mines of his state. These various mines brought together for the first time huge concentrations of labor. In 1550, in the mines of the Tyrol there were 12,000 workers. 500 to 600 men were used solely to keep pumping water that threatened the tunnels. In the last half of the century, however, mining in central Europe declined, apparently because of falling profits, destruction of forestland with resulting high cost of fuel and increased wage demands. (Ref. 51, 177, 184, 8, 292)

NOTE: Insert Map 57. Europe in 1556. The Habsburg Dominions

One of the very colorful and productive personalities of this period was Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, commonly called Paracelsus (d. 1541) He obtained a doctor's degree at Ferrara in Italy but then barnstormed Germany, denouncing the medical classics and their followers and actually adding something to pharmacology, although he still thought disease was caused by influences of the stars and planets. The "sweating sickness", leprosy and epidemic chorea, which had been prominent diseases of the preceding century, were beginning to disappear, but syphilis was common and gonorrhea rampant. These two venereal diseases were directly responsible for the suppression of communal baths, which had been popular in Germany. Also becoming more common were typhus, diphtheria, small-pox, measles and scurvy (among northern sailors). Ergotism reached endemic levels, bringing insanity and death to thousands who ate bread made from the infected rye. (Ref. 125, 222) Meat was plentiful, with herds of up to 20,000 half-wild cattle coming into Germany at Buttsedt, near Weimar. Others arrived from Switzerland. Wild horses - that is, horses that had returned to a wild state, although not usually eaten - were well distributed all over Europe and particularly in northwest Germany, Alsace and the Vosges. There was an extensive copper mining industry at Mansfeld in Saxony. Because of the poor agriculture in the mountain regions of Swabia about Lake Constance, the peasants there had become linen-workers. (Ref. 292)

The various German municipalities and states remained more or less independent under their own dukes or princes. The Margrave of Brandenburg ruled extensive territories between the Netherlands and Poland. The apparent precocity of some of these medievals can be a source of continued amazement to us in the 20th century. The Margrave's brother, Albert of Brandenburg, was in 1515, at the age of 25, Archbishop of Mageburg and Bishop of Halberstadt and trying to become Archbishop of Mainz, which would automatically make him one of the seven Electors of the empire, like his brother. To help him buy dispensations to obtain this Archbishopric, which was to cost 10,000 ducats, the pope issued an indulgence to anyone who contributed money for the building of a new cathedral in Rome - such indulgence to shorten the stay in purgatory for the contributor and all his relations. Secretly, half the money was to go, not to the cathedral, but to the Fuggers, who would loan Albert the fee for his Archbishopric. The duty of raising the money in Germany was entrusted to Johann Tetzel, about whom we shall hear more later. (Ref. 291)

There was an increasing close connection between Brandenburg and East Prussia and in 1539 the Elector of Brandenburg (a Hohenzollern) was awarded the rights of co-vassalage over East Prussia, together with Albert of Hohenzollern, who had now become the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. Bavaria was already ruled by the Wittelsbach family. (Ref. 177)

The great story of this century in Germany, however, is that of the Reformation. Although we have seen the previews of the revolt against the Catholic Church in Wiclif and Huss, the true Reformation began here with Martin Luther. The stage was set when Pope Leo X issued the most famous of all indulgences - the one mentioned above regarding money to finish the new St Peters Church and secretly to indirectly finance an Archbishopric for Albert of Brandenburg. The Dominican, Tetzel, was sent out into Germany to peddle Absolution of all sins, past and present, release of relatives from Purgatory and various other indulgences for various sums of money. When Tetzel approached Saxony, the local ruler, Frederick the Wise, asked Martin Luther, Catholic priest and professor at the University of Wittenberg, for approval of Tetzel 's procedures. Luther refused approval; Tetzel denounced Luther; Luther countered with the posting of 95 theses condemning various practices of the pope and the Reformation had started. This was in 1517.

Martin Luther was a complex man, brought up under the sternest discipline and plagued all his life with the devil, demons and witches. His reformed theology was chiefly against the popes and their corrupt hierarchy. He argued for the Bible against papal decree. He thought that not good works, but faith in Christ alone, brought salvation from Hell and that this was preordained and only a few could make it. The pope issued Bulls against Luther and Luther wrote books against the pope - in German, so the people could read them. His theology went back to Augustine, taking the New Testament very literally. But he also revered the Old Testament, which he translated into German. His God was more like the old Yahweh of the Hebrews. He felt that priests should marry and eventually did so, himself. As he got older he got more and more intolerant, vehement and militant, damned all knowledge and reason and would have everyone return to the old, simple, agrarian life. In the end he declared Zwingli and other Protestants who had appeared on the scene, as heretics. He defended the divine rights of kings and glorified war as the work of God. He exalted the state as the sole source of order and gave a premonition of Imperial Germany to come. At the time, however, German unity was hampered, not furthered, but we are getting ahead of our chronological story.

A year after Charles V became emperor in 1521, the Diet of Worms was called to decide what to do with Luther. The resulting "Edict of Worms" made Luther an outcast and ordered his works burned. He went into seclusion for a year, but the revolution continued anyway in a peaceful way for awhile. In 1524, however, the Peasants' War developed as 30,000 impoverished people in southern Germany started a social revolt against nobles and priests. Religion was only part of the cause, but out of this, flames burst out over half of Germany. Luther finally tried to stop the revolt, but it continued anyway for another year in Austria. There was a terrific loss of property and life and the reformation, itself, was almost lost in this war, because in spite of Luther, the nobles associated this class revolt with the reformation movement. The revolt was finally extinguished by slaughters and massacres, but by 1527 the Lutheran "heresy" had become orthodox in half of Germany. Economic factors (there was now no money going to Italy) and the pressure of the Turks, which kept the emperor and his troops busy, allowed the Reformation to succeed. In 1531 the two religious forces, one represented by the Catholic League and the other by the Protestant Schmalkaldic League, had many conferences but made little progress in conciliation. From this time on the princes and nobles, rather than the theologicans, were the Protestant leaders, for the issues concerned property and power far more than dogma and ritual. (Ref. 51)

The true German religious war, as contrasted to the Peasants' War, began in 1546, a few months after Luther's death. The Protestant Saxon army was badly beaten at Lochau.

By 1547 a kind of settlement was reached but in 1552 all Germany was at war again. Charles V abdicated, giving Germany to his brother Ferdinand and Spain and the Netherlands to his son Philip. Charles, himself, died in 1558 in a monastery where he had been living in royal splendor. The greatness of the Holy Roman Empire died with Charles.

The religious Peace of Augsburg, negotiated by Ferdinand, marks the end of the Reformation period. The adopted formula of 1555 recognized the legality of the status quo - in both religious and territorial sovereignty. Ecclesiastical officials had the right to convert to Protestantism, but they could not secularize their property. The only real victory of the Lutherans in this peace treaty was a legal recognition of their existence. Four factors colored the second half of this 16th century in Germany, as recorded by Rodes (Ref. 184):

  1. The Counter-Reformation: This really began with Pope Paul III. The final Council of Trent convened in 1562, controlled by the Jesuits and it reaffirmed all the basic Catholic doctrine. There were no concessions to the Protestants and the Council did not reconcile the two faiths. Actually the Catholic Church was immensely strengthened as it then established the "Catholic Index"
  2. Disunity of the Protestants: "Disunity among the Protestants became particularly evident in the distrust and even hatred between the established Lutheran faith and the new Reformed Sect of Calvinism that began to spread across Germany in the 1550s."3 Calvin's predestination and his doctrine of attributing sovereignty to the religious community rather than to the state, divided the groups. There were many decapitations of Protestants by Protestants, as well as by Catholics. Lutheranism began to assume primarily a defensive attitude, while Calvinism, militant and aggressive, kept the expansive spirit alive and completed the conversion of Holland and Scotland while also retaining England in the Protestant camp
  3. Foreign Influences on German Affairs: Most important was the division of the Habsburg inheritance. King Philip II (Spain) was the wealthiest and most powerful ruler of Europe and his troops frequently interfered in Germany in behalf of Catholicism. In addition, German princes continued their various alliances with foreign powers. The German aristocracy rushed to adopt foreign customs and culture, particularly French
  4. Lack of Political Leadership: In Germany, only one ruler stood out in this period, Duke Maximilian I in the Duchy of Bavaria and he did not come into power until 1597.


It was a bad century for Hungary, beginning with a great revolt of the peasants, under George Dozsa. This uprising against the aristocracy was finally put down in a sea of blood by John Zapolya. Immediately the Werbocz Code was proclaimed, which made the serfdom of the peasants perpetual. A strike by Hungarian miners in 1525 and 1526 started that industry on a downward slide. (Ref. 292)

The Turks, under Suleiman, defeated and killed the Hungarian king in 1526 and overran the nation with an army of 150,000 men. There followed a period of division of the country with a narrow western area remaining as Royal Hungary under the Austrian Habsburg, Ferdinand, and the remainder of the country choosing John Zapola4 to reign as a puppet king under Suleiman in one portion, while the far eastern area was directly under Turkish rule. Later the sultan took the central portion under his rule also, leaving only Transylvania to John Sigismund, Zapolya's heir. Under the Turks, Hungary was devastated and the ultimate result was to give psychological impetus to the eventual union of Hungary to Bohemia and Austria under the Habsburg Dynasty, which was to last for 400 years. (Ref. 126, 119, 291)

The Reformation came into Hungary through German immigrants. By 1550 it seemed that all Hungary would become Protestant, but rivalry between Lutheranism and Calvinism tore the movement in two and Catholicism again became supreme.


In 1526 Emperor Charles V's brother-in-law, King Ladislas of Bohemia (and also of Hungary), was defeated by the Turks at Mohacz and he drowned in the Danube while trying to escape. He was succeeded by Charles' brother, Ferdinand. In general Bohemia had weak kings in this century, with the nobles refusing financial support to the throne. The aristocracy as a whole, however, extended its power and peasantry sank back into serfdom. On the religious scene we must recall that through the Hussite movement, Bohemiawas actually Protestant even before the time of Luther and by 1560 2/3 of the population was definitely so. In the following year, however, the Habsburg Ferdinand introduced the Jesuits and the tide turned back to the Catholic Creed. The accession of Archduke Ferdinand (later emperor) began the long Austrian and Habsburg domination of Bohemia.


As the century opened Switzerland gained some territory from Italy south of the Alps and fought against France, but the Swiss were finally defeated at Marignana, in 1515. The country was still having difficulty "pulling itself together". The Swiss were great fighters, as evidenced by their extensive use over all of Europe as mercenary forces, but they still did not always pull together as one nation. In 1533 Geneva, which had previously been a part of Savoy, became independent and in 1536 Swiss armies took Vaud from Savoy. (Ref. 8) The Alps continued to be for the most part untamed and horses that had returned to the wild state were distributed throughout the mountains.

This country was host to two great religious reformers, one the native Zwingli of Zurich and the other John Calvin, born French, but active in theology in Switzerland by 1534. Zwingli had a humanist education, became a Catholic priest in 1506 and by 1508 was attacking the principles of indulgences, clerical celibacy and the Mass. By 1517 he called for a religion based entirely on the Bible, and in 1521 he proclaimed openly for the Reformation, which was already well under way in Germany. Zwingli differed from Luther only in believing that the Mass was entirely symbolic. Eventually he became the head of both the new church and the city-state of Zurich. The local contests with surrounding Catholics became actual battles and Zwingli was killed in one of them. Five Catholic Cantons had banded together against Zurich and the Reformation movement and the resulting conflict greatly weakened the Swiss Confederation for the remaining part of the century. Anabaptism arose among members of Zwingli's circle, crystallizing as a distinct variety of Protestantism in 1525, when Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock re-baptized their group and called themselves "Brethren". After 20 years of persecution, the sect received its permanent doctrine from Menno Simons. Their three fundamental principles were:

  1. adult Baptism
  2. separation from the world
  3. literal observance of Christ's Commandments

NOTE: Insert Map 48. The Swiss Confederation 1526

Upon attaining an essentially independent status in 1533, Geneva had allied itself with the Cantons of Fribourg and Bern and had accepted the Reformation preached by Guillaume Farel. Calvin came there to preach in the middle of the century, after Zwingli's death, and wrote the book The Principles of the Christian Religion, which was modeled after Luther and followed the ideas of Paul and St. Augustine. He put these thoughts into an eccliastical doctrine and established the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, which won the allegiance of hundreds of millions of men in Switzerland, France, Scotland, England and North America. His theology was dismal - this life is a vale of misery and tears and it would be better to die immediately at birth. He agreed with Zwingli on the Mass; he set rigid moral laws; and made the church supreme again over the state. He was hated by Luther over the single point of- doctrine about the interpretation of the Mass. In later years, Calvin became more and more intolerant and had Michael Servitus burned at the stake for being too liberal and humanistic. (Ref. 51)


McNeill (Ref. 139) says that Europeans of the Atlantic seaboard developed command of all oceans of the world within a half century because of three factors: (1) A deep-rooted pugnacity and recklessness. (2) Complex military technology, particularly naval. (3) A population inured to a variety of diseases long endemic in the old world. From 1560 or 1580 population in the western world, especially in France, Spain and Italy, again became too dense and eventually poverty ensued. (Ref. 260) Western Europe, in general, tended to be somewhat antagonistic to the Genoese, who were the chief "capitalists" with the most money, ready "to buy everything up". (Ref. 292) This may be analogous to more recent situations there regarding Americans. (Ref. 292)


In a little more than a half century Spanish institutions and civilization were impressed upon an area larger than the whole of Europe. The Spanish army was the most successful of Europe, with even nobles in its ranks, carrying handguns. Their real pride, however, was the cavalry and after 1525 they dominated Europe until the middle of the next century. Long before that, Spain was spending 70% of its revenue on weapons. For the infantry one man in twelve was conscripted, but he too became a professional. (Ref. 213)

Isabelle, the great queen, died in 1504 and Ferdinand, whose natural Machevellian tendencies had been tempered by Isabelle, died in 1516. In that short time, however, he was totally involved in European politics, goading Henry VIII into war with France and even talking Henry into sending 7,000 men to San Sebastian in 1512 to drive the French from Navarre and conquer Guienne. The attack was premature and a dismal failure. Later, in 1518, the French advanced again, capturing the Spanish garrison at Pamplona, a battle in which the Spanish officer Ignatius de Loyola received a severe leg wound. During his convalescence he reformed his life and founded the Society of Jesus, as we have previously noted. (Ref. 291) Ferdinand's grandson, Charles of Ghent, became Carlos (Charles) I of Spain and Sicily and because the young man's other grandfather had been Maximilian of Austria, he also became king of the Netherlands. As noted above he later became Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V and thus ruled Germany and Austria also. At first Charles could speak no Spanish and he tried to bring an entire Flemish court with him to Spain. Almost immediately after arrival he had to leave to go to Germany and he left Cardinal Adrian of Utrecht to act as regent. In his absence the nobles rose up against him in the Revolt of the Communeros, but this was soon transformed into a class war of commoners against nobles, so that the latter eventually had to support the king to save themselves.

By the time Charles returned with German troops, the rebellion had already pretty well burned itself out and Spain became an absolute monarchy.

Charles abdicated all titles in 1556 while in Brussels and his son Philip II took over as king of Spain. It was Philip who sent the great Spanish Armada against England in 1588 to avenge the death of Mary of Scots and to restore Catholicism to England, but as we shall see shortly, he failed in this endeavor. This preoccupation with northern Europe was new to Spain, basically a Mediterranean country, and it happened only as a result of the dynastic accidents and manipulations of the Habsburgs. Philip II ruled more of the earth's surface than anyone since the beginning of history, but all of the silver from Peru and Mexico had not kept the Spanish court from sinking ever deeper into debt, a lot of the money disappearing into the conflicts in the Netherlands. The Spanish court repudiated its debts to the Fuggers on 5 separate occasions between 1557 and 1627 and those bankers progressively withdrew from financing governments. In 1580 the Spanish cavalry, under the Duke of Alva, quickly conquered Portugal and from then on for the rest of the century Spain and Portugal were united under a common Iberian crown, which ruled three empires - the silver empire of Spanish America, the spice empire of the Indian Ocean and the sugar empire of the south Atlantic. From 1,000 to 2,000 Spaniards left Spain for America each year during this century. (Ref. 51, 139, 8, 260)

We must add some details about Philip's war with England. Actually he feared this, but was egged on by the pope and some of his advisors, so that eventually he was enticed into gathering a great fleet of ships from all over Iberia and Italy, for the purpose of holding the English fleet at bay while the Duke of Parma led Spanish troops, which were then in Belgium, across the channel to restore Catholicism to England. Provisioning the great fleet was a problem never adequately solved, partly because of Spain's worsening financial situation. A raid along the southern coast by Sir Francis Drake, which among other insults resulted in the destruction of about 1,700 tons of hoops and pipe staves, which had been destined to be made into casks to carry 25,000 to 30,000 tons of water, wine, salt meat, salt fish and biscuits, did not help matters. The substitute, green barrel staves, which the Spaniards then had to use, made leaky and quickly fouled casks.

In late May of 1588, under a somewhat inexperienced and reluctant Captain-General Medina Sidonia, the Spanish armada finally set off from Lisbon. In the first line were 10 Portuguese and 10 Castillian galleons, reinforced by 4 great, armed West India merchant- men. Then there were 4 galleasses of Naples manned by 300 soldiers and sailors, 300 rowers and 50 guns apiece. The second line had 4 squadrons of 10 large merchantmen, each heavily armed, and attached to them were 34 light, fast ships and 23 awkward hulks acting as freighters and supply ships, making a total of 130 vessels. Included in the personnel were 180 friars and priests. The armada carried 2,431 cannon (of which 934 were iron, instead of bronze), 7,000 arquebuses, 1,000 muskets and 123,790 bullets and shot. (Ref. 260)

The fleet was at first becalmed for several days just off the Portuguese coast, then scattered by a storm, with the loss of 2 galleasses and 28 other major ships, while still others were badly battered. In addition, there was already much fever, scurvy and dysentery aboard and the green-stave casks were already producing spoiled food and water.

Nevertheless, the battle was eventually joined at the mouth of the English channel on July 31, 15885, with the longer range cannon of the British ships holding the Spanish out of their gun range and preventing grappling and boarding as the southerners were wont to do. After various engagements in the next several days the Spanish lost several ships, some aground and some sunk and/or exploded when the English launched a "fire-ship" attack. By August 8th the Spanish were almost out of ammunition and food and on August 12th the remaining ships turned tail and escaped into the North Sea. The English did not follow, although the Spanish command expected them to do so at any moment.

The damaged remnants of the great armada sailed up around the north end of the British Isles, carrying a load of sick and starving sailors. Some 17 ships are said to have sought refuge on the Irish coast and perished there. Thousands must have drowned- and those that survived a landing were battered to death by the Irish or turned over to English soldiers. Finally in September, 1588 some 44 vessels straggled into the harbor at Santander, Spain, a fleet shattered by battle, weather, sickness and starvation. On the flagship San Martin alone, besides those killed in battle, there were 180 dead of scurvy, typhus or influenza, aggravated by hunger and thirst. More died daily in port while the unprepared countryside people tried to gather food and clothes and arrange hospital facilities. (Ref. 133)

In spite of that armada fiasco, Spanish merchant ships still brought American treasure back to Spain, actually in greater quantities between 1588 and 1603 than in any other 15 year period. The defeat had not significantly altered the command of the seas commercially. Seville was actually prosperous as never before and 7% of the population was slave. Black Africans, white Moriscos and Moors from Granada and North Africa and Indians from America all could be seen in the bustling streets. (Ref. 267) The battles of the armada were the first of their kind with the massive ships and their long range cannon, but as far as actual numbers of vessels and men were concerned, this has been over-emphasized in many histories. (Ref. 133)

In this century the Inquisition continued with the ecclesiastical attack on witchcraft at its height. The Inquisition was a cause as well as an effect of intense Catholicism in Spain and it held the Reformation to a minor skirmish in that country. After the Jews were run out, the Moors came under the Inquisition scrutiny and 3,000,000 of them left Spain and returned to North Africa. In this exodus of Jews and Moors, Spain lost an incalculable treasure and it has never made up for it intellectually and other ways. Thereafter, knowing only one religion, people submitted completely to their clergy and surrendered the right to think except within the limits of the traditional faith. Spain chose to remain medieval, with little intellectual activity. (Ref. 51) One bright light was to be found in the Navarrese, Miguel Serveto, who discovered that blood was pumped to the lungs by the arteries. But, as mentioned in a paragraph above, he was then burned alive in Geneva for some alleged religious eccentricities in letters he wrote to Calvin. The imprint of the Catholic king's world-wide empire can be noted in the general acceptance all over Europe at that time of the black, solemn, short capes and high collars with a small ruff. (Ref. 213, 260)

The potato6 was brought to Spain from Peru about 1565. The peninsula continued to raise tremendous numbers of sheep, exporting wool to Holland, Germany and Italy.

Very important in this industry was the Mesta, a guild of sheep owners, which arranged the movement of the herds of sheep from summer pastures in the north to winter quarters in the south, preventing landowners from fencing across the routes, ensuring the marking of the sheep, fixing the resting places and helping with the- marketing. By 1526 there were 3,400,000 sheep moving each year some 200 to 300 miles up and down Spain, averaging 5 miles a day. The crown protected the Mesta and this centralization prevented the birth of anything like a free-enterprise system and blocked progress in Spain. It is even probable that the Mesta more or less forced the Spanish kings to expel both the Moors and the Jews, because the latter groups were more concerned with farming crops than with livestock. In spite of sheep and potatoes, the years 1599 and 1600 were years of famine and plague, which decimated Andalusia and Castile. (Ref. 8, 213) The government finances did not help the overall situation. By 1600 40% of the government's income went for servicing old debts. (Ref. 279) International capitalism had successfully captured the opportunity which the discovery of America had given Spain. There was a three-tier pyramid: the base consisted of peasants, shepherds, silk-producers, artisans and peddlers; above them were the capitalists of Castile, who controlled those local people; and finally, running everything from above, were the agents of the Fuggers and soon of the Genoese. (Ref. 292)


This was a golden age for Portugal, as the Age of Imperialism began with the development of an extensive empire. In addition to Brazil, the Portuguese had established a colony with a governor in India and had set up commercial relations with China. In 1509 they won a decisive battle with the Moslems for control of the Arabian Sea, off the Indian port of Diu. They had heavy ships with cannon and the Moslems were short of metal and under armed. As a result of all this, Portugal had virtually taken over the spice trade from the Venetians. In 1523 alone, some 100 tons of ginger and 2,000 tons of pepper had gone into Germany from Lisbon. By the middle of the century the Portuguese had a string of more than 50 forts and factories from Sofola on the east African coast to Nagasaki, Japan. (Ref. 211, 8) Strangely enough the Portuguese merchantmen carried no artillery, even though French privateers on the Atlantic possessed it. The Portuguese carracks were the giants of the seas, however, with a displacement of up to 2,000 tons7 and carrying up to 800 persons. (Ref. 260)

At home, the Avis Dynasty continued with Manoel I the Great ruling until 1521, then Joao III, followed by Sebastian I (1557-78). The latter undertook a new religious war against the Moors and was killed in the process, ending the dynasty. The Avis had been good rulers and their empire had had good administrators so that Lisbon had become a center of wealth, luxury and a depository for Asiatic goods. The only cloud on the horizon had resulted from Manoel's borrowing from Genoese bankers to equip his Asian-bound ships. Interest on these debts and agents' dishonesty cut heavily into the trade profits and the kings did not do as well as others around them. (Ref. 279)

As the century progressed black slavery, imperial war, corruption at home and other features began to lay the groundwork for decline. An earthquake, which killed 30,000 people in Lisbon in 1531 did not help matters. Following the lead of Spain, Portugal expelled her Jews and soon the Inquisition entered with consequences similar to those in Spain. In the dynastic struggle which followed the end of the Avis Dynasty, the Spanish, under the Duke of Alva, invaded Portugal and defeated a Portuguese contingent in the battle of Alcantara in 1580, near Lisbon, thus allowing the Spanish king, Philip II, to also become the Portuguese monarch, at least in theory. English, Dutch and French forces then began to attack the Portuguese overseas colonies. (Ref. 119, 229, 222)


Louis XII died in 1515 without heirs and the Valois, Francois I, became king and entered in the intrigues of a complicated Europe. Within 8 months he had invaded Italy and defeated a seasoned Swiss mercenary army of the pope near Milan. Venice, still antagonistic to Emperor Maximilian, supported Francois' armies. (Ref. 291) These "Italian Wars" were actually the start of nearly 60 years of warfare of France with Spain, ending in the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559. Since Spain was ruled by Charles V, after 1540 Francois entered negotiations that were designed as a three-pronged attack against the Habsburgs, whom he felt to be his greatest antagonist. The triad attack included: (1) Subsidies to German Protestants so that they could attack Charles V from the north. (2) Alliance with the Turks to attack Austria from the east. (3) Launching a campaign with the French army from the west.

The Holy Roman Empire did decline but this was certainly not in any way the result of Francois' manipulations. Actually the French king was held as a prisoner in Madrid by Charles for about a year (1525) and his children were held as hostages much longer. (Ref. 292) It is also true that Francois was so busy with women that he had very little time for administration. He lived lavishly to the extent that he impoverished his people. His sister Marguerite and his mother Louise d'Angouleme of Savoy were very influential in his government and the former was very tolerant religiously, protecting many Protestants as the Reformation began to arrive in France. In 1536 Francois I did occupy the Duchy of Savoy, but by the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis Duke Emmanuel Philibert re-obtained the Duchy, excepting that portion which had been taken by the Swiss.

(Ref. 68)

The Reformation was somewhat delayed in this country because of a "concordant" with the pope, allowing the king to appoint and control church officials in the nation. This removed the dominance of Rome, which was such a great factor in Germany's revolt.

Nevertheless, by the second half of the century this did become a political issue that led to the Wars of Religion, France's gravest civil conflict since the Hundred Years War.

Wedged between conflicts were the short reigns of Francois II, first husband of Mary Stuart of Scotland and niece of the Guises, to be mentioned below, and Charles IX. Francois II died of tuberculous meningitis in 1560 a year after he was crowned, while his brother Charles IX died of pulmonary tuberculosis at age 24 years, in 1574. (Ref. 260) From 1559 to 1598 there were 8 distinct wars, interrupted by treaties, aggravated by massacres - a muddled, chaotic period, which showed that the French are never crueler than when fighting one another. Huguenot Protestants, taking Calvin's doctrines, became more and more powerful so that by 1561 there were 2,000 Calvinistic churches. This was in the reign of the "boy king", Henri II, son of Francois II and ruling from 1549 to 1559. He was a weak monarch, greatly influenced by Anne de Montmorency, his mistress Diane de Poitiers8 and by Francois and Charles de Guise. Even so, in this period some things were accomplished for France. Calais was finally re-taken from the English and exports of grain, wines, fabrics and woolens gave France a positive trade balance with all its neighbors except one - Italy. Most of the money flowed out through Lyons to Italy for costly silks and velvets, spices, marble and Italian artists' services. (Ref. 292)

Three separate factions began to develop in France: The Valois royalists of Catholic faith, who for awhile tried to be tolerant of the new Protestantism; the strong Catholic faction led by Henry Guise of royal blood from Anjou and Lorraine; and finally the faction of Henri de Navarre of the House of Bourbon and of mixed inheritance from Spanish, Basque, French and Austrian ancestry. Henry Guise had a dual purpose in life - to kill all Huguenots and make himself king of France. Henri de Navarre, a nominal Protestant, also was a claimant to the throne. The destinies of these factions were interwoven with the Spanish-English-Dutch conflict at the end of the century, which we have indirectly mentioned when discussing the Spanish Armada. Henri III, a Valois who had been elected king of Poland, returned to France as king in 1574, on the death of Charles XI. He vacillated on the religious issue and let himself in great part be dominated by his mother Catherine de Medici and his cousin the tricky Duke of Guise, champion of the anti-royalist conspiracy known as the "Holy League", serving the religious interests of the papacy. (Ref. 51, 57, 229, 74, 133)

The antagonisms of the factions just mentioned culminated in 1585 in the last of the 8 wars and carrying the name "The War of the Three Henris". Confusion reigned supreme as Henri III fled to Blois, hoping to get support from the States-General and finding none, he arranged the murder of Henry of Guise and his brother, a cardinal. In retaliation a new revolt of the Catholic party broke out and Henri fled to the camp of Henri of Navarre among the Huguenots, where he was murdered by the monk, Jacques Clement. This left only the Bourbon, Henri of Navarre, but the Catholic group refused to recognize his succession to king and named another. But Henri besieged Paris, defeating the Duke of Mayenne and the Spanish Duke of Parma and finally, supported by somewhat moderate Catholics who wished a strong national monarchy, he was crowned Henri IV, King of France.

NOTE: Insert Map 62. France During the Huguenot Wars 1562-92

He returned to the Catholic faith, but in 1598 issued the Edict of Nantes, which gave the Huguenots equal political rights, although not complete religious freedom. This ended the French religious-civil conflicts, often called "The Huguenot Wars". (Ref. 139, 119)

The large amount of space we have just devoted to the national political scene in France is not to be interpreted in a way to detract from the continued independence of certain towns. Local citizenship was of ten zealously guarded. In Marseilles it was necessary to have 10 years residence, possess property and to have married a local girl before citizenship could be granted. (Ref. 160) All through the feudal period in Europe, there was little or no sense of "country" or of patriotism, because each man's fidelity was given only to his immediate superior in the feudal chain. Even the word patrie, meaning "patriotism", was not used by French writers until this 16th century. (Ref. 218) It is of interest that amid all the national strife, we find an early example of workers revolt against management in the big printing strikes in Lyons in 1539 and 1572. There were about 100 printing presses with about 1,000 workers who thought that new technology in updated presses would result in a decrease in the number of workers. So they beat up blacklegs, distributed leaflets and took their master to court and formed their own society. In both strikes the workers gained little, but their actions certainly foreshadowed modern activities. (Ref. 292)

Only in this century did Paris become France's largest city, with 400,000 people and it was a trade center attracting job hunters and adventurers. The all important wood for construction and burning arrived in Paris in boatloads and giant floats, some 250 feet long and maneuvering these under the arches of bridges took great skill. Charcoal came from the forest of Othe via Sens. A great carrageway was constructed for the king from Paris to Orleans. (Ref. 260) The French aptitude for high fashion was shown late in the century when the effeminate Henri III allegedly wore 6,000 yards of lace at the 1577 Estates General at Blois. By the end of the century the great market, Halles, had been reconstructed and restored to old levels of commercial activity, making a "renaissance" of a type. This must not be taken to mean that everywhere there was prosperity, however. In 1587 some 17,000 poverty-stricken people presented themselves under the walls of Paris. (Ref. 292) In some periods Parisian food supply was very inadequate and some reports state that the dying people were eating dead dogs, garbage, rats, and even children9. There were eleven general famines in France in this century. (Ref. 140, 222, 260)

Ambroise Pare, surgeon to four kings, has been called the "Father of Modern Surgery". In military medicine he gave up the use of the cautery and used soothing dressings. Trained only by apprenticeship to a barber and then a wound dresser, he revolutionized the treatment of wounds. He wrote the treatise "A Universal Surgery" in 1561 and published his famous Ten Books of Surgery in 1564. (Ref. 74, 125) The political decline of the Valois royal family may have been due to syphilis, which had been brought back by French soldiers after a military fray against Naples, in 1494. The French army also brought typhus back from Naples during another excursion there in 1526. In another vein, it is interesting that when Henri Valois was besieging Paris, just prior to his becoming King Henri IV in 1590, Parisians used carrier pigeons to keep in touch with the outside world, a custom in use at times since the ancient Greeks. (Ref. 122)


Throughout most of this century the Lowlands were a part of the Habsburg dominion. In the first half, Antwerp, by virtue of its crucial location, seemed to be the leading city commercially, with trade routes to Bergen, Stockholm, Reval, Danzig and all points south down even to Seville and Algiers. This was based greatly on a luxury trade, however, and with a shift of the European staple market and the rapid increase of seaborne trade, Amsterdam became the center of commerce. The sacking of Antwerp in 1576 by disgruntled Spanish soldiers, who had gone unpaid by the bankrupt King Philip II, certainly was a factor in this transition. (Ref. 279) Soldier and sailors, in those days, demanded gold for wages, not paper. Already in 1567, when the Duke of Alva arrived in the Netherlands with his army, the troops' pay and expenses were invariably settled in gold and gold alone. (Ref. 260)

The Dutch Baltic fleet brought food supplies, chiefly grains from the Baltic, to Amsterdam and by 1500 that fleet had already equaled that of the Hanseatic League. Their business was free of guild restrictions and the Italian bankers, the Fuggers, and English merchants centered their commercial activities there. The area thus provided a great source of revenue to king and emperor, Charles V, who responded by giving the Dutch reasonably good government except in the matter of religious liberty. (Ref. 8) The Netherlands, along with Italy, remained the focus of European industrial activity until very late in the century. Contrary to what one found in a princely court, as in France, the wealthy of Holland were deliberately modest in both dress and decorum, so they could not be identified on a city street. (Ref. 292)

NOTE: Insert Map 61. The Netherlands War of Independence

Erasmus, a bastard born in Rotterdam, but later a "citizen of the world", traveling, and living at times in England, France, Italy and Switzerland, was one of the original humanists. He became a priest and soon had a number of benefices all over western Europe, which supported him while he wrote, chiefly in Latin and usually adroitly criticizing the Church, including the concept of transubstantiation, as in his Praise of Folly. Somewhat anticipating Luther, the book was condemned only after Lutherism developed. After 1519 Lutheranism and Anabaptism came in from Germany. The latter particularly gained ground in Holland under the leadership of John of Leyden, with the idea of a return to the simple teaching of Jesus and belief in the early return of Christ to earth. These concepts were mingled with communistic theories of equality, mutual aid and even "free love". Various Anabaptist uprisings and rebellions were put down brutally by the emperor's soldiers and finally the Spanish Inquisition machinery was imported to liquidate the group. The Spanish kept 50 pieces of artillery in the Netherlands, these maintained at a monthly cost of over 40,000 ducats. To move these units required almost 5,000 horses and nearly 6,000 wagons. (Ref. 260) After publicly burning Luther's books, the Papal Nuncio, Aleander, had Erasmus expelled from the theological faculty at the University of Louvain, claiming that he had paved the way for Luther by his Greek New Testament and his jibes at the Church. (Ref. 291)

In the middle of the century the Huguenots came in from France and Charles abdicated in 1555, giving the Netherlands to his son, Philip. The latter fought Protestantism in a bitter conflict that eventually broke the Netherlands in two. In these conflicts, known as the 80 Years War or simply as the Dutch Wars, starting in 1568, Philip's Spanish General Alva came opposite William the Silent, of Orange, a great Dutch leader. The Dutch began to win at the siege of Alkmaar in 1573 and in 1576 the "Pacification of Ghent" directed the withdrawal of all Spanish soldiers from the country as part of Philip's political bankruptcy settlement. However, after the Spanish king had made peace with the Turks and annexed. Portugal he felt that his finances would be- adequate and he renewed the war with the Dutch in 1583, only to eventually lose again. (Ref. 279) In the next century the Dutch were officially free. although Belgium remained under Catholic rule.

Professor William McNeill (Ref. 279) has emphasized the-very important contributions to the European military made by Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange (1567-1625), Captain-General of Holland and Zeeland after 1585. Maurice stressed three things:

  1. The spade.He felt that the spade was mightier than the musket, in that by systematically digging ditches and erecting earthen ramparts, a besieging army could protect itself while continuing the siege
  2. Systematic close order drill, including repetitive drill on loading and firing of weapons "by the numbers". McNeill believes that this, in itself, promotes psychological and sociological effects that solidifies an army into a close, social, professional, responsive group
  3. Division of army into smaller tactical units on down to platoons, where a single voice could control the movements of all the men

The chief architect of the new Belgium, once separated from Holland, was Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, a military genius who had led the Spanish forces in their attempted subjugation of the Lowlands and their frustrated attempts at crossing the English Channel under the hoped for protection of the Spanish Armada. The Dutch had prevented any potential landing barges from leaving the Belgium waterways, while the English navy chased away those ships of the Spanish fleet which remained afloat. Farnese, a grandson of Pope Paul III, was unable to conquer the northern provinces of Holland, but retained Belgium for the Spanish crown and the pope, in spite of the attempt by William the Silent to reconcile various southern social groups under a national program to be carried out by the Estates-General. (Ref. 51, 133)

At the end of the century Dutch sea power had increased to where it could challenge Spain and Portugal and they were raiding the overseas colonies of those powers. The defeat of the Spanish Armada and Spanish involvement in the French civil wars allowed the Dutch to drive the Spanish from the north and they were whittling away at the Portuguese monopoly on the spice trade. Both Holland and Belgium benefitted from a 16th century agricultural revolution, with efficient, commercialized farming systems developing progressively through the next three centuries. The Dutch used- the increased capital they obtained through trade to reclaim land from the sea, and they developed better methods of crop rotation.

It should be mentioned that Netherlanders dominated music in this century, with the great Flemish composers Josquin Deprez and Orlando di Lasso greatly responsible for the development of polyphony. Perhaps this Holland accomplishment compensates, in part, for its development of a method of distilling spirits, which with Dutch encouragement led to an increased drunkenness all over Europe. (Ref. 211, 8, 38, 213)



This was a famous century in England, with the well known rulers Henry VIII, Queens Mary and Elizabeth and the Golden Age of English literature. The first quarter of the century was marked by an exceptional amount of unique local and foreign intrigue, deception, double-crossing and false conceptions. In the midst of this was one Thomas Woolsey, a priest whose origins we mentioned in the last chapter and who had by 1501 made himself chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and was to rise to even greater heights from there. A second important factor was the continuation of some English territory on the continent in the marches of Calais, which had been English since it had been conquered by Edward 150 years before. It was a small area, 25 by 6 miles, but enough to justify the continued use of the title "King of France" by English kings and to maintain permanent military garrisons in Calais and Guisnes. To keep the English kings from further attempts on French territory, the kings of France paid 25,000 francs twice a year. Woolsey had some experience in the administration of Calais in 1503 and 1507 and was then taken into the service of King Henry VII.

In 1509 Henry VII died and his son Henry VIII became the monarch 2 months before his 18th birthday. He was a handsome, dashing young king, who reluctantly signed execution papers for some very unpopular tax collector-ministers of his father's regime. Even so, those tax collectors had made Henry VIII one of the richest kings in Europe and he was not long in taking advantage of this with elaborate banquets, tournament, jewels and dress.

Woolsey was already Dean of Lincoln and a second rank official in the king's government and in 1511 he was appointed a member of the Privy Council and by 1515 was a "Cardinal Sole"10 was supreme in the Council and in a month or so was made the Lord Chancellor of England. Like all medieval English kings, Henry VIII wanted the crown of France, in truth, and the time seemed ripe with France headed by an old, invalid king, Louis XII. Spain's King Ferdinand (and Henry's father-in-law) encouraged-him and Burgundy, now under Emperor Maximilian, was also ready for war with France. Most of all, Pope Julius feared French designs on Italy and would look with favor on any aggression against them. Only Scotland could be considered an ally of France.

Preparations for large scale war were time consuming and expensive. In the first 2 years of Henry VIII's reign his total government expenditure was 9,346 pounds but in the third year war preparations brought it up to 111,445 pounds. The whole financial arrangement, including loans from German and Flemish bankers, was handled by Cardinal Woolsey. In order to get the support of the English people it was publicly stated that by Easter, 1513 an English army of 60,000 would cross to Calais, while the Emperor Maximilian would invade France from the Netherlands, Ferdinand and his Spaniards would march into Navarre and Guienne and the pope with his Italian allies and Spanish armies in Naples attacked the French in Italy. But things were delayed and it was June 30th before Henry crossed to Calais and then heavy weather stopped everything. In the meantime James IV had invaded England from Scotland, to be defeated at the battle the English call "Branxton". Henry finally did manage to visit Margaret of Austria at Lille and besiege Tournai on the border of the Netherlands with 20,000 men. When this city fell, Woolsey was made Bishop of Tournai. But then Ferdinand double-crossed Henry and signed a truce with Louis XII and Maximilian's efforts were only "window dressing". Therefore, in secret, Woolsey and Henry, instead of invading France in 1514, signed a peace treaty at St. Germain-en-Laye, whereby Louis ceded Tournai to Henry and agreed to paying a million francs over 10 years, while Henry's beautiful, young sister, Mary, was to marry the aging Louis XII11. This separate peace annoyed the emperor, King Ferdinand and Pope Leo X, who had succeeded Julius II. The good relations between France and England did not long exist, however, as the ambitious, young Francois I took over the French throne.

Henry and Woolsey did not pursue war against the new French king but used all diplomatic means to thwart him, including offering of financial aid to any power who would oppose him. By the time of this "cold war" of 1515 Woolsey was bishop or archbishop of any number of communities, with additional income internationally from various Spanish, French, and Imperial agreements so that he was becoming very wealthy. Some considered him "ipse rex" - the king himself. Having close ties with Venice commercially, the English king and the cardinal soon tried to woo that Italian city away from their French alliance, but were unsuccessful until 1523.

Undoubtedly most of us tend to associate Henry VIII only with obesity, gluttony and beheading of enemies and wives, but actually in his younger years he was apparently a capable, bright, ambitious but well liked man. He was determined to make England the greatest artistic and literary center of Europe. Among the English intellectuals was Thomas More, the lawyer that we also mentioned in the last chapter. Initially one of the great humanists, More soon became a close friend of Erasmus of the Netherlands, who had made many visits to England. In addition to their humanist views they had in common the study of Greek and both wrote copiously in Latin and Greek. More's book Utopia12, written in Latin, developed a most unusual hypothetical community, which has given its name as a new word in most languages. Partly as a result of his reputation from this book and for his success in some diplomatic activities in Flanders, he was soon invited to join the king's government. It was thus that Henry VIII, Cardinal Woolsey and Thomas More all eventually were joined together in the control and manipulation of England.

The extent of the pomp and ceremony of governments and royalty in the 16th century is not easily pictured today. In 1520, when Henry VIII crossed to Calais on another trip to confer near there with Emperor Charles V, he was accompanied by a retinue of 3,990 persons and 2,087 horses, while 1,175 persons and 778 horses accompanied his Queen Catherine13. All of the accompanying officials had dozens of servants and/or knights, while the Lord Legate14, the Cardinal of York, Woolsey, had 300 servants. Initially all of these individuals professed the Catholic faith and suppressed Lutheranism, including the burning of the heretics' books and a few of the heretics themselves. Henry, the king, even wrote a book, The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments15. No subject in Europe could even approach the power, wealth and status of Thomas Woolsey. He lived at Hampton Court with its 280 rooms and a staff of 500 servants, although this was only one of several of his palaces. It was this man who was involved in the unscrupulous diplomatic maneuvers which pushed Charles V and Francois I into a major, western European war-which raged, with only brief intervals, for nearly 40 years at a time when Christendom was threatened internally by Lutheran heresy and externally by the Turks in Hungary. Through the first 25 years of the century, Woolsey kept promising the emperor and the Spanish that he would invade and conquer France, but this never actually materialized in any degree and at the same time Woolsey kept up secret negotiations with France. In this period there were several papal deaths and each time Woolsey tried to conjure, buy or blackmail himself into the papacy, but he always failed. Henry's only living offspring, his daughter Mary, was used in much international bargaining and intrigue - at one time offered to Charles V in marriage and other times to Francois I of France. While supporting the church, Cardinal Woolsey at the same time managed to get papal dispensation to confiscate any number of monasteries and nunneries to use the proceeds for constructions of 2 colleges of his founding16

In the meantime, after 1517 Thomas More underwent a profound intellectual and emotional transformation. His appointment to the Privy Council changed him from the humanist writer of Utopia to an instrument of Henry VIII's tyranny and the rise of Lutheranism in Europe turned him from an intellectual into a religious fanatic. Becoming a great persecutor of heretics, it seemed that he inwardly felt his original humanism was responsible for Lutheranism. He constantly wore a hair shirt beneath his outer clothing and regularly flogged himself with a knotted rope.

Finally in August of 1525, peace was agreed upon with France, the latter ceding no territory but agreeing to pay an enormous indemnity. England then changed sides in the struggle between France and the empire. Allied with the former, Henry could think of nullifying his 15 year marriage to Catherine (who had given him no male heir), since her nephew, Emperor Charles, was then the current enemy. The Lord Chancellor Woolsey spent the next many, many months trying to get the pope to accommodate Henry in this regard and Henry, himself, had already fallen in love with the young Ann Boleyn. No one knows exactly why Lord Woolsey fell from power, although there were many factors from which to choose - his failure to get the annulment or divorce for Henry from Catherine, the loss of public support because of the opulence of his life and immense wealth and a multitude of small offences and irregularities collected by- the king's secretaries over a 15 year period. At any rate, he was arrested on the charge of "praemunire", a grave offense just short of treason and punishable by life imprisonment. The charge was based on Woolsey's exercise of powers as Papal Legate, in which, as a representative of a foreign potentate he had usurped some of the king's powers. He was replaced as Lord Chancellor by Thomas More. Woolsey soon fell ill and for the first time in his life showed an interest in the spiritual side of religion. Although losing most of his estates and most of his wealth, he was essentially pardoned by the king and simply banished to York. It is interesting to note that even in that predicament he traveled there with 600 gentlemen and servants and 12 carts carrying baggage. But he was arrested once again in 1530 and on his way to the Tower of London he died, apparently of intestinal hemorrhage, cause unknown.

The new Lord Chancellor spent all his efforts persecuting heretics. In his mind every ill in the world was caused by Luther - even the terrible sacking of Rome by the emperor's troops. As King Henry gradually became more and more infuriated with the pope, More alone remained in favor of Catholic policy. Parliament convened in 1529 to stay in session for nearly seven years, during which time it placed the church under royal authority, repudiating the Papal Supremacy and recognized Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. More's objections to this eventually caused him to lose his head. (Ref. 292) It was in 1531 that Henry assumed ecclesiastical leadership of the church and made Thomas Cromwell the chief administrator. The latter, in turn, sought to make the king supreme over every aspect of English life and was ruthless in his persecution of those attempting to remain Catholic. In spite of this, he too ended up beheaded. Between 1535 and 1547 all monasteries were dissolved by Henry and the spoils were distributed to minor nobles or business men who supported the king. The government did protect industry with tariffs and the manufacturers profited from cheap labor, so that the textile industry grew and made wealthy men, some of whom then became the new aristocracy of England. With the destruction of the monasteries, however, education almost disappeared and strangely enough, mead also disappeared. The monks of the monasteries had raised bees to get wax for votive candles and the mead had been made incidentally from the honey. The people of England were still surrounded by sheep, but now many only wanted cow dairy products. Their entire agricultural process was changing in the beginning of an agricultural revolution, with the development of the iron plow and soil liming, among other things. (Ref. 57, 229, 211, 8) Technicians imported from the continent discovered in 1543 how to cast satisfactory iron cannon, thus cheapening the big guns to about one-twelfth their former cost. (Ref. 279)

But to return to Henry VIII, the reckless and vicious elimination of his various wives have been the source of many books, dramas and histories and will only be tabulated here for record. Catharine of Aragon, mother of Mary the Catholic, was finally divorced after 20 years. Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth, was beheaded. Jane Seymour, mother of Edward VI, died apparently of natural causes. Of the last three, Anne of Cleves was divorced and Catherine Howard was beheaded while Catherine Parr outlived the king. (Ref. 119) In the last of his reign Henry was the most absolute monarch England had known. His late, terrible disposition may have been in part fashioned by his syphilis and a chronic leg ulcer. Upon his death in 1547 his son by Jane Seymour became Edward VI, when he was but ten years old, and he never did gain the strength to rule. The power of the throne was contested by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and his brother, Thomas Seymour. The former was ruined by Kit's Rebellion, a Catholic peasant revolt, as the duke sympathized with the losing peasants against the nobles.

When Edward VI died in 1553 followers of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth battled to put one of them on the throne. Mary, a nervously ill, unattractive woman, whose only solace was her Catholic faith, became the queen. In the meantime Archbishop Cranmer had written the First Book of Common Prayer as a substitute for the missal and breviary of the defeated church. Although at first tolerant, Mary soon had him burned at the stake. The papal legate was brought back and persecutions of Protestants resulted in the name "Bloody Mary" for the queen. In the end the people were more ready than before to accept the "new" or Protestant faith. Mary married Philip, destined later to be Philip II of Spain, but never having been crowned by Parliament, he returned to Spain not long before Mary died.

Elizabeth became queen in 1558, restoring Protestantism. Royal agents then tortured Catholic priests; non-attendance at some English Protestant Church cost 12 pence a Sunday in 1559 and by the 1580s reached 20 pounds a month. (Ref. 119, 51, 133) It was actually Elizabeth who signed the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559, officially dividing the spoils of the 60 year French-Spanish war, in which England had been intermittently involved. (Ref. 292)

In the last half of the century foreign trade began to be an important part of the English economy for the first time and in the last quarter, there was a great overseas expansion, first with piracy and then world-wide trade. The Merchant Adventurers was a wool and cloth, closed corporation which actually operated primarily outside of England in Antwerp and later Hamburg. Joint stock companies including the Moscovy Company (1555), the Levant Company (1581) and the English East India Company developed. (Ref. 292) Sir Francis Drake, the most unscrupulous of the English pirates, left England in 1577 to sail through the Strait of Magellan and enter the Pacific, there harassing every Spanish ship, ransacking cities of Chile and Peru and finally sailing up past San Francisco and then across to the Moluccas and Java. He arrived home with great loot, to be made a hero, and gave hope to English farmers and shepherds who were resenting feudal taxes and tithes. That trip really stimulated the colony experiments of the next century. Drake was also one of the chief admirals at the time of the Spanish Armada, when the English fleet drove off the Catholic ships, which had been sent to facilitate a channel crossing of Spanish troops from Belgium. (See pages 780-782). The backbone of the potent English navy included 18 powerful galleons, varying from 300 tons up, excellently armed; 7 smaller galleons of 100 tons or more; and a great number of pinnaces. While awaiting the great battle, the crews were kept healthy on land, with fresh food and good water, not going to sea until absolutely necessary. (Ref. 133, 39) After the remnants of the defeated Spanish fleet sailed away in the North Sea, the English kept expecting a renewed attack and kept their ships manned and vigilant. As a result, typhus fever then killed the English sailors in greater number than had the battles.

A former junior officer of Drake's, Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins, later also raided about the Atlantic and around the southern end of South America, eventually to be taken prisoner by the Spanish. He had reported that 10,000 men under his command had died of scurvy and that orange and lemon juice were anti-scorbutic, but his home admiralty did not accept this for another century or more. (Ref. 222) It is said that Sir Walter Raleigh brought the potato to England from South America in 1588 and this probably had greater effects on the future of Europe and mankind than the sea battles with the Armada. (Ref. 260)

There is evidence that between 1/2 and 2/3 of all English households received some part of their income from wages. All through this century the-Tudors depended upon unpaid justices of the peace, always land owners, to apply the laws. Failure to retain support of these land owners could result in revolts and one such uprising did occur against Elizabeth I in 1569-70 called the "Northern Rising". But overall, the last of the century was tranquil and an age of many exceptionally brilliant writers, including Shakespeare, Spenser and Ben Jonson. In 1599 London merchants were so upset over the rise in pepper from 37 cents to $1.00 per pound (these figures are the American equivalents) that they formed the East Indian Company to get their own pepper and thereby unwittingly started the British Indian Empire. (Ref. 8, 211)


At the end of the last century James IV had promoted the founding of Aberdeen University with the first medical school teaching in Britain and in 1506 he granted a royal charter to a College of Surgeons in Edinborough. After the king's marriage to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, border peace was obtained at least for while and government, justice and order were improved. Scotland then had a powerful navy and the largest and most modern cannon. After England's Henry VII died in 1509, English border raids resumed and when Louis XII of France pleaded for Scottish aid in his war against the Holy League and the pope, James first moved to the English border with an army of perhaps 20,000 men to meet an English force of about the same size. King James and some 10,000 Scots were killed.

Scotland then again had a child king, James V, less than two years old and who should have had his mother, Margaret Tudor, as regent. She was so for a few months, but when she married Archibald Douglas, the 6th earl of Angus, Scottish lords and Parliament, loyal to France, appointed John Stewart, Duke of Albany, to be regent. He was a grandson of James II, shrewd and intelligent and spoke nothing but French, having lived in France since the age of four. The factions of Angus, Albany and the queen mother all struggled for control and finally in 1526 Angus seized the king and kept him in confinement. John Stewart returned to France, where he was held for four years while Scotland again fell into violent anarchy, with lord against lord and clan against clan. Some semblance of order was restored after 1528 by the 16 year old king, who emerged in some way from his captivity. He obtained some money from the pope and a good deal more from Francois as a dowry for marrying his unattractive daughter. The lady obligingly died within two months and James V then married Mary of Guise, a French widow. She brought a dowry of 150,000 livres. In spite of the king's attempt to promote law and order, great brutalities, fights and noble murders continued. In 1542 an English army again attacked Scotland; the Scots, failing to get French help, were not enthusiastic for the conflict; they lost and James V was killed, leaving an infant daughter who was to become Mary, Queen of Scots. (Ref. 38, 170)

In the middle of the century young scholars who had been educated in Germany and Scandinavia returned home, rejecting the Church of Rome. Among these was George Wishart, a zealous dogmatist and religious politician. Eventually he preached to large congregations, sometimes protected by an ecclesiastical notary, John Knox, carrying a great two-handed sword. With a charge of heresy, Wishart was strangled and then burned in 1546. Knox took up his reforms and preaching and was one of a band that killed Cardinal Beaton. After a long sojourn in Switzerland, where he had been strongly influenced by the Calvinists, Knox got a reformation parliament to repudiate the supremacy of the pope, forbid the celebration of the Latin mass and approve a Confession of Faith. He stated that soon the English would send an army to help. Instead came a French fleet, which took Knox prisoner for 8 years, during which time he was a galley slave. When he was finally released, he returned as a noisy rabble-rouser, advocating war and murder, drunk with a self -righteous passion and responsible for much of the blood and bigotry that was to follow. He glorified the Old Testament, claimed prophetic powers, rebelled against women rulers and felt that all should be killed who did not hold his beliefs.

Meanwhile war erupted again in 1548 when the Duke of Somerset took an army into Scotland, ravaging the countryside with the announced purpose of arranging a future marriage for the little Queen Mary with the Prince of Wales. The Scots resisted, with the help of the French army which came with a promise of Mary's betrothal to the dauphin of France. When the English withdrew in 1549, the French army stayed for another 8 years to protect Catholicism and finally the queen did marry the French heir, while she still ruled Scotland from France, under the regency of her mother, Mary of Guise. The new Protestantism was tolerated for awhile, but in 1559 the queen mother decided to crush the new faith. In 1561 the real queen of Scots came home from France, a widow at 18 years of age, tall, beautiful, Catholic and claiming not only the Scots but the English throne as well, thus becoming a thorn in the life of her cousin, Elizabeth. Either through a French variation or actual misspelling, her surname became changed from Stewart to Stuart. In 1656 she married again, this time to 19 year old Lord Darnley, a great grand- child of Henry VII. Not long after fathering Mary's child, the future James VI, the young groom was strangled. Subsequently the queen was made a captive for a year but ended up marrying her captor, the Earl of Bothwell. Captured again by Protestants she was held in Edinbrough, called a whore and declared ripe for a burning. Forced to abdicate her throne, she named the Earl of Moray as regent for her small son while she escaped into England. Freedom was short-lived, however, as the Elizabethan court imprisoned her again and eventually executed her in 1587.

In the meantime John Knox had died in 1572 and his place at the head of the Protestant movement in Scotland had been taken by Andrew Melville, who came from exile in Geneva to be principal of Glasgow University. An unbelievably strict, rigid Protestant morality doctrine descended on the Scottish people. In keeping with Scotland's long history of treachery and deceit and violence, the young King James VI was abducted in 1582 and confined for about a year. Subsequently he did rule for the remainder of the century, marrying a Danish princess and arranging to be the successor of Queen Elizabeth on the throne of England in the next century. (Ref. 170, 291)


When Henry VIII had completed his separation from the Roman Church in England he bade the Irish Parliament to acknowledge him also as head of the Irish Church. It accommodated him and the spoils of the monasteries and church properties were given to various Irish chieftains who thereupon became nobles of the English king. The clan system was abolished and Ireland was declared a kingdom, with Henry VIII as its king, in 1541. But when the king died, five years later, the Irish people remained Catholic, a factor which bolstered them in their later struggle for freedom. Irish rebels, including Red Hugh O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill continued to fight for Irish independence, and the O'Neill badly defeated an English army at Yellow Ford in 1598. Spain even dispatched 4,000 troops to aid in this rebellion, landing at Kinsdale on the southern coast, but they were immediately evicted by English troops. In this century Ireland became a major ex- porter of salted butter and salt beef, the latter being used on shipboard and as food for the poor and the slaves. Salt beef even became a standard winter dish in England. (Ref. 110, 260)


There had been peace between England and Wales since the ascension of the Welsh Tydder (Tudor) King Henry VII and in 1536 Wales became officially incorporated into the English nation.


"The Baltic is a vast, almost land-locked, frequently ice-bound area of water covering over 166,000 square miles. In early modern times it provided the great bulk of the timber, tar, pitch, hemp and flax for the ships with which England, Holland, France, Spain and Portugal were building their world trading empires; also much of the grain needed to insure the rest of the continent against poor harvests, and the copper for its everyday money."17 Furthermore, the Baltic and the adjacent Gulf of Finland were almost completely under the control of Scandinavians during the 16th century. In the first quarter, all Scandinavia was, furthermore, under one king, in the Union of Calmar. Finland was a part of Sweden and all were subservient to King Hans (Dane) as the century opened. After Hans' defeat by the Frisians in 1500 the various segments of Scandinavia gradually began to separate again. At the end of the century all Scandinavia was still relatively sparsely settled, with only about 1.5 inhabitants to the square kilometer (compared to 40 in the Netherlands, for example) and remained only on the margin of European life. (Ref. 260)


Norway continued the docile partner of Denmark throughout the remainder of the century. The country did become an exporter of copper to Europe proper. (Ref. 292)

SWEDEN (See map in section on SWEDEN in 17th century)

In 1501, after King Hans had been defeated in -Frisia, the Union of Calmar was not officially dissolved, but it was simply "not in force" and Sten Sture was again considered Regent of Sweden. When Sten threw the Archbishop of Sweden into prison in 1520, Christian II, successor to Hans, took an army to Sweden and the Danish army, backed by some Swedish nobles, took the whole country by force. In Stortorv Square in Stockholm, after a celebration, Christian II had his soldiers murder 82 nobles of Sweden as heretics. A son of one of those so killed in this "Stockholm Bloodbath" soon thereafter got help from the peasants to assemble an army and within two years had all of Sweden under his control. This man, Gustavus Eriksson, was then crowned King of Sweden as Gustav Vasa, in 1523 and the Union of Calmar truly ended. During his reign a financial crisis developed and when the pope replied to the king's appeal for funds only in a very meager way, the king began to favor the Protestants. He commissioned a translation of the Bible into Swedish and this helped not only to transform the national religion but to promote the language itself. As in England, the king began to take over church property for his treasury and insisted that the Diet, or National Assembly, cut out the pope, eliminate confessions and give all the church property to the crown. This was another triumph of the state over the church. Gustav I Vasa was the father of modern Sweden. During his reign iron mines were expanded, trade increased. copper exported and soon there was great prosperity. Even the peasants manufactured iron, but only during the rise of the spring waters when water power was available to help in the operation of the furnaces. (Ref. 260) With all of this, we must not lose sight of the fact that the vast expanses of Sweden were still half-empty, with only a few settlements in a vast territory. Traveling merchants distributed horse shoes, nails, pins and religious books, among other things. (Ref. 292)

In 1544 the crown's status was changed from elective office to an hereditary monarchy so that Vasa's sons succeeded him, Eric XIV (1560-68) and John III (1568-92). During this period Reval, a previously independent Hanseatic port, now threatened on all sides put itself under Swedish protection, but by 1563 the entire area burst out in the Seven Years' War of the North. Sweden generally held pretty well in this struggle, although she had to pay ransom to Denmark for the return of Alvsborg and by 1581 she was becoming a significant factor far beyond the Baltic. John III married a Polish princess and his son ascended the Polish throne in 1587 as Sigismund III only to also become King of Sweden upon his father's death in 1592. He was deposed from the latter job, however, in 1599 with his Lutheran uncle taking the crown as Karl (Charles) IX. In the meantime, at the final settlement of the Seven Years' War of the North, in the Peace of Teusina, Sweden added Narva and almost all of the country of Estonia. The Gulf of Finland thus was a Swedish waterway. (Ref. 34, 237, 222)

DENMARK (Please read the remarks about Sweden, above, also)

Although Denmark's Christian II lost Sweden, he had a constructive reign within his own country. The Reformation movement there was led by the monk Poul Helgeson and was approved by Christian. Certain nobles and clergy rebelled, however, dethroned the king, made Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein monarch for while, but finally, after much fighting for the throne, in 1536 the National Assembly crowned Christian III, established a Lutheran State Church and confiscated all episcopal and monastic properties for the king. Norway and Iceland accepted Christian III and his Protestant legislation and the triumph of Lutheranism in Scandinavia was complete. Later in the century King Frederick II attacked Sweden and their then King Eric XIV and this war went on again as the Seven Years' War of the North.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the famous astronomer of this period, was given an island in the sound off Denmark for his home and laboratory. About 1600 Denmark exported some 100,000 cattle each year through Lubeck and Hamburg. (Ref. 117, 260)


Finland, as a part of Sweden, was given the Lutheran faith by Gustavus I Vasa. 79% of Finns today are still, at least nominally Lutherans. Helsingfors (Helsinki) was founded in 1554. (Ref. 292)


The Norwegian settlement of Iceland in this 1 6th century took the brunt of what has been referred to as the "Little Ice Age", with Atlantic ice sheets extending well south of that island, interrupting shipping and destroying the Icelanders agricultural base in Greenland. In Iceland proper, the previous wheat-based economy gave way to sheep and cattle and life became very hard. Between 1500 and 1800 there were 37 years of famine in that country. Very important to Iceland is the physical fact that a mean annual temperature drop of only two degrees Fahrenheit reduces the growing season by 40 days or 25% and the drop in the average temperature during the growing days further reduces the crop. (Ref. 237)


For centuries there had been a correlation between traffic on the Baltic Sea and prosperity of Eastern Europe. After 1581, when Russia lost Narva in Estonia, as noted elsewhere, Moscovy diverted its trade to overland routes and the Baltic trade diminished, only to be refurbished when the Thirty Years War cut the land traffic through Central Europe. Perhaps in connection with the above, huge areas from the Baltic to the Black Sea reverted to a "second serfdom"18. The peasant was being ever more firmly attached to the land and he was losing mobility and the right to free himself. Gradually through the century, the days of compulsory labor were increased in Poland, Hungary, Livonia and Moscovy. The need for food and raw materials to be shipped to the West and the decline of cities and rise of feudal lords all played a part in this. (Ref. 292)


As in the past, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Poland all competed in this century for domination of the Baltic area. Of the original Balt tribes, the Letts had now become Latvians and the Curonians were Lettonized in this century. The Prussians were extinct as a people, but the Lithuanians remained strong and numerous. Until the middle of the century the Teutonic Knights held Livonia, Estonia and Courland and their stories thereafter will be taken up in a later paragraph. After somewhat of a poor start in the century, with the loss of the left bank of the Dnieper in 1503 and the city of Smolensk in 1514, both in wars with Russia, Poland-then enjoyed a Golden Age under Sigismund I and II, up to 1572. Both rulers were men of culture and spirit and gave religious thought and worship a complete freedom. Although there were interval wars with other powers for control of the Baltic, Poland prospered and remained a major European state. The power of the lesser nobility continued to grow, however, and all efforts of the kings to strengthen royal power, reform the government and establish a more modern army and administration met with failure and Poland gradually became transformed into a republic. Lithuania and Poland continued to be closely associated and the kings of Poland were usually also the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. As was true all across northern Europe, beer was consumed in large amounts - the peasants drinking three liters a day. (Ref. 260)

The Livonian War began in 1557 and was an armed dispute involving all the powers bordering the Baltic. As the Russians moved in from the east, Sweden took Estonia and the Danes acquired part of Courland. In 1561 Poland took part of Livonia and insisted on the Polish language and laws and the Catholic religion, but within two years Ivan the Terrible of Russia had re-conquered this area. Russia and Sweden continued the battles until 1582 with Narva falling to the latter in 1581, but the Pole's fighting had pretty well ceased by 1571, probably due to their preoccupation with their relationship with

Lithuania. In spite of opposition by the Lithuanian common people, Lithuania officially merged with Poland in 1569. Subsequently the two nations had a common sovereign and a common Diet, although Lithuania retained some separate administration and army. Russian threats to Lithuania were probably the deciding factors in forcing this union, because Russia had already taken the Ukraine territory, including Kiev. By the Polish union, Lithuania apparently was able to save White Russia from Ivan. (Ref. 135, 61)

The Reformation filtered in to Poland from Germany and Switzerland and both Lutheranism and Calvinism advanced rapidly, with the National Diet in 1552 voting religious freedom for all faiths, based on "The pure Word of God", legalizing clerical marriage and communion in bread and wine. The Unitarian movement, denying the Trinity, also became strong. But in 1564 the Catholics brought in the Jesuits and these trained and devoted men secured strategic places in the educational system and turned the Polish people back to Catholicism. In 1595 even most of the Orthodox bishops of the Ukraine and Lithuania had also accepted union with Rome on condition that they retain a Slavonic ritual. Thus, the "Uniate" Church came into existence. (Ref. 51)

One of the important products of Poland was lead and by this century the mines were producing between 1,000 and 3,000 tons a year. But money was necessary to construct the long, sloping tunnels and the horse powered pumps necessary to drain water of the depths and this brought in those who had capital. Thus 1/5 - of the mines fell to King Sigismund Augustus, 1/5 to the nobility and related people and 3/5 to the merchants of Cracow. (Ref. 292) Poland exported some 50,000 head of cattle to Central Europe each year. (Ref. 260)

For 2 years after the death of Sigismund II and the end of the Jagellon Dynasty, Henri of Valois was the elected king, subject to the new pact which gave the nobility the right to limit the royal power. In 1574 Henri went back to France, however, and finally the Poles elected Stephen Bathory, whose wife was a Jagellon. He ruled well from the standpoint of foreign affairs and war, dominating the Baltic until 1586, as he held the Russians in check. He was followed on the throne by Sigismund III, son of King John of Sweden, an ardent Catholic educated by the Jesuits. He squandered all of Poland's energy in wars with Sweden because of his claims to the Swedish throne. (Ref. 119)

RUSSIA (Please see map in section on RUSSIA in 19th century C.E.)

The search for a Baltic outlet was a critical issue throughout this century. Ivan III died in 1505 and Basil III assumed power. In 1511 Pskov succumbed to the fate of Novgorod and was incorporated into the state of Moscow and by 1514 there was war with Poland. Even at this early date Moscow and the Habsburgs of Vienna had discussed a possible partition of Poland, but the latter was too strong a military power. In the war just mentioned, Russia used foreign officers and up to date artillery and did capture Smolensk from the Poles.

The Orthodox Church had developed a schism: (1) Abbot Joseph Volotsky held that the state was under obligation to preserve the sanctity and purity of Jesus. (2) Abbot Nil Sorsky held that the faith was not to be enforced by police measures and the state had no authority in spiritual affairs. Joseph said monasteries should own property, Nil said "no". Joseph was for high ritual and temples, Nil said the heart was more important than the temple. Basil III divorced his first, barren wife and took another with Joseph's blessings and Nil's condemnation. Thus, Basil sided with the Josephians and they became the victors, loyally serving the state. (Ref. 135)

Ivan IV, son of Basil, became the Russian sovereign in 1533. The Tatars still held Kazan, Astrakhan and the Crimea, but there was now reduced nomadic pressure so Ivan attacked and after a long siege he not only won but then massacred the people of Kazan. This eastern expedition gave Muscovy control of two vital rivers, the Kama and the Volga, opening the way to the Caspian Sea and trade with Persia beyond. (Ref. 260) The Cossacks of the Don (but not those of Kiev, now under Lithuania) now also bowed to Moscow's rule.

Ivan's next project was to try to gain access to the Baltic through Livonia and it was this that precipitated the 25 year Livonian War involving Sweden, Denmark and Poland as well as the Livonians, themselves. He did temporarily get a window on the Baltic at Narva in 1558 but it was closed to him again in 1581. Furthermore, trouble then developed at home, with plots, counter-plots, defection of key people to Poland, etc, so that Ivan had to start a revolution of his own. First he engineered a terrible purge of the nobility whom he thought might be against him, endeavoring to elevate a new class to political power. Actually the Orthodox Church remained the real ruler of Russia. Ivan was a barbarian struggling to be civilized, but failing. He gave his people a demoralizing example of pious cruelty and uncontrolled passion and well earned the name of "Ivan the Terrible".

One of the few constructive aspects of this reign may have been the church Council of Stoglav in which many reforms were instituted by the counsellor Sylvester, who later compiled a book for instruction of the people in morality and general education.

The Crimean Tatars had been only temporarily controlled and in 1571 they again sacked and burned Moscow. At that time they were vassals of the Ottoman Turks, but their only duty to the Turks was to bring the Khan some 20,000 to 30,000 horsemen, when summoned. The Poles under Stephen Bathory invaded Russia also in 1579, regaining much border territory in Livonia, although they could not retake Smolensk. It was the Swedes who took Narva in 1581, cutting off Russia again from the Baltic. In 1584 the Cossacks invaded a Siberian Khanate and opened up the eastward movement which was comparable to the later westward migration of the American colonists. (Ref. 139, 8, 260)

Italians, Germans, Dutchmen and Englishmen penetrated Russia in this 16th century and one of the crucial issues was how to cope with these Europeans, much as it is today. With the arrival of German coins and ingots money began to be minted regularly, although still on a modest scale. (Ref. 260) A second big problem was control of the lower classes. In 1592 the Moscow government ordered the registration of all peasants and 5 years later decreed that any peasants who deserted could be returned to their former lawful masters, marking the initial steps toward curbing of peasant freedom, with the bulk of Russia's population turned into serfs. (Ref. 135, 213)

Ivan the Terrible killed his ablest son and bequeathed the throne to a weakling whose incapacity invited civil war. The actual control of the government fell to Nikita Romanov and when he died, by his brother-in-law Boris Godunov, with the latter being elected to the throne by the National Assembly in 1598. Although a novice in politics, Godunov's military record was an outstanding one. In the meantime, the Russian Church had become entirely independent from Constantinople, as the first Patriarch of Moscow was created in 1589. (Ref. 135)

North of the Ural Mountains the Eurasian Nenets herded reindeer and hunted seals and whales in the Arctic Ocean. Prosperous herders of ten had two or more wives, who busied themselves setting up conical tents and dressing skins. In this and the next century, gun-bearing European settlers and hunters killed enough reindeer to start a decline in the number of the wild herds. (Ref. 288)

Forward to Europe: A.D. 1601 to 1700


  1. Quotation from McNeill (Ref. 279), page 79
  2. McNeill makes the interesting suggestion that syphilis may have been a transition from the old, endemic disease, yaws. (Ref. 140)
  3. Quotation from Rodes (Ref. 45), page 137
  4. Zapola was actually supported against Ferdinand by Henry VIII and Cardinal Lord Chancellor Woolsey, in order to annoy the emperor. (Ref. 291)
  5. This date is that of the Gregorian calendar, already adopted by the Spanish, but not by the English
  6. Regarding the smallness of this potato, see Section VIII, C, SOUTH AMERICA, this chapter
  7. This "displacement tonnage" is an entirely different measurement of ship size than the carrying capacity tonnage we have mentioned in the note on page 742 as pertaining to the number of "tuns" of wine in the hold
  8. Henri II later took Catherine de Medici for his wife, but retained Diane as his mistress
  9. Trager (Ref. 222) on his page 201, says that this information was found in the diary of the lawyer, Pierre de L'Estoile
  10. That is, he was appointed individually, without waiting for the usual time of election of cardinals
  11. Within two months after the marriage, Mary was a widow
  12. The full name was The Best State of a Commonwealth and the New Island of Utopia. "Utopia" was coined from the Greek word for "nowhere". (Ref. 291)
  13. Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
  14. By this time Cardinal Woolsey was also the Papal Legate to England
  15. Although the authorship of this has been debated in the past, it is now pretty generally acknowledged that the king did write it. (Ref. 291)
  16. One of these persists today at Oxford as Christ Church
  17. This quotation taken from The Times Atlas of World History (Ref. 8), page 188
  18. The term is Braudel's (Ref. 292), page 265

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