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 Detailed Timeline of European History
Europe's Darkest Days (1240-1350) << Renaissance (1350-1505) >> Exploration (1505-1650)

Renaissance (1350 - 1505)
Ottoman Conquests, Age of Discovery & Knowledge in Europe

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Renaissance Interactive Map

Europe 1500 AD

Ottomans Enter Europe (1354): Ottomans capture Gallipoli, Byzantine city, marking their first advance into Europe. Eastern Thrace was conquered by 1356.

Scottish Independence from England (1357): England signs a treaty with Scotland, restoring their independence. This eliminates Scottish attacks on England's northern border. England was embroiled in war with France, and the raids from the north put them into a two-front war. With the peace treaty, England now faced only a one-front war with France.

(Timeline Continued Below)

English Gains in Hundred Years' War (1360): England gains territories in SW France as part of Hundred Years’ War.

Normans Evicted from Ireland (1360): Norman control in Ireland is essentially terminated. The island is dotted by various, loosely-affiliated Irish petty kingdoms.

Ottomans Conquer Bulgarian Empire (1362-95): Bulgarian culture would drastically decline, since the Ottomans gave Constantinople control over the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was the primary source for literacy and culture in Bulgaria. This weakened the tie Bulgarians had with their church, diminishing literacy and culture in Bulgaria.

Western Schism in Church (1378–1415): Division in Roman Catholic Church with two competing popes, one in France and one in Rome. Undisputed papal authority returned to Rome in 1415, ending the divide. This further weakens papal authority, setting the table for future dissensions, such as the Renaissance, Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment.

Ottomans Conquer Albania (1385): Albanians would largely convert to Islam under Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Poland-Lithuanian Merger (1385): Poland and Lithuania combine to form the Polish-Lithuanian Union. The two kingdoms still operated independently, but formed a defensive alliance against Teutonic Knights (north) and Moscow (east), common threats to both. The merger enabled Poland-Lithuania to halt Teutonic expansion.

Christianization of Lithuania (1387): One of the last groups of Europeans to hold onto Pagan beliefs. Began to Christianize in order to facilitate the union with Poland. Once merged with Poland, Christianization further accelerated.

Ottomans Capture SE Serbia (1389).

Jews Expelled from France (1394): Jews expelled from France, primarily move eastward into Germany and Poland.

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Jews Expelled from Holy Roman Empire (1394): As part of the paranoia lingering from the Black Death Plague, along with the anti-Semitic fervor from the Crusades before that, persecution against the Jews remains rampant. Upon being expelled from the Holy Roman Lands, the vast majority emigrate to Poland, where they are welcomed.

Consolidated Scandinavian Kingdom (1397): Denmark, Norway and Sweden unite under a single monarch (Kalmar Union) through strategic marriages. It is dominated by Denmark, as Sweden is weakened by civil wars.

Greenland Abandoned by Norse (1400): Norse disappear from Greenland, apparently due to famine.

Mass Jewish Immigration Into Poland-Lithuania (1400): As Jews were being expelled from France, Germany and Austria, they primarily moved into Poland, who welcomed their presence. Poland would become home to the largest concentration of Jews in world, as the Polish invited Jews to help build their kingdom. Poland was a generally uneducated and sparsely populated kingdom. Jews were typically well-educated, and served to strengthen Poland's numbers.

Spain Colonizes Canary Islands (1402): Spain conquers the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, beginning their naval explorations and colonizing.

Sicily Added to Aragon (1409): Sicily is added to the Kingdom of Aragon (located in Hispania) through marriage.

Portugal Begins Colonization of Africa (1415): First European colony on Africa (Portugal captures Ceuta across the Straight).

Note: Portugal African Colonization. In 1431, Portugal explorers begin pushing south along African coast, setting up trading posts/colonies. The 1452 Papal Bull approving slavery opens up a tremendously profitable (yet tragic) slave-trading industry.

England Maintains Upper Hand in Hundred Years' War (1420): England gains Normandy in Hundred Years’ War against France. Artillery begins to be used by both sides (especially the English), the first war in Europe where it was a factor.

Holy Roman EmpireHussite Wars in Bohemia (1420-34): Followers of religious reformer Jan Hus rise in rebellion after Hus is executed for dissenting against the Catholic Church. The conflict is concluded when the Hussites of Bohemia acknowledged Holy Roman Empire rule, yet were ceded a few religious freedoms. The conflict is a forerunner of Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

Ottoman-Venice Wars (1423-1503): Between Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire in Mediterranean Sea. Ends with Venice being forced to become a client state of the Ottomans.

Republic of Genoa retakes Corsica from Aragon (1434).

Austrian Habsburg Dynasty (1438): The first Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, beginning Austrian domination of Emperor’s throne until end of empire during Napoleonic Wars (early 19th century, almost 500 years).

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Mongol Golden Horde Fragmentation (1440): Golden Horde breaks up into several Turkish-dominated Khanates (Muslim petty kingdoms) due to civil war. They continue to engage in slave raids into the Duchy of Moscow and other Rus territories, trading them throughout Asia.

Aragon Conquers Naples from French Angevins (1442).

Macedonia Conquered by Ottomans (1450).

Pope Approves Slavery (1452): The 1452 Papal Bull titled "Dum Diversas" permitted Spain and Portugal to submit Africans to perpetual slavery, rationalizing that as pagans, they were enemies of Christ. This would give Western European nations free reign to establish the monumentally profitable and tragic Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. An estimated 9 to 14 million Africans would be shipped out of Africa. This does not include the multitudes that perished at the slave-trading posts, and the millions that were subsequently born into slavery.

FranceEngland Driven Out of France to End Hundred Years' War (1453): France finally turns the tide in Hundred Years’ War against England, as France consolidates against the foreign threat, while England descends into civil strife leading to civil war. France regains all territories on the mainland from the English.

Ottomans Defeat Byzantine Empire, Conquer Greeks (1453): Ottoman Empire conquers Constantinople, ending Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire. All of modern Greece falls under Ottoman rule. Many Greeks convert to Islam, but secretly continue Greek Orthodox worship to avoid taxes. Greek culture and language become more Turkish. Like other Christian territories under Ottoman rule, education dramatically declines, due to minimization of the church, which was the center of education in the middle ages. Greece would become backwards and isolated for the next nearly 400 years.


 Further Understanding:  Why Ottomans Rise to Dominance?

A matter of organization and motivation. The Ottoman Turks convinced Muslim warriors throughout Western Asia on the idea of a European conquest, on the merits of an Eternal Reward (carrying out the will of Allah) and a Temporal Reward (promises of shares of the booty), which enabled them to be molded into an extremely well-coordinated fighting force. Ottomans also minimized resistance from conquered/submitted peoples by allowing local autonomy. For instance, they allowed Christians to rule according to Christian principles, while also allowing religious freedoms, although non-Muslims paid a tribute tax for the privilege. This level of religious tolerance was rare for the time, especially among Christians in Europe. Ottomans also boasted superior military technology compared to its European adversaries. For example, they were well ahead when it came to artillery. Finally, the Ottomans were able to capitalize on the weakened and/or fragmented condition of most of its neighbors. The Byzantine Empire was in steep decline after the western crusaders invaded its territories throughout the 13th century, paving the way for the Ottomans to advance into Southeast Europe with little resistance.


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Ottoman Empire Conquests

Note: Ottoman Conquests Lead to Eastern Orthodoxy Fragmentation. The Russians declared religious independence from Constantinople, splintering Eastern Orthodoxy into Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches (with the Greeks existing under Ottoman Islamic rule). Several other Balkan nations would proceed to claim ecclesiastic independence during the Ottoman years, such as Serbian Orthodoxy, Romanian, and several others. Today, all are recognized as legitimate Orthodox Churches by one another.

Poland-Lithuanian UnionBaltic Sea Coastal Lands Conquered by Poland (1454): Poland captures West (Royal) Prussia from the Teutonic Knights. This gives Poland critical access to the Baltic Sea, while cutting off the Teutonic Knights from their fellow Germans, accelerating their decline.

English Civil War / "War of the Roses" (1455-85): Civil war erupted between two competing claimants to the throne. Reformist Henry Tudor rose to victory as the new King, beginning the Tudor dynasty. This marked a transition from feudalism to the renaissance in England, as the emerging merchant class gained in power and influence at the expense of the nobles. The nobles largely sided with the defeated candidate in this war, who tried to maintain the status quo.

Ottomans Conquer Serbia and Bosnia (1459): The majority of Bosnians would convert to Islam, and most are still Muslim to this day. Other Balkan peoples (such as Serbs & Greeks), were strongly tied to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church. Bosnians had their own church, which was much weaker organizationally and in heritage, making it easier for them to succumb to the perks of being Muslim in the Ottoman Empire.

Kingdom of SpainBirth of Spain (1469): Union of the two dominant kingdoms in Hispania (Castile & Aragon) results in the creation of the Kingdom of Spain. Includes Aragon's Southern Italy possessions (Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples).

Ottomans Conquer Wallachia/Romania (1476).

Mongols Lose Crimea to Ottomans (1475): Crimean Khanate comes under control of Ottoman empire, but maintains semi-autonomy.

Austrian Netherlands (1477): Habsburg Austria gains the Netherlands through marriage.

(Timeline Continued Below)

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Enlargement of Moscow (1478): Grand Duchy of Moscow (Rus principality under Turkic control) conquers Novgorod Republic (another Rus principality to the north). Although substantially enlarged, Moscow still remains loosely consolidated, with various princes retaining semi-independent control over their individual principalities within the duchy.

Moscow Independence from Mongols (1480): Grand Duchy of Moscow broke free from Turkic control, as they became more powerful than their masters. They secured their independence with a successful standoff after refusing to continue paying tribute.

Southeast France Regained from Holy Roman Empire (1481): By 1481, the Counties of Dauphine and Provence come under the crown of France through inheritance. The French populations in this region had been under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, although mostly in name only, as they generally operated as independent kingdoms.

Portuguese Round Cape of Good Hope (1488): Portuguese explorer Diaz discovers Cape of Good Hope at southern tip of Africa, and therefore a route that leads toward Asia. This opens the way for Portugal to monopolize the lucrative Asian spice trade.


 Further Understanding:
 How Portugal Becomes a Colonial Power

Geopolitical Position. Portugal is in a disadvantaged position in land trade routes, being located at the far western extremity of Europe. As a result, it is unable to influence continental geopolitics. As maritime technology advances, they are able to leverage their easy access to the Atlantic. The Ottoman monopoly of the land route linking Europe and Asia creates the perfect opportunity for Portugal, which becomes very powerful by being able to circumvent the Ottoman stranglehold of Euro-Asian trade. Thus, Portugal builds a monopoly of the highly coveted Asian spice trade, as maritime distribution proves more efficient than land based distribution. Naval Technology. The Portuguese and Spanish innovated a new type of boat using two or three masts (sails) that were not as deep or large. Therefore, they were much more maneuverable, and could sail with precision into inland rivers, while being able to get closer to shores. This allowed for more effective exploration of foreign river systems and dominance of native populations, as warfare could be conducted closer to land, and on-land excursions were much more swift. Firearms. Portuguese also began using firearms by 1419, giving them another tremendous advantage against the overseas peoples they would proceed to conquer. They learned the gunpowder technology from the Muslim empires to the south, since gunpowder weapons had been in use in Arab lands since the 13th century.


Venice Gains Cyprus (1489): Rep. of Venice annexes Cyprus. Successfully defends it from the Ottomans.

Note: Venice Expansion. Venice takes advantage of the disarray following the collapse of Byzantine, taking Cyprus and expanding along the coasts of the eastern Adriatic Sea.

Columbus Explores for Spain (1492): King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain accept Columbus’ proposal to explore the western world on their behalf. He was rejected by his native Portugal 8 years earlier. Columbus expects to find a shortcut to Asia, based on incorrect calculations of a smaller globe, along with the assumption of an open ocean to Asia. Instead, by accident, he discovers several Caribbean locations over the next 10 years, which mark the beginning of Spain's massive Western Hemisphere empire.

End of Muslim Granada - Added to Spain (1492–96): The last Muslim stronghold in modern Spain surrenders, as a result of the Spanish Inquisition. Granada had long been subservient to the Christian kingdoms to the north, but when Spain assumed a no-religious tolerance stance, all under its power were forced to convert to, and strictly practice Catholicism, under penalty of expulsion or death. Granada was therefore dissolved, and all Jews and Muslims remaining in Spain were expelled.

Note: Consolidation of Spain. The consolidation of the various Hispania kingdoms into a single kingdom sows the seeds for Spanish dominance in the following century. A unified Spain found itself in a favorable geopolitical position with easy access to the Atlantic, through which vast resources awaited. Plus, Spain was well protected against continental threat by land due to the natural boundary created by the Pyrenees Mountains (separating Spain and France), and a lack of border rivals (nature of being located on a peninsula).

Navarre remains independent in Northern Hispania (Spain).

Spanish-Portuguese Colonization Treaty (1494): Treaty of Tordesilla between Spain and Portugal. Divided the world along a theoretical north-south line in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Spain was given everything to the west (the Americas), and Portugal everything to the east (Africa, Asia & Brazil which pertruded beyond this line in the Atlantic, a fact not realized by either party when the boundary was set). It allowed each a monopoly in their respective sphere, enabling both to become dominant world-wide powers.

Italian Wars (1494-1503): France invades Naples to lay claim to Southern Italy, since it was Angevin (French province) before being conquered by Aragon (Now part of Spain). Spain would successfully defend Southern Spain.

Montenegro/Doclea Conquered by Ottomans (1496).

Swiss Independence from Holy Roman Empire (1499): Swabian War between Habsburg Austria and the Old Swiss Confederation, where the Swiss gained complete independence from the Holy Roman Empire.

Portugal Discovers Brazil (1500): Portugal discovers Brazil by accident. Largely neglected until 1530.

Portugal Achieves Asian Domination (1503): Portugal reaches India and establishes dominance by 1509, when it defeats the Ottomans in the naval Battle of Diu. Several settlements/trading posts are established, especially along the west coast. Beginning of their monopoly of the highly lucrative Asian-European Spice Trade.

Note: Northern Italy. Part of Holy Roman Empire in name only. Operate as independent city states.

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Further Understanding of the Renaissance Era

Renaissance: The 14th and 15th centuries usher in an age of increased education and overall knowledge of the world. The invention of the printing press in 1439 created a new “information highway”. Books are readily available for the first time, in a much greater variety. This leads to science revolution, as scientific journals can be published and distributed, allowing scientists throughout Europe to learn from each other. Consequently, scientific advances are made much more rapidly. Similar advances occurred in various other fields and schools of thought, bringing Europe into the age of the Renaissance. The Protestant Reformation would arrive a century later as a natural consequence, as ideas concerning religion would be more readily exchanged, leading to the questioning of absolute religious authority and dogma. The Renaissance was also a forerunner to the Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, which would bringo democratic revolutions, as people began to grasp hold of the concept that the purpose of their existence was not merely to serve their kings, dukes, princes, lords, clergy, pope, or to accept teachings from authorities to be absolute and infallible.


Slave Trade in Ottoman Empire: Millions of Europeans are sold as slaves into the Ottoman Asian lands. Barbary pirates from Ottoman North Africa commonly raid the southern coasts of Europe to capture residents. As a result, many of these coastal regions became sparsely populated or completely abandoned. Turkish bandits bordering Eastern Europe captured Slavic peoples (South Slavs in the Balkans and East Slavs in modern Russia) in such large numbers over the centuries, that the terminology for "slave" was named after them. They were generally assimilated into Asian populations where they were sold, yet their genetic impact was insignificant, since they were scattered among such large populations of Asiatic peoples. They were not segregated and "bred" as they were in the Americas, preventing Slavic ethnogroups from being established among Asian peoples.


Geopolitical Gain in the West: Eastern Europe is set back centuries with the Ottoman conquests. While Southeastern Europeans are held back under Ottoman rule, Western European nations grow in power and progress in all aspects (science, economics, legal systems, etc.). Plus, westerners have access to the Atlantic, the new gateway to the riches and power beyond Europe, which were literally there for the taking, due to European advantages over indigenous peoples, from military, naval and organizational perspectives. The western nations go on to become far more prosperous and advanced. Southeastern Europe is set back for centuries, with adverse effects still lingering to this day. By now, much of the rest of Europe was shedding the effects of the Dark Ages. Southeastern Europe, while generally treated well by the Ottomans, were mired in a backwards, feudalistic system imposed by their Muslim masters. By the time they shed the yoke of the Ottomans, they were centuries behind Western Europe in sophistication/civilization.


Mercantilism Economy: Feudalism gave way to mercantilism in Western Europe, a predecessor to capitalism. Mercantilism was not a unified economic theory or concept during the time it was practiced, but recognized later in retrospect with historical economic analysis. This system was based on the belief that there was a finite amount of resources and wealth available. Therefore, the objective was to gain as large of a slice of the pie as possible, which resulted in a production-driven economy and protected markets. It was based on the "win-lose" school of thought. In order for those in power to win, someone had to lose (as opposed to mutually beneficial economic relationships), whether it be the consumer, the labor class, or the potential competition, primarily being foreign competition. With this being the case, the western powers would focus on maximizing production to the fullest extent possible. Then, they would guarantee monopolies for these products within their own nation, client states and colonial possessions, often driving prices up, but implementing price ceilings if necessary. For example, a company would be awarded a monopoly by the government for a certain market/product. With the surplus, they would try to force their goods in foreign markets (even by military force if possible), achieving a trade surplus, a very important objective in mercantilism. Although a forerunner to capitalism, mercantilism was also reminiscent of feudalism, which guaranteed the power of balance between the aristocracy (nobles, merchants, royalty) and the rest of society (peasants, laborers). Due to the protectionism, the majority of the public was at a disadvantage, overpaying for lower quality, due to the lack of competition, while being forced to work for lower wages, again due to economic protection given to companies. This also fueled colonialism/imperialism, as nations felt the need to gain access to a greater share of available resources. Another objective was finding more sources of labor to exploit (as well as additional markets for goods provided by the merchant class), as this system relied on the exploitation of the masses, due to its inherent inefficiencies. Therefore, the masses (the poor) had to shoulder the burdens of these inefficiences, through guaranteed low wages due to protectionism, and uncompetitive products. This would then guarantee the profits of the state and the aristocratic classes. One of the primary side effects of this type of economy is the development of black markets, since enterprising individuals, if able to get a hold of supply, could undercut monopolistic juggernauts which overcharged in markets where they were legally guaranteed high profits. Mercantilism did sow the seeds to capitalism by developing a system that spawned businesses, partnerships, contracts, accounting practices, international trade (including laws to govern international trade), the concept of profits and credit, etc.


Persecutions of European Jews: Persecution of Jews escalated due to post Black Death effect. They were blamed for the plague by many, based on a lack of understanding about the true cause of plagues (transmission of microscopic viruses), and a dark age tendency to draw irrational, uneducated conclusions. After Black Death, Jews are seen as more than just a heretical people undermining the sacredness of Christianity, but also a threat to nationhood, something peoples throughout Europe were truly beginning to conceptualize. They were seen as being complicit with the Muslim cause at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment obviously ran very high in Europe, with the Hispania Christians still contending with Muslims in Spain, while the Ottomans were proving to be a grave threat in Eastern Europe. Jews tended to gravitate toward Muslims in Hispania and the Middle East, since they received much better treatment from the Muslims than from Christians. Within Christian Europe, Jews began to gravitate to Poland, which opened its doors to the Jews, as it looked to expand, needing increased population, and skilled/educated immigrants. Therefore, there is a general shift of the Jewish population toward the east, away from the west where it had gravitated for centuries before. Jews would continue to congregate in Eastern Europe up through the Holocaust of the 20th century, when they would leave Europe in droves in favor of their original homeland of Israel.

Next: Age of Exploration (1505 - 1650)

Previous: Europe's Darkest Days (1240 - 1350)

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