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16th Century Timeline: 1501 to 1600

1501  The world has a population of around 435 million - about one-fourteenth today's population of 6.4 billion.

1501  A military Sufi order in Persia known as the Safavids have survived Timur (Tamerlane) and have adopted the Shia branch of Islam. They have been eager to advance Shi'ism by military means. They seize Tabriz in western Iran and make it their capital. They believe in the glory of their king (shah) and in the old tradition of passing rule and religious righteousness from father to son.

1502  Christopher Columbus begins his fourth and last journey to the Caribbean. He still believes that the islands he has found lay off the coast of India.

1504  Machiavelli is in France, learning about the strength of a nation united under a single ruler rather than under various centers of power.

1506  Columbus dies in Spain.

1509  A Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, writes In Praise of Folly. He is a devout Catholic who has been bothered by what he calls absurd superstitions of most of the Christians of his day. He favors the translation of the Bible from Latin to local languages so that the masses can read it, and he believes that common people have the capacity to understand Christianity as well as do priests.

1510  Portuguese ships are heavily armed with cannon and dominate the Indian Ocean. Indian ships are smaller and held together with coconut fiber ropes, instead of iron nails. Portuguese Catholics establish a presence at the port at Goa on India's western coast, a point from which Muslims had been debarking for pilgrimages to Arabia. Goa begins to serve as Portugal's port capital of in Asia. India these days has a population of around 105 million - about one-twelfth the number of people in Pakistan and India today.

1512  Three sons of the aged Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II are fighting for his throne. Janissaries are a power behind the throne and chose the most warlike of the three: Selim. He eliminates all potential future successor claimants except his favorite son.

1512  Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel.

1514  The Ottoman sultan, Selim - a Sunni - defeats the Shah of Iran, Isma'il.  Isma'il - a Shia - has been accustomed to victory, and he and his Safavid followers believed that Allah was on their side. They are bewildered by their defeat. Isma'il finds relief from depression in wine. Selim annexes Diyarbekir and Kurdistan.

1514  Portuguese traders reach what today is Indonesia, then the center of spice production.

1517  A Portuguese ship arrives at Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China.

1517  The Ottoman sultan, Selim, with superior weaponry, routes the Mamelukes.  It is the end of Egypt's Mameluke sultans. The last of them is hanged. Selim appoints a viceroy to rule Egypt as pasha. Egypt will now acknowledge Ottoman suzerainty and pay annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan.

1517  An Augustinian friar and professor of theology, Martin Luther, lists his 95 theses.

1519  Gold mining in Hispaniola has dwindled. The value of gold is still relatively high among Spaniards, and a search for gold elsewhere in the New World begins. Spain's authority in the Americas sends Hernando Cortez on a mission to Mexico.

1520  Luther has refused to retract some of his protests. He has been printing pamphlets explaining his position. The papacy orders Luther's works burned.

1520  Sweden is free from the rule of Danish kings,

1520  Henry VIII of England and King Francis of France, each with army behind him, meet, dismount and embrace in one of the world's earlier summit meetings. (June 7.) There will be celebrations and sermons on the virtues of peace.

1521 Charles V has been elected as the Holy Roman Emperor, and Pope Leo X allies himself with Charles against Martin Luther. Francis of France does not like Charles - a Habsburg. The Italian War begins with Francis invading Navarre and the low countries. Francis is allied with the Republic Venice. England's Henry VIII sides with Charles and the Papal States.

1521  The Ottomans continue to expand. Selim has died and his son Suleiman (Sulayman) succeeds him and captures Belgrade.

1521  Hernán Cortés (Cortes), with cannon and an enlarged army of Spaniards and Indians, attacks the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). The people of Tenochtitlan have no guns and are weakened by small pox. Their supply of water is cut. They are killed by the thousands and defeated.

1522  Suleiman sends an armada of 400 ships and more than 100,000 men to Rhodes. He is using artillery and explosives. Rhodes capitulates after a siege of 145 days.

1525  In Italy, King Francis is defeated at the Battle of Pavia. Francis is taken prisoner and many of his chief nobles are killed. France fails to regain territories in Italy.

1526  Suleiman captures the towns of Buda and Pest.

1526  The printing press is introduced in Stockholm, Sweden.

1526  From Kabul a Muslim tribal leader, Babur, has been making a series of raids through the Khyber Pass into the Indus Valley, seeking plunder. He has found opposition forces weak, and at Panipat (about fifty miles north of Delhi, he routes the forces of the Sultan Ibrahim Lodi - an Afgan who has ruled much of India since 1489.

1527  Machiavelli dies of ill health never seeing the unification of Italy that he desired.

1529  From the Muslim town of Adal in what today is Somalia, Ahmad ibn Ghazi has been leading a jihad against the Ethiopian Christian emperor Anbasa Segad. According to the Ethiopian Royal Chronicles, Emperor Segad has 16,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. Grazni is victorious with 560 cavalry,12,000 soldiers and firearms. In coming years the Muslims will plunder southern Ethiopia, burn churches and monasteries and compel Christians to convert.

1529  Suleiman the Magnificent sends an army from Hungary against Vienna: 325,000 men, 90,000 camels and 500 artillery pieces. Thousands of camels are lost because of the spring rains and 200 of the heavier artillery pieces are sent back. Suleiman's force finally arrives in late September. Their attempts to get past Vienna's walls fail, and in mid-October the withdraw.

1531  Martin Luther warns that Catholic clergy and monks are sodomites.

1531  German Protestants form the League of Schmalkalden to defend themselves against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and the Roman Catholic states.

1532  Machiavelli's The Prince, written in 1513, is published.

1532  The Portuguese begin to ship slaves to Brazil, slaves they have paid for in Africa with manufactured goods.

1532  In South America a Spaniard in his mid-fifties, Francisco Pizarro, arrives in Inca territory with 102 men, 62 horses and some interpreters. Meanwhile a civil war has been taking place between two royal Inca brothers.

1533  Pizarro has imprisoned one of the two brothers, Atahualpa, who offers a room full of gold for his freedom. He is executed by the Spaniards for the murder of his rival brother.

1535  Henry VIII breaks from Catholicism and declares himself head of English Church.

1536  Japan's Toyotomi Hideyoshi is born in a thatched hut, the son of a poor farmer. 

1536  England's Henry VIII charges his second wife, Anne Boleyn, with adultery. He has her beheaded and marries her lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour.

1538  At Préveza (on the coast of western Greece, 200 kilometers southeast of the Italian peninsula), a Barbary pirate, Barbarossa, employed by the Ottoman Empire, destroys the combined Christian fleets of the Pope, Venice and Spain. The Ottoman Empire dominates the Mediterranean Sea.

1539  In Japan, trading monopolies end and a free market begins.

1540  Babur's eldest son, Humayun, has been ruling in India, but the empire he inherited has barely been held together by force of arms. Humayan is dislodged from power by Islamic nobles allied with Afghans. Humayun goes into exile and allies himself with the Safavid sultan in Iran.

1541  John Calvin, 32, a Protestant, is driven out of France.

1541  Spanish conquistadors arrive in New Mexico.

1542  A Chinese vessel carrying hides from Siam and three Portuguese is blown by a storm to a small island 20 miles southwest of Japan's island of Kyushu. The Portuguese have muskets, which they introduce to the Japanese. 

1542  The Ming emperor, Jiajing, has focused on Taoism and immortality, but his spiritualism has not made him worthy in the eyes of eighteen of his concubines. They detest him and conspire to strangle him while he sleeps. All of them are executed except the one who warned the empress.

1542  Ivan, to be known as The Terrible, is twelve-years-old. He entertains himself by dropping dogs from the roof of a Kremlin wall battlement.

1542  Francis Xavier, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary lands in Goa.

1543  Nicolaus Copernicus is dead. He had waited until the end of his life to defy Church doctrine with the publication of his work "On The Revolution of Heavenly Bodies," explaining his theory that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun rather than the sun around the earth.

1543  John Calvin's theocratic government begins in Geneva.

1543  Michelangelo paints the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.

1545  The Council of Trent - the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic church - begins, to be on and off again until 1563.

1545  In France, attacks to the Catholic clergy have occurred. Troops are sent against the Protestant heresy in a cluster of towns. About twenty towns are destroyed and about 3,000 Protestant men, women and children killed.

1545  Humayun is marching eastward with 14,000 Safavid troops from Iran, where he had gone into exile and where he had allied himself with the Safavid sultan. Humayun takes the Afghan city of Kabul.

1547  Henry VIII of England dies.

1549  Francis Xavier, a Catholic Portuguese missionary arrives in Japan.

1550  A Frenchman, Ambrose Pare, begins creating artificial limbs.

1551  In France, the works of Martin Luther, John Calvin and others considered heretics are prohibited. In the cites of Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble, Rouen, Bordeaux, and Agners, various heretics and those selling forbidden books have been burned at the stake. And another massacre of Protestant occurs. More than 3,000 Protestants are to be reported as having been killed, 763 houses, 89 stables and 31 warehouses destroyed.

1551  In Geneva, Robert Estienne, also known as Robert Stephanus, is the first to print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses.

1553  Ivan, now of age and no longer under the regency of his mother, takes the title Tsar Ivan IV.

1553  Henry's successor, Queen Mary, re-establishes Roman Catholicism as England's state religion.

1554  Queen Mary marries a fellow Catholic - Spain's Habsburg prince, Philip, eleven years her junior. The marriage gives Spain influence in England's affairs.

1555  Philip's father, the Habsburg monarch, ruler of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, concludes the Peace of Augsburg with a  league of Protestant German princes (the Schmalkaldic League). The Peace of Augsburg recognizes the right of each prince in the Holy Roman Empire to choose between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism and to impose the religion of his choice on his subjects.

1555  Humayun has recaptured that part of India the he had inherited from his father, Babur.

1555  French Protestants (Huguenots), running from persecution, are dropped off from three ships at a place that will eventually be called Rio de Janeiro.

1556  Rushing to prayer, Humayun falls down some stairs and dies. His thirteen-year-old-son, Muhammad Akbar, born by an Iranian woman, succeeds him, becoming the third Moghul emperor. With a multi-cultural background he will end Islam as the state religion and declare himself impartial between Islam and Hinduism. He will encourage religious tolerance, art and culture. And he will also expand his empire by military means. 

1558  Queen Mary dies and is succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth re-establishes Anglican Protestantism as the state religion.

1559  An Italian invents ice cream.

1559  Machiavelli's The Prince appears on the Pope's Index of Prohibited Books.

1559  Prince Philip is now Philip II, of Spain. He appoints his half sister, Margaret, as regent of the Netherlands. She pursues Philip's order to wipe out Protestantism there, and she tries, exercising the common belief that it was a king's prerogative to decide how his subjects should worship. Margaret raises taxes in the Netherlands to finance the intervention, and higher taxes add to the hostility among the people of the Netherlands towards Spanish rule.

1560  Europe is still suffering from periodic epidemics and famines. One-half of all infants born alive are dying before twelve months (as in the poorest countries today). The wealthy might live to between 48 and 56, and the poor, who do not eat as well, might live to 40.

1560  The Portuguese drive the French Huguenots from Rio de Janeiro, killing some of them. Portuguese begin building their own settlement there.

1562  The English seaman John Hawkins raids a Portuguese ship taking slaves to Brazil. He begins England's participation in the slave trade by exchanging the slaves in Hispaniola for ginger, pearls and sugar, a transaction that brings him a huge profit that interests other Englishmen.

1563  The Council of Trent, begun in 1545 is concluded. It was decided that tradition is to be judged co-equal to scripture as a source of spiritual knowledge, and only the Church is to be considered as having the right to interpret the Bible. The clergy is ordered to be more disciplined and was to have higher educational standards. Clerics who kept concubines are to give them up. Bishops are required to live in their own diocese. They are to have almost absolute jurisdiction there and to visit every religious house in their jurisdiction at least once every two years. Every diocese is to have a seminary for educating and training the clergy, and those who are poor are to be given preference in admission. Efforts are made toward giving instruction to the laity, especially the uneducated, and sermons are allowed in the language of common people. The sale of indulgences and Church offices is condemned, and so too is nepotism. And music in church is to fit with the occasion of solemnity, matching a new era of choral music and composition.

1566  Selim II, son of Suleiman the Great, becomes the Ottoman sultan. He is untrained in government or military affairs, unlike his two older brothers, both of whom betrayed Suleiman. Selim II is the beginning of disinterested sultans. He is devoted to the pleasures of the harem and alcohol. 

1566  In China the emperor Jiajing has been withdrawing from governing for long periods. He has been pursuing a Taoist search for everlasting life by taking potions. This leads to death by accidental poisoning.

1566  In Antwerp, grain prices are high and people are agitated. In the summer, Calvinists with axes and sledgehammers, urged on by preachers, attack what they believe is false doctrine. They smash up Antwerp's Cathedral of Notre Dame. They smash altars, stained glass windows, ornaments, paintings, tombs. They destroy books, ecclesiastical vestments and manuscripts.

1566  In Rome, Pope Pius IV begins a campaign against "Sodomites.

1568  Civil wars have been ravaging Japan. Oda Nobunaga, lord of Nagoya Castle, is one feudal lord who can afford to buy muskets in significant number. Japan has been ready for the rise of a unifying power. Nobunaga gains control of the region around Kyoto, Japan's capital city, where the Ashikaga family has held power as shoguns. The Ashikaga period of Japan's history has come to an end. The emperor, in Kyoto, remains elevated by Shinto godly connection, above politics and war.  

1568  Protestants in the Netherlands, led by Prince William of Orange, revolt against rule by the Catholic monarch, Philip II. The Eighty Years' War begins.

1568  A French architect, Philibert de l'Orme, has re-invented the use of concrete.

1568  Akbar is expanding his empire and has, it is reported, killed more the 30,000 Hindu peasants following his conquest of Chitod. Akbar is keeping as subordinates some local rulers, who are allowed to keep their own armies. At his palace, Akbar begins his day with prayer, and at dawn he steps onto his balcony and shows himself to his subjects who gather below, awed by his success and power. Akbar describes himself as father to his subjects. Drawing from Sufi philosophy he is described as having the attributes of the perfect, or universal, man and a microcosm of the universe. At  court his kingship is described as a special emanation from God.

1570  A tidal wave destroys the sea walls from Holland to Jutland. More than 1,000 people are killed.

1570  Hispaniola's Indian population, estimated at 100,000 in 1493, is down to around 300.

1570  Ivan IV (The Terrible) executes in public almost all of his advisors.

1570  The first Japanese Jesuits are ordained.

1571  Tatars sack and burn the outskirts of Moscow. The Russians drive them back.

1572  On August 24, St. Bartholmew's Day, about 3,000 Protestants in Paris are massacred. Across France within three days approximately 20,000 Huguenots are executed. Catholics across Europe rejoice and Protestants mourn and express anger.

1572  On July 9, nineteen Catholic priests are hanged in Gorcum, Holland.

1573  Porcelain is being produced in Tuscany, but it is inferior to Chinese porcelain.

1575  Japan is in a period of battles with large armies. Oda Nobunaga's military is most modern. He is expanding his control of Japan and has won the Battle of Nagashino using 3,000 men with muskets. H e has also been using long pikes and ironclad ships and building roads that facilitate trade and the movement of armies. 

1577  A Hindu monk, Tulasidasa has written Tamacharitamanasa, said to be the greatest of medieval Hindu literature. It increases Rama worship in northern India.

1577  The Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, arrives at Macao.

1577  The first clock with a minute hand appears, developed by Jost Burgi, a Swiss clockmaker.

1579  The population of  China reaches 60 million. It would be 22 times that by the year 2005.

1580  King Philip II of Spain declares Prince William of Orange an outlaw.

1580  With the surrender of the last great Buddhist fortress-monastery, in Osaka, Oda Nobunga becomes the master of central Japan. 

1581  Seven northern provinces of the Netherlands, including Holland, renounce their allegiance to Philip II. They form the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The Eighty Years' War continues.

1582  Oda Nobunaga is assassinated. A conflict over succession follows, with one of Oda Nobunaga's loyal military leaders, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, winning against Oda Nobunaga's descendants.

1584  On his death-bed, Ivan IV appoints Boris Godunov as one of the guardians of his son and heir, Feodor, age 27. Like many sons of domineering men, Theodor is weak in will and initiative.

1584  King Philip II has offered a reward of 25,000 crowns for the death of Prince William of Orange, and has called William a "pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race." William is assassinated. The Dutch consider William the father of their country and are saddened.

1585  Spaniards are besieging Antwerp. There the Dutch use the first time-bombs, with small clocks, floated on water.

1586  Italian humanist and philosopher Berdnardino Telesio has published his nine books countering Aristotle. He rejects metaphysics in favor of knowledge based on experience and experiment - science.

1587  Some Japanese have adopted European dress, and Christianity in Japan has been growing. Hiseyoshi and some others dislike this trend. Hideyoshi prohibits Christianity and expells Jesuit missionaries.

1587  Philip II of Spain has been plotting to have the Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, replace Elizabeth I on the throne of England. Mary has been a rallying point for all in England opposed to Elizabeth. Elizabeth solves her problem with Mary by having her beheaded.

1588  Upon hearing of Mary's execution, Pope Sixtus V promises to pay Philip II one million gold ducats if his troops invade England. An English fleet confronts the Spanish armada of more than a hundred ships and 30,000 soldiers, heading for an invasion. Elizabeth's smaller r ships scatter Philip's armada. Only about 65 of Philip's ships make it back to port. 

1590  Mechanical inventions are on their way to advancing science. A spectacles maker in the Netherlands, experimenting with several lenses in a tube, discovers that nearby objects appear greatly enlarged. The modern microscope is born.

1591  Ivan the Terrible has been dead for four years. Feodor is still tsar but thought incompetent. Another of Ivan's sons, nine-year-old Dmitri, a possible heir to the throne, dies after his throat is cut. Officials claim that the boy accidentally cut himself playing with a knife during an epileptic fit. Believing that Dmitri has been murdered, mobs attacks and kill Dmitri's guardians. 

1591  Toyotomi Hideyoshi expands his rule to all of Japan.

1592  Toyotomi Hideyoshi turns his attention to conquests abroad. Drawing from his military successes he thinks his armies are invincible, and he foresees himself conquering the rest of the world, beginning with China, by way of Korea, which he invades. 

1592  Pope Clement VIII states that "All the world suffers from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit. They have brought many unfortunate peoples into a state of poverty, especially farmers, working-class people, and the very poor."

1593  In Italy, Galileo develops the first thermometer.

1594  The Protestant Bourbon King of Navarre, Henry, has converted to Catholicism in order to extend his power to Paris. He is  crowned King Henry IV, France's first Bourbon monarch.

1595  An English actor and writer, William Shakespeare, age 30, is busy writing plays. He is a Renaissance man, his work less devoted to God and more about the vanities of people than were the writings that preceded the Renaissance.  

1598  Hideyoshi fails in a second attempt at conquest in Korea. His campaign ends with his death. He leaves an order for his forces to withdraw from Korea.

1598  France's wars of religion are over. Tolerance between Catholics and Protestants is proclaimed in the Edict of Nantes by France's Henry IV.

1600  The Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake.

1600  Queen Elizabeth of England charters the British East India Company to compete with the Dutch, who control the trade in nutmeg from the Banda Islands.

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