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17 th Century Timelines Episode Seven: Century of the Telescope (1600-1700). http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/millennium/learning/timelines /. 17 th Century World Context.

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17 th century timelines episode seven century of the telescope 1600 1700
17th Century TimelinesEpisode Seven: Century of the Telescope (1600-1700)
  • http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/millennium/learning/timelines/

17th Century World Context.

Commerce boomed from 1450 to about 1640. More traveling merchants arrived in local markets to trade. Traveling merchants were often the junior members of merchant families, with the older relatives living permanently in market towns.


Large quantities of trade goods were bought and stored in warehouses to be distributed to local markets. Thus, local markets were linked to regional systems, and regional markets in turn became more connected to the larger, global system as the volume of trade increased.



Between the 11th and 14th centuries, Muslims borrowed the Hindu concepts of zero and the decimal system, making double entry bookkeeping possible. But how could a merchant know the value of coin minted in Constantinople compared to the value of one minted in Baghdad?


The circulation for foreign coins caused problems. Money changers became a necessity. As they traded local and foreign coins, money changers set the value of various currencies. Gradually money changers became established bankers. They started issuing letters of credit, the ancestors of modern credit cards.


Now merchants could travel with a letter guaranteeing them credit at the next local bank. This freed merchants from the need to barter and the dangerous practice of lugging chests of coins from market to market. In the 14th century, the Italians had borrowed these practices-and added some of their own.


Joint Stock Companies

The joint stock company, an invention of the 14th century and ancestor to the modern corporation, enabled investors to buy shares of ownership with limited liability. Joint stock companies could raise larger sums of money for business ventures; investors were protected from losing any more than their initial investment should the scheme fail.


Italian commercial practices spread north, where nation states became the governing political organization. Speculation in the buying and selling of stock offered another possibility for getting rich. Wealthy European merchants and early bankers formed uneasy alliances with their rulers as commercial interests and government decisions became intertwined.


While the concept of capitalism developed out of this economic transformation of southern Europe in the 14th century, by the 17th century the major seats of economic activity were in the north.



Metal production increased, with Japan, Europe, Mexico, and Peru leading the way. An increasing demand for goods forced an inflationary spiral in Europe, where by the 1640's there was inflation, then speculation, then something of an economic slump.


For example, tulips had arrived in Europe via the Ottoman Empire as highly prized, exotics. Speculation in tulip bulbs made tulip merchants wealthy as the price of bulbs steadily climbed. Markets were established for a regular tulip exchange. Twelve acres of land were offered for a single bulb.


Prices soared, wobbled, and finally crashed in 1636. Speculators were ruined. England, France, Holland, and Russia joined the rush to establish colonies.


Cold weather in northern Europe and northeastern Asia led to food shortages. European printing increased in volume. New areas of the world were subjected to deforestation as land was cleared for commercial crops and timber, which was eagerly sought for shipbuilding and other enterprises.


Commercial Revolution and the Triangle Trade

By 1600, the northern European extension of the commercial revolution was in full swing. Populations expanded. French, English, and American fur traders traveled west.


Russians began a great eastward expansion that would result in a fur trading empire extending from the Urals to Alaska. The initial bonanza of American gold and silver was replaced by European investments in a mining and plantation economy in the Americas.


As the popularity of sugar increased among ordinary people, the idea of sugar plantations in the Americas spread to new places-mainly the islands of the Caribbean.


A three-way trade developed. Sugar, tobacco, silver, fish, timber, and furs were shipped from the Americas to Europe. Europeans manufactured goods for export to Africa and the Americas. In Africa they traded for slaves to work the plantations and gold to be exported to Europe.


The Atlantic economy expanded. More European colonies were established in the Americas. The center of European trade shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.


Trade Across the Indian Ocean

In the Indian Ocean, the Dutch joined the Portuguese in trying to capitalize on the Far Eastern markets. But few European products were of interest to Asian buyers. Asian products already dominated the markets.


In Nanking, for example, workshops produced a million pieces of china for annual export. A textile center in Bengal produced two million pounds of raw silk annually during the 1680s.


Cotton weavers in the Indian city of Gujarat produced three million pieces of cotton a year for export alone. By comparison, Leiden, the largest single textile center in Europe, produced less than 100,000 pieces of cloth yearly.


Cultural Expression

Economic prosperity financed new forms of cultural expression during this long period from 1450 to 1640. This was an age of stunning architecture that saw the construction of Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral, the Taj Mahal, Saint Peter's in Rome, the Hindu temple complex at Madurai.


Renaissance paintings, Persian carpets from Tabriz, Benin bronzes, blue and white Ming porcelain, and Japanese lacquerware illustrated the artistic achievements of this period. With commercial expansion came a new European interest in exact measurements, the accurate accounting of time, and the beginnings of systematic scientific research.


Important Dates and Developments from the 17th Century

1601 – First Welfare program

1603 – Shakespeare’s Hamlet

1605 – Cervantes’s Don Quixote

1609 – First Regularly printed newspaper


1610 – Galileo proves that the Earth revolves around the sun

1610 – Tea imported to Europe

1628 – Harvey explains circulatory system

1633 – First child-rearing book

1656 – First pendulum clock


1666 – Newton’s Law of gravity

1674 – Microorganisms observed

1683 – First public museum


17th CenturyRene Descarte 1596 – 1650René Descartes introduced groundbreaking concepts in mathematics, science and philosophy. Called the inventor of analytic geometry and a founder of modern philosophy, the Frenchman also made advances in optics and physiology.


He introduced what came to be called the Cartesian method: beginning inquiry with universal doubt, as opposed to medieval philosophy, in which faith played a prominent role. He also identified a split between mind and body, a dualism that remains an issue in philosophy today. But he is best remembered for one simple statement: "I think, therefore I am."


Galileo Gaililei 1564 – 1642

By challenging views of the natural world that had prevailed for 1,500 years, Italian astronomer, physicist and mathematician Galileo Galilei changed the way we think. By inventing a mathematical approach to everyday experience, he discovered the laws of inertia, falling bodies and the pendulum.


With a telescope he built, he also made astronomical discoveries that convinced him of the heliocentric view of the universe, which Copernicus had formulated earlier but had been hesitant to publish. Galileo took the chance but was forced to recant his findings before a Catholic Church tribunal in 1633.


Nonetheless, his beliefs and discoveries lived on, opening the door for modern physics and a new approach to scientific thought.


Louis XIV 1638 – 1715In 1643, a few months shy of his fifth birthday, he was crowned king of France. He survived a revolt by the nobility and emerged to declare himself a divine monarch -- the Sun King. Louis XIV was an absolutist: A passport could not be issued without his permission.


He raised a mighty army, fought wars against England, Holland and the Holy Roman Empire -- and France's own Protestants – and constructed the sprawling palace of Versailles, to which he moved the royal court from Paris.


There he lived and ruled, surrounded by indulgence, spectacle and sycophancy. Louis is credited with making France a leading power -- and blamed for precipitating its decline.


John Locke 1632- 1704

Enlightenment philosopher John Locke was noted for his writing on education, science and religious freedom. His ideas about politics -- that people by nature have certain rights, including life, liberty and property, and that their consent is the only legitimate basis of government -- had a more profound effect.


His proposals for legislative representation and free speech influenced the U.S. Constitution and democratic movements around the world.


Claudio Monteverdi 1567 – 1643

Claudio Monteverdi was already known outside Italy for his madrigals and church works when he became interested in opera, an experimental form joining storytelling and dialogue with music.


Isaac Newton 1642 – 1727

A passionately religious man in a time of great scientific discovery, Isaac Newton wanted to know how God's universe worked. His quest for answers gave us the law of universal gravitation, calculus, a new theory of color and light, and the three laws of motion that form the basis of modern mechanics.


Brilliant and creative, the English physicist and mathematician synthesized the discoveries of Galileo, Kepler and others, formalizing and transforming physical science.


William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616

His masterly use of language has captivated audiences for 400 years. He penned 38 plays and 154 sonnets that explored the complexities of the human soul with unprecedented emotional range. But what all his work demonstrates is a facility for wordplay unrivaled by any writer before or since.


17th Century Segments

England and Isaac NewtonUSA – Virginia Brazil – Slaves

Holland – Commerce

China – Jesuits and Science

17 th century legacies
17th Century Legacies
  • Asian trade dominated the global exchange.
  • Commerce in the Atlantic Basin between Europe, Africa and the Americas became an increasingly important element in global trade.
  • Plantation agriculture is established in the Americas.
  • Early forms of capitalism and new business organizations like the joint stock company develop during this period.
  • Fluctuations in the global market led to periods of economic expansion and contraction.
  • Art and architecture of this period represent a triumph in artistic expression