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Chapter 14 Discovery and Crisis in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century. An Age of Discovery and Expansion Motives Travels of John Mandeville Fascination with the East The Polos Economic motive Religious zeal “God, glory, and gold” Potrolani (charts) Ships Axial rudder

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Chapter 14

Discovery and Crisis in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century

An Age of Discovery and Expansion
    • Motives
      • Travels of John Mandeville
      • Fascination with the East
      • The Polos
      • Economic motive
      • Religious zeal
        • “God, glory, and gold”
      • Potrolani (charts)
      • Ships
        • Axial rudder
        • Lateen sails with square rig
Development of a Portuguese Maritime Empire
    • Prince Henry “the Navigator” (1394-1460)
      • School for navigators, 1419
    • Slaves
    • Gold
    • Bartolomeu Dias, 1497
      • Cape of Good Hope
    • Admiral Alfonso de Albuquerque
      • Goa, 1510
      • Malacca, 1511
        • Destroy Arab spice trade
    • Success of the Portuguese

European Voyages and Conquests in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

1. Portuguese ships (with northern influences) were designed for the rough seas of the Atlantic while ships of the Mediterranean were generally intended for its calmer waters. Nevertheless, ships were small which placed limitations on the amount of food and water that could be stored. It was this factor that restricted long voyages.

2. Two elements contributed to Portugal's interest in Africa. First, they wished to bypass the Muslim middlemen in the African gold trade with Europe. With limited resources in gold, much of Europe's demands were filled by gold mined in western Africa. Secondly, the Portuguese hoped to find the fabled Prester John, a Christian African king, with whom they hoped to ally to defeat the Muslims.

3. Vasco da Gama successfully made the round trip from Portugal to Calicut, India, in 1497-98. Significantly, he had to force the Indians to trade since the quality of the European goods was crude. After this first contact, every March a fleet was sent to India. By force, the Portuguese further opened up Goa, Malacca, and Macao.

4. The long and difficult route of Bartholomew Diaz (1487-88) along western Africa to the Cape of Good Hope was improved upon by Vasco da Gama (1497-99) who searched far out into the southern Atlantic to find favorable winds. This technique became common practice and led Pedro Alvares Cabral to encounter the coast of Brazil in 1500. Amerigo Vespucci accompanied many of the subsequent voyages to South America.

5. The opening of the Orient by the Portuguese provided Europe with Asian goods that had been cut to a trickle by the conquests of the Turks. It also meant that the Italian merchants could be cut out of the eastern trade. With commerce now concentrated on the Atlantic ports, the importance of Italy as a center of commerce declined.

6. Christopher Columbus offered his services to Portugal, France, and England as well as Spain. In part, approval was a result of miscalculating the distance between Asia and Portugal. This was important because no ships of the day had the capability to sail the true distance. As it was, it took 36 days to sail from the Canary Islands to landfall at San Salvador Island. The discovery by Columbus led to the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 which divided the newly discovered worlds into Portuguese and Spanish spheres of influence.

7. In 1497 King Henry VII (1485-1509) of England commissioned John Cabot, a Genoese merchant living in London, to find the elusive northwest passage. Although Cabot failed, the voyage did take him to Newfoundland and provided the later basis for English claims to North America.

8. In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan, commissioned by Spain, took a fleet south and west seeking to find a direct route to Asia. His quest led to a dramatic voyage around the world. Nevertheless, Magellan was killed in the Philippines. In 1522 the only surviving ship under Magellan's navigator Sebastian del Cano returned to Spain with fifteen survivors.


1. What restrictions hampered European exploration?

2. Consider the significance of each of the voyages portrayed on the map.

Discoveries and Possessions in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Voyages to the New World
    • Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
      • Bahamas – October 12, 1492
      • Voyages in 1493, 1498, 1502
    • John Cabot, 1497
    • Pedro Cabral, 1500
    • Ferdinand Magellan - Del Cano, 1519-1522
    • Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494
  • The Spanish Empire in the New World
    • Hernán Cortés – Mexico, 1519-1522
      • Aztecs
    • Francisco Pizzaro – Peru, 1531-1536
Administration of the Spanish Empire
    • Encomienda
    • Forced labor
    • Disease
    • Audiencias
    • Ecclesiastical affairs
  • Impact of Expansion
    • Destruction of native cultures
    • Enrichment of Europeans
    • National rivalries
    • Belief in European superiority

Philip II and the Height of Spanish Power

1. When Charles V abdicated in 1556, Philip II (1556-1598) inherited a much smaller empire than what his father had ruled. Philip's territories included Spain, the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and the Spanish possessions in the New World. He did not obtain the Austrian and German possessions which Charles had already handed over to his brother Ferdinand.

2. Like his father, Philip believed Catholic Spain had a mission against both Protestants and Muslims. Thus, he sought to defend against Turkish encroachment in the Mediterranean. At the battle of Lepanto in 1571 off the west coast of Greece, the Turkish navy was crushed, though Ottoman power was not destroyed. His intervention in France in the 1580s, however, failed to help the ultra-Catholics.

3. As tensions in the 1580s escalated between England and Spain, Philip began preparations to send a fleet and army to invade England. Under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidona, the Armada was launched from Lisbon on May 30, 1588. Although the fleet comprised 130 ships, many of these were lumbering and lacked guns, ammunition, and experienced gunners. The fleet entered the English Channel on July 30. The English fleet set upon the Armada on August 8 using fire ships loaded with gunpowder. Severely crippled, the fleet fled to the North Sea and sailed north around the British Isles. Off the coast of Ireland as the ships retreated to Spain, the Armada suffered more loses when a storm wrecked the fleet. Only 67 ships successfully made the journey home.

4. The Netherlands was a commercial cross road for northwestern Europe and had developed a prosperous textile industry. It was also a religious mix of Catholics, Lutherans, Anabaptists, and the newly arrived Calvinists. The only political bond holding the 17 provinces together was Philip as the common ruler. Rebellion broke out in the 1560s due to Spanish policies designed to crush the Protestant heresies, raise taxes, and strengthen the crown's political power. The rebellion resulted in the eventual formation in 1579 of the northern Dutch speaking Protestant union (the Union of Utrecht) and the southern Catholic union (Union of Arras) which accepted Spanish control. A truce was signed in 1609. The Dutch Republic of the northern provinces was recognized by the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years' War.

5. Among those giving aid to the Dutch Calvinists was Elizabeth I of England. By 1585 England was actively involved in the Netherlands. Increasingly Philip was convinced the rebellion could not be crushed until England stopped providing aid. In conjunction with English piracy against Spanish vessels and the execution in 1587 of the deposed Catholic monarch Mary of Scotland, Philip was persuaded to attack the English. An armada was prepared (see Acetate 48 commentary) and it sailed in 1588 to meet in Flanders an army that was to be transported across the English Channel for an invasion of England. The Armada met disaster as it encountered both bad weather and the English navy. Scattered, the remnants made their way north around Scotland and Ireland and then limped back to Spain.

6. Pursuing a claim to the vacant throne of Portugal, Philip invaded in 1580. Spain retained control until 1640 when a rebellion restored independence.


1. In what manner did Philip carry out his perceived responsibilities as the defender of Catholicism?

2. Why was it inevitable that Spain and England would struggle in the sixteenth century?

Philip II and the Height of Spanish Power

Politics and the Wars of Religion in the Sixteenth Century
    • French Wars of Religion, 1562-1598
      • Huguenots
      • Ultra-Catholics
      • War of the three Henries, 1588-1589
      • Politiques
      • Henry of Navarre
        • Edict of Nantes, 1598
    • Philip II and the cause of Militant Catholicism
      • Philip II of Spain, 1556-1598
        • Consolidate lands inherited from his father, Charles V
    • Meticulous
    • New World possessions
    • Battle of Lepanto, 1571
    • Spanish Netherlands
  • Revolt of the Netherlands, 1566-1648
    • Privileges of the provinces
    • Taxes
    • Calvinism
    • Duke of Alva
    • William of Nassau, Prince of Orange
      • Pacification of Ghent, 1576
      • Union of Arras, 1579
    • Peace of Westphalia, 1648
The England of Elizabeth
      • Queen Elizabeth I, 1558-1603
        • Act of Supremacy, 1559
        • Act of Unification, 1559
        • Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded 1587
        • Puritans
        • Foreign Policy
        • Netherlands
        • Spanish Armada, 1588
  • Economic and Social Crises
    • Inflation and Economic Stagnation
      • Price revolution
      • Inflation
Trade, Industry, Banking, and Agriculture
    • Joint-stock trading company
    • Technology
    • Commercial capitalism
    • Amsterdam Exchange
    • Agriculture
  • Population and the Growth of Cities
    • Parallels between population growth and economic prosperity
    • Growth of cities
      • Disparity of wealth

The Thirty Years' War

1. As the issue of religion became more volatile in the German states, the leader of the Palatinate organized the Protestant states into the Protestant Union. This was countered by the Catholic League mobilized by the ruler of Bavaria. Religious war began in May 1618 when the new king of Bohemia, a Catholic, sought to close Protestant churches. This prompted civil war and the involvement of the Protestant Union and the Catholic League. At the battle of White Mountain in November 1620, the Catholic League defeated the Protestants and Catholicism was restored to Bohemia. Taking advantage of the situation, Spain conquered the Palatinate in 1622 thereby assuring an alternate route for shipping men and supplies to the rebelling Dutch provinces. This was necessary because the sea lanes were controlled by the English and the Dutch.

3. In 1625 King Christian IV ( 1588-1648) of Denmark took an army into northern Germany ostensibly to aid German Protestants but more probably to annex territories so he could control the southern Baltic. He was disastrously defeated in 1629. This was one of a series of Catholic victories which led Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1619-1637) to restore Catholicism to all of his territories.

4. At the urging of France which feared the Habsburg consolidation of power in Germany, Lutheran king Gustavus Adolphus II (1611-1632) of Sweden in 1630 swept into northern Germany. Gustavus apparently sought to control the Baltic region, having already brought under his influence Denmark, Norway, Poland, Finland, and the Baltic States. The imperial forces of Frederick II were defeated at the battle of Lutzen in 1632. Unfortunately for Sweden, Gustavus was killed. In 1634 at the battle of Nordlingen the Swedes were driven out of southern Germany.

5. The French entered the war in 1635 but by now the religious issues had clearly lost significance since the war pitted Catholic King Louis XIII (1610-1643) against the Catholic Habsburgs of Austria and Spain. Moreover, France remained allied with Protestant Sweden which fought in northern Germany while France battled in the Netherlands and along the Rhine in western Germany.

6. In 1643 at the battle of Rocroi the French soundly defeated the Spanish thereby breaking Spanish military superiority. Further French successes in southern Germany brought all the exhausted powers to the peace table. By the terms of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 the German states were free to determine their own religion, the United Provinces was recognized as independent, and France gained control of the Franco-German border.


1. How did the war change from one of religion to that of territorial gain and political balancing?

The Thirty Years’ War

Seventeenth-Century Crises: War and Rebellions
    • Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648
      • Located in the Germanic lands
      • Religious problems
        • Peace of Augsburg, 1555
        • German liberties
      • Bohemian Phase, 1618-1625
        • Battle of White Mountain, 1620
      • Danish Phase, 1625-1629
        • Edict of Restitution, 1629
      • Swedish Phase, 1630-1635
      • Franco-Swedish Phase, 1635-1648
      • Peace of Westphalia, 1648
A Military Revolution
      • Armed infantry
      • Firepower – artillery, firearms
      • Tactics – mobility and flexibility
      • Conscription
    • Rebellions
      • Peasant and lower class revolts
  • Witchcraft Craze
    • Scapegoats
    • Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Krämer, MalleusMaleficarum (The Hammer of the Witches), 1486
    • Trials and executions
    • Stereotypes – women
Culture in a Turbulent World
    • Art: Mannerism and the Baroque
      • Mannerism
      • El Greco (1541-1614)
        • World of intense emotion
      • Boroque
      • Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
        • Forms in constant motion
      • Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
        • Architect – St. Peter’s Basilica
Thought: The World of Montaigne
    • Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
      • Essays
      • Questions tradition and authority
      • Opposed fanaticism
      • Preached moderation and toleration
      • Moral truths without reference to Christian truths
  • Golden Age of Literature: England and Spain
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
    • Lope de Vega (1562-1635)
    • Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)