Detailed Timeline of European History

 Detailed Timeline of
European History

Renaissance (1350-1505)
 << Exploration
Age (1505-1650)
Enlightenment (1650-1789)

Age of Exploration
– 1650)

Colonization, Rise of Nation-States
and Global Powers in Europe

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History Interactive Map

Europe 1650 AD

First Spanish settlement in the
Caribbean (1508):
Spain would proceed
to settle several islands, bringing in black slaves and killing off most
of indigenous populations (primarily through disease). As a result, many
former European colonies in Latin America have a primarily Black African
lineage, as opposed to pre-Columbian native.

Venice Liberated from Ottoman Empire
Frees itself from Ottoman
control in 1509, but loses the island of Cyprus to the Ottomans.
Continues to expand northward deeper into Northern Italy, as Holy Roman
Empire control in the region weakens.

First Spanish settlement on American
mainland in Panama (1510).

Spain 1650 ADSpain Absorbs Kingdom of Navarre
The small kingdom located at
the north of the Iberian peninsula (Hispania) is finally assimilated
into the Kingdom of Spain, consolidating Spain’s rule over all of the
peninsula, with the exception of Portugal on the west coast.

Protestant Reformation
Begins with Martin Luther in
Germany and John Calvin in Switzerland, who question the authority and
some of the points of doctrine in the Catholic Church.

 Further Understanding:

 The Protestant

Origins. Originates with the Black Death Plague of the 14th
century, which undermined Catholic authority, as prayers and Catholic
worship were of no help. The Church also supported the aristocrats in
forcing the peasant class to continue to work for pittance, despite the
fact that labor became a scarcity, and therefore should have commanded a
much higher price under a fair economic system.
Renaissance. As troubles deepened during the plague and its
aftermath, and questioning of the Catholic Church became more common,
there was an increase in philosophical reasoning along with a desire for
education among the masses.
Printing Press. Created a desire to have the Bible translated in one’s
own language. The Church prohibited the Bible in any language other than
Latin, but the movement could not be stopped, and the Bible was mass-
produced in a variety of languages. Their worst fears were confirmed as
readership increased, and interpretations along with it. When Martin
Luther drafted his grievances with the Church, he was able to
economically circulate his point of view to a mass, far-flung audience
thanks to the printing press.
Martin Luther. The father of Protestantism. As a Catholic monk,
he was appalled with the practice of selling indulgences, where the
Church would offer a remission of sins for a price. He also questioned
the authority of the pope and his priests, bishops, etc., asserting that
worship and sin could be between taken up with God personally, by the
individual. Therefore, the Church’s authority/rituals were not necessary
for the salvation of one’s soul, but instead for the purpose of
maintaining power over the people. Luther produced a long list of
grievances/disagreements with the Church (95 Theses), which were
distributed far and wide, gaining support, while also sparking other
Protestant movements.
Religious Wars. By the time the Catholic Church decided to
respond, it was too late. Protestantism could not be put back in the
bag. It spread throughout Europe, changing the religious affiliation of
entire nations. Protestantism compelled the Dutch Protestants to revolt
against its master Spain, a Catholic nation that attempted to enforce
Catholicism upon those under its rule. The Dutch (Netherlands) would
achieve independence from Spain. The German states splintered according
to religious lines, sparking the Thirty Years’ War pitting Catholics
against Protestants. Protestant England and Sweden came to the aid of
the Protestants, helping them to victory, forcing the Catholics to allow
German princes to select a religion for their respective principalities.
Protestantism was now and forever more a competing force in


(Timeline Continued Below)

Austria-Spain Connection
Charles I of Spain inherits Austria, bringing Spain, Netherlands,
Austria and overseas possessions under one crown. Austria still remains
part of Holy Roman Empire. As a result, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire
cooperate on several occasions to maintain the supremacy of Catholicism,
and to promote Spanish-German dominance. The Habsburg Empire is divided
by Charles in 1556 between his son and brother, with the Netherlands and
Northern Italy going to Spain.

Cortez leads Spanish conquest of Mexico
From there, Spain expands
throughout Central America.

Portuguese Discover Straight of
Magellan (1520):
Portuguese explorer
Magellan discovers a pass through southern tip of South America,
connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is named the
Straight of Magellan.

Hungary Conquered by Ottoman Empire

First Spanish Colonization in South
America (1522):
Spain establishes the
first settlement in South America (Venezuela), expanding south from
there into most of the rest of the continent, except Brazil, which was
dominated by the Portuguese.

Dissolution of Kalmar Union
Sweden withdraws from the union
that binded it with Denmark and Norway, primarily over dissatisfaction
with Denmark domination. Sweden becomes independent, while Denmark &
Norway combine to form Denmark-Norway.

Peasant’s War in Germany
Sparked by “Humanism”
(individual rights) as inspired by the Protestant movement. A forerunner
to the revolutionary and enlightenment ideals that transform Europe in
the 18th and 19th centuries. – The World’s Largest Maps Store!

Eastern Prussia Conquered by Poland
Poland conquers from Teutonic
Knights in 1525. The Knights, who are responsible for Christianizing the
area, are expelled to Germany, ending their presence in Prussia. Most of
the inhabitants in the area have been Germanized, paving the way for
German conquest of the area in 1618.

Holy Roman EmpireAustrian Expansion
conquers Bohemia and part of Hungary, entering into ongoing battles with
the Ottoman Turks for territorial control. Bohemians maintain Czech as
primary language, which has survived to this day. Czechs rebel, while
Moravians (modern east Czech Rep.) submit peacefully. Habsburgs deal
harshly with the Czechs, forcibly submitting them to direct rule
(accustomed to autonomy within Holy Roman Empire).

Austria Conquers Western Hungary From
Ottoman Empire (1526):
Austria conquers
the western portion of Hungary from the Ottomans. The Austrians and
Ottomans would continue to battle one another for control of Hungary,
resulting in a stalemate, with Ottomans maintaining control over Eastern
Hungary, and Austria over Western Hungary.

Ottoman Empire Conquers Former Mongol
States (1526):
Ottomans conquer Mongol
successor states in southern Ukraine, consisting primarily of Turkish
people formerly under Mongol rule.

In brief war with Spain, France loses
territory to Spanish Netherlands (1528).

Genoa (Italy) Independence
Came under French control in
1499. With the help of the Spanish, became independent from French rule
in 1528. It was officially sovereign after this point, but subordinate
to Spain, who oversaw foreign policy and offered protection.

Portugal begins colonizing Brazil

Pizzaro leads Spanish conquest of Incas
in Peru (1532).

Brittany Gained by FranceFrance Gains Possession of Brittany
Brittany is finally annexed
into France, after years of fighting to resist annexation. Brittany was
settled by Bretons (ancient Britain inhabitants) after the Roman
withdrawal from Britannia and Gaul (France) in the 5th century. They had
maintained a separate sense of nationhood since the beginning of the
Frankish Kingdom. Brittany becomes completely assimilated into France
from a cultural, language and genetic standpoint.


 Further Development of France

France is forced into cohesion over centuries of England & German
invasions. This unlocks the potential of a large and decentralized
populace with a common sense of identity going back to the Frankish-Gaulic
assimilation, the origin of the concept of “French” as a people,
language and culture. The formation of the super power of France is the
natural consequence of the consolidation of those who consider
themselves “French”, as they occupy an expansive and strategic region in
Western Europe. As a result, France continues to remain a power
throughout history even when weakened by war on their own land, and even
when they lose the war.

France Claims Possession of Canada

England conquers Ireland and WalesWales Absorbed into England
incorporated into England, so no more legal separation.

Ireland Conquered by England

England conquers Ireland, to bring it fully under its control. A
decentralized Ireland had continued to act with hostility toward
England, inviting foreign powers to threaten England, ultimately
eliciting a conquest by England.

Spain explores and claims large tracts of
land in southern U.S. (1539).

Spanish Colonies Begin to Pay Dividends
Spain’s American Empire finally begins paying off large
dividends, primarily thanks to precious metals being mined in
central/south America.

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Consolidation of Russia
Ivan IV
becomes the first Tsar of Russia (still Grand Duchy ofRussia expansion Moscow), and the
first to consolidate previously semi-independent principalities. It
marks the first time that the East Slavs of the former Kievan Rus are
truly consolidated. As a result, they are able to take advantage of the
now loosely-organized Turks to the south and east, assimilating them
into Russia. With vast amounts of land under its control, yet restricted
sea access (especially warm-water ports), and a large yet spread out
population, Russia is largely dictated by its geopolitical situation
throughout history. That is, it will generally be a formidable
land-based power that dominates its immediate region. However, it will
struggle to project power abroad due to insufficient naval capability.
It’s spread out population will cause it to largely lag behind the
western world socially, economically and technologically.

Russian Conquests of Turkish Muslim
Territories (1552):
Russia conquers and annexes Khanate of Kazan and
Astrakhan, adding a significant Turkish/Muslim population. Russia
becomes a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious state with its
new acquisitions.

France Loses Savoy, Italy
petty kingdom became the object of territorial ambition for both France
and Spain, which inherited much of Northern Italy through marriage.
Savoy remained in France’s hands until 1553, when Spain pried it away.
From that point forward, it would alternative between being an
independent kingdom to a semi-autonomous possession of Spain.

Peace of Augsburg – Religious Choice for
German Princes (1555):
Catholics forced to concede a degree of religious
freedom, by allowing German princes to determine the official religion
for their respective states (Catholicism or Lutheranism).

Netherlands Transferred to Spain

Charles I of Spain, a Habsburg who inherited the Austrian Empire in
1519, divides his massive empire, assigning the Netherlands to Spain,
away from Austria.

Sweden ExpansionLivonian War (1558-82):
Pits Russia
against Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and Poland, for control of Greater
Livonia (modern Estonia, Latvia). Russia’s objective was to gain access
to the Baltic Sea, but these other nations had claims in area as well,
triggering a war over the territory. Russia loses in 1582, losing access
to the Baltic Sea. Sweden gains Estonia.

French Wars of Religion
Catholics and Protestant Huguenots. After years of fighting, the
Huguenots finally compel the Catholic monarchy to arrive at a
settlement, ensuring a degree of religious tolderance in France.
Protestant revolts would continue to rise throughout time, as various
kings would restrict freedoms. Catholicism would forever remain more
prominent than Protestantism in France.

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Nordic Seven Years’ War
Sweden and an alliance of Denmark-Norway and Poland-Lithuania, over the
domination of regional trade routes, especially in the North and Baltic
Seas. In addtion, tensions between Sweden and Denmark-Norway were still
high due to the bloody break up of the Kalmar Union. Sweden wins,
becoming the leading military power in Northern Europe.

Spain Conquers Florida from France

Spain sacks French settlement in Florida, reconstituting it as St.

Beginning of Dutch War of Independence vs
Spain (1568):
Also known as Eighty Years’ War. Between Spain and the
Dutch, as the primarily-Protestant Dutch rebel against Catholic Spain,
due to religious oppression and dissatisfaction with foreign rule.

Establishment of Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth (1569):
Covered modern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and
Latvia, along with large parts of Ukraine, and parts of Russia. Poland
would be the dominant entity. The nation would flourish for the first
100 years. Lithuania was forced to combine with Poland to protect itself
from an expanding Russian threat. Domestically, Poland and Lithuania
would continue to operate under a separate set of laws, but foreign
policy and military actions would be coordinated under Polish control.

Spain Takes Control of Mediterranean Sea
From Ottoman Empire (1571):
Spain defeats the Ottoman navy, ending its
dominance of the Med. Sea.

Basis for Modern Netherlands
“Southern Netherlands” (roughly modern Belgium and Luxembourg – shaded)
is conquered by Spain in the Eighty Years’ War, while the “Northern
Netherlands” (highlighted) continues the fight for independence. The
“North” forms the “United Provinces” (roughly modern Netherlands).

Portugal Falls Under Spanish Rule
In 1578, Portugal King Sebastian dies without a direct
heir, while aiding Morocco against Ottomans. Philip II of Spain is the
closest heir. In 1580, Philip II of Spain conquers Portugal to assert
his claim for the throne, forming the Iberian Union. Beginning of
decline of Portuguese colonial empire, as Portugal is unable to properly
administer to and defend its overseas possessions (also neglected by
Spain) while under Spanish control.

England’s First Colonization Attempt in
North America (1583):
England claims Newfoundland (Canada), first
overseas possession. Attempts first colony in 1584 (Roanoke, NC), but

Latvia Conquered by Poland
attempted to take possession of the lands bordering the Baltic Sea upon
the collapse of the Teutonic Knights. But a coalition of
Poland-Lithuania, Denmark and Sweden thwarted their designs. As part of
the victorious party, Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth absorbs Latvia,
which becomes the Duchy of Livonia.

Failed Spanish Naval Invasion of England
As part of Eighty Years’ War, England attacks Spanish ships in
Atlantic, and Spanish colonies in the Americas. Spain sends a failed
armada (naval invasion) to England.

Note: English rise to dominance

corresponds to its increase in naval power, marked by the Spanish Armada
victory. At the time, it was thought that no one could stand up to the
Spanish navy. Victory in the Battle of Swally (India) against Portugal,
establishes England as the new dominant player in the Asian spice trade,
drastically increasing its wealth and power.

Croatia Freed from Ottoman Rule

Austria drives Ottoman Turks out of all of Croatia.

Russia Conquers Siberia
conquest of Siberia (Khanate of Siberia). Consists of a mixture of
Turkish and other Central Asian peoples native to the region, further
adding to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Slavic empire. By
1640, Russians expand the territory of Siberia across the
sparsely-populated forests and frozen lands to the Pacific Ocean.

Spain claims/gains control of much of
southwest U.S. (1598).

Austria Gains Control Over Transylvania
from Ottoman Empire (1599):
Austria gains control over Transylvania,
brutally forcing Roman Catholicism upon the largely Protestant
population, imposing a reign of terror lasting until 1604. The
Protestants would then revolt, forcing a peace with Austria, where
religious tolerance prevailed. Ottomans still technically possesses
region, but not exerting control.

Ottoman Empire

Transylvania, Romania
gains control over Transylvania, while the region remains part of the
Ottoman Empire in name only.

British East India Company

Creation of British East India Company, which would come to dominate
Asian Spice Trade, establishing several colonies in India.

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France begins colonizing New France, aka
Canada (1605).

First Successful English Colony in North
America (1607):
First permanent English colony overseas: Jamestown VA.
The beginning of North American colonization. Attracts English settlers
in search of religious freedom from the Church of England, as well as
economic freedom and adventure.

English Naval Victory Over Portugal in
India (1612):
Battle of Swally off the western coast of India. England
defeats Portugal, overtaking them as the dominant force in the Asian
Spice Trade.

Romanov Dynasty in Russia
until the Communist Revolution in 1917. From 1603 to 1613, Russia
experienced famine, then subsequent civil wars which lured the Polish to
invade and take the throne. The Polish were ousted in 1613, and a Romanov was elected to the throne, establishing the long-lived Russian

Beginning of Dutch Colonial Empire

The Dutch begin their American colonial empire, with New Amsterdam (NY)
followed by Virgin Islands. It is the golden age for the Netherlands,
which gains many new colonies, while becoming a leader in the
transatlantic slave trade.

Duchy of Prussia (1618): Eastern Prussia
is inherited by Brandenburg (state within Holy Roman Empire), removing
it from Poland rule, forming the Duchy of Bradenburg-Prussia, eventually
simplifying its name to the Duchy of Prussia. It would eventually expand
to dominate all the German states, leading the way to the establishment
of the German Empire in the 19th century.

Thirty Years’ War Pitting Catholics vs.
Protestants in Holy Roman Empire/Germany (1618-48):
The Austrian Holy
Roman Emperor institutes strict Catholic policies, reversing the Peace
of Augsburg, resulting in a Protestant revolt. Catholic side led by
Austria, joined by other German Catholic princes and Spain. Protestant
England and Sweden provide support to the Protestant German princes, as
does Catholic France, which is more interested in harming Spain than
bolstering Catholicism outside of its own borders. The war ends with
only Austria under Catholic control, creating further German
fragmentation, decentralization.

Dutch Invasion of Portugal Colonies
Dutch (Netherlands) systematically invade and conquer a
substantial portion of Portuguese colonies, as part of Eighty Years’ War
(or Dutch Wars of Independence) against Spain. Spain, which had annexed
Portugal, prohibits it from trading with the Dutch. The Dutch then
proceed to overtake Portuguese possessions as a necessity to obtain
Asian goods. Due to the weakened condition of Portuguese colonies (not
properly administered to or protected under Spanish rule), the
Netherlands are frequently successful in their conquests, overtaking
various colonies in Africa and Asia.

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Note: Dutch Geopolitical Advantage of the
Like other nations with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean, the
Dutch adopt the naval technology and culture necessary to gain their
share of the vast riches and power awaiting them, helping to transform
them from a mere outpost in the Spanish Empire (Austrian and Holy Roman
before that), into a global power.

France colonizes French Guiana in South
America (1624).

English Begin Colonization of the
Caribbean (1625):
English settle Barbados in Caribbean, beginning
colonization of region, where they would develop a substantial presence.
They created the highly successful sugar cane industry, which was built
largely upon the backs of black slaves from Africa. The French gain
foothold on nearby island of Tortuga, and also share St. Kitts with the

Polish-Swedish War Ending in Sweden
Victory (1625–29):
Battle for supremacy along the southern Baltic coast.
Sweden captures Baltic territories, including large parts of Latvia and

Note: Sweden Rise to Power.
Sweden had
consolidated more effectively than its northern neighbors (through
Christianity). They had become centralized and organized to the point
that they were able to create a professional army, requiring all
villages/families to provide a certain number of soldiers. This enabled
it to establish military dominance in the north.

Portugal Regains Independence From Spain
Portugal regains independence as Spain is bogged down by
multiple wars in the Netherlands and Germany. Spain is not in a position
to prevent Portugal from asserting independence.

First English Civil War
King Charles I versus parliament, as the parliament was not in agreement
with his close ties to the French, and ambitions to keep England in
multiple military conflicts throughout Europe, which were expensive.
Resulted in Civil War between Parliamentarians and Royalists, with
Parliamentarians eventually rising to victory. The subsequent government
would descend into chaos and conflict, resulting in the restoration of a
king. However, powers of the king would be limited, constituting a
parliamentary monarchy, forming the basis for the first semi-democratic
government, a predecessor to true democracies later in history.

Dutch Wins Independence From Spain

End of Eighty Years’ War. Netherlands (United Provinces) defeats Spain,
as fellow Protestant nations of England and Sweden come to their aid.
Despite being a Catholic nation, France also helps the Dutch, since
supporting Catholicism becomes less important than diminishing its
primary rival of Spain. Spain was also bogged down by its involvement in
the religiously-driven 30-Years’ War in Germany.

Note: Rise & Fall of Spain.
Becomes dominant
continental/world power in 16th century, being dogged by constant
warfare as other European nations fight to contain Spain, resulting in
decline of Spanish continental dominance in 17th century.

France Gains Small Territory from
Netherlands (1648):
Gains territory lost to Spanish Netherlands in 1528
after helping Dutch to gain victory in their war of independence with

Turkish Cossack Uprising in
Poland-Lithuania (1648):
Cossacks revolt against Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth, resulting in an independent state that became a client
state to Russia. As part of their uprising, the Cossacks slaughtered
hundreds of thousands of Jews due to suspicions that they were
cooperating with Poland to keep the Cossacks under Polish control.

Note: Grand Duchy of Tuscany (Italy).
completely independent from foreign rule, forming into an independent

Note: Spanish Italy.
Spain inherits a large
chunk of Northern Italy through marriage. The territory is an
afterthought to Spain, causing it to descend into economic decline by
imposing heavy taxes to support its continuous involvement in wars.
Southern Italy remains under Spanish control, as a neglected backwater
of the Spanish Empire.

Note: Papal States.
Still ruled by the pope,
which struggles to control its subordinate principalities, which
commonly attempt to operate with autonomy.

Further Understanding of the Age of Exploration:

Protestantism: Protestantism spreads,
becoming state religions in England and Netherlands. Basis for 80 Years
War and 30 Years War (Largely Catholic vs. Protestants) as Catholicism
tries to maintain dominance in Europe. It serves as major basis for
separation of modern Netherlands (Northern) and Belguim (Southern), as
the predominantly-Catholic “Southern” Dutch are not as determined in
escaping Spanish rule as the “Northern” Dutch. The Protestant cause also
attracts the all-critical aid of English and Swedish toward the Dutch
fight for independence.

Dominance Then Fall of Portugal.
Ultimately, Portugal’s population was insufficient to resist the
ambitions of rising super powers with much greater populations. Portugal
took advantage of its strategic niche, based on its geopolitical
position of having several ideal ports along its long Atlantic
coastline, giving it easy access to the riches that were there for the
taking in less developed regions of the world. They maintained this
advantage as long as they could, but their fall was inevitable after
their inherently stronger (i.e. more numerous) rivals piggy-backed upon
their successes and discoveries. The secession crisis in 1578 gave Spain
the excuse to finally annex and conquer Portugal. Portugal has never
been able to resist invasion from super power from the east (Spain, then
later France during Napoleonic Wars), but their resiliency, along with
neglect by their conquerors in each case enabled it to regain
independence, after a period of foreign rule. Portugal was able to
escape Spanish rule when Spain became consumed by massive, debilitating
wars in central Europe. Portugal was not fully integrated into Spanish
Kingdom, due to the fact that Spain’s attention was turned elsewhere.
The downside to this neglect was that Spain did not have the will or
wherewithal to properly upkeep Portugal and its colonial empire,
enabling England and Netherlands to weaken it through the conquest of
many of Portugal’s overseas possessions. By the time Portugal became
sovereign again in 1640, it was too late to restore dominance, but it
still maintained a profitable niche as a second-rate colonial power for
a few more centuries. For example, Portugal no longer monopolized the
Asian Spice Trade or African Atlantic Slave Trade (no longer even close
to the dominant player in either case), but still managed enough share
of each industry to bring significant profits back home. In a sense, the
aftermath of their fall from preeminence restored the natural order,
with Portugal able to remain sovereign, and certainly in a position to
benefit from easy Atlantic access, but not to be dominant.

Rise of England: England takes a cue from
Portugal, using Atlantic access plus continental insulation (previously
a geopolitical disadvantage in the land-based world) to their advantage.
Advances in naval technology compliments their geopolitical position to
dominate overseas lands, resources and trade routes.

Naval Revolution: In a way, naval
technology that developed in this time period (larger payloads, ability
to sail longer distances) represent one of the world’s major
revolutions, perhaps similar to the industrial revolution, or the
oil-powered machine revolution. It enabled the distribution/exchange of
resources between far-off places much more economically, giving peoples
access to a much wider array of goods. Overseas settlements could be
supported in distant lands. More than anything, it boosted economies,
significantly raising the standard of life for the common person, as
they could procure goods that were not previously available, or
affordable (due to lack of economic transportation). Thus, economies
were boosted, creating a merchant middle class, which paved the way for

Geopolitics of Black African Slave Trade:

1. The All-Important Sahara Desert Effect. Ancient civilizations began
to flourish around the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea between
3000 BC and 1000 BC, as the geography creates a confluence of diverse
cultures and continents. Plus, these lands were fertile, supporting
larger populations and prosperity. Interaction among large groups of
diverse peoples is a key to the progression of society, as it
facilitates the free flow of information and ideas, while opening
economic opportunities. Thus, the most advanced ancient cultures are
those that were in proximity to this convergence, such as Egypt,
Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Greece. From this base, technological and
sociological advances spread through Europe, Asia and North Africa
throughout the centuries. However, the vast and inhospitable Sahara
Desert, stretching across the northern portion of Africa from east coast
to west coast, impeded this process of conductivity into most of Africa.
South of the Sahara Desert, Africa also features dense jungles, rugged
mountain ranges, the treacherous Conge River Basin, the untamable
Serengeti and expansive deserts. So, not only is Sub-Saharan Africa
unable to easily connect to the world beyond Africa, but its inhabitants
were essentially compartmentalized from one another due to the many
natural barriers. This segregation is conducive to tribal societies,
lower populations (especially since farming is difficult) and
consequently a lower rate of progression. Consequently, Sub-Saharan
Africans were largely at the mercy of technologically-superior European
slave traders when they began to arrive in the 1400s.
2. Proximity to Europe. Despite the Dark Ages, Europe becomes much more
advanced than Sub-Saharan Africa, due to a more favorable geopolitical
position, as explained above. As the Asian powers (such as the Ottoman
Empire) hem Europeans within their own continent, an advancing Europe
naturally develops naval capability to circumvent West Asians in order
to reach the riches of South Asia in particular. In doing so, they
discover a large continent just south of them in the 15th century.
Before naval advances, Europe would have had to pass through hostile
Muslim empires/kingdoms and the daunting Sahara Desert to reach such a
place, which is why it was never even attempted. Now, Sub-Saharan Africa
is a fairly pedestrian boat-ride away. Naval advances along with
superior weaponry (much of it learned from the Asians) give the
Europeans a decisive advantage over the tribal peoples found throughout
Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Thus, the close proximity and the
technological/organizational advantages made the Europeans easily
capable of exploiting the natives they encounter. Europe was not able to
exploit North Africa, as they were too powerful to be so easily
3. Profit Motive. When Europeans begin settling the Americas, they found
the climate and land to be well-suited for agriculture, resulting in
spacious plantations. A need then arose for cheap labor. The native
populations were difficult to submit (since it was their homeland), and
susceptible to European disease. Neither problem was an issue with
Sub-Saharan Black Africans. Plus, the Europeans did not have to capture
slaves themselves. They were able to establish fortified slave-trading
posts along the coast, and purchase prisoners of war from local tribal
4. Justification. Slavery is clearly a morally abhorrent practice. To
overcome this, those being enslaved must be dehumanized in the minds of
the captors. For Europeans, this came in the form of an endorsement from
the pope, who declared that pagan heathens in Africa and Asia could be
enslaved, as long as they were Christianized while in bondage. The
Biblical Curse of Canaan served as the justification for the white
Christian Europeans, which insinuated that the descendents of Canaan
were cursed to be servants to their brethren on earth. It was mistakenly
believed that the Black Africans were descendents of Canaan, and even
that the dark skin of Africans was a God-given mark. As we now know,
humans originated out of Africa with brown skin, and those that
eventually settled in the northern lands, such as Europe, gradually
developed lighter skin due to a lowered biological need for skin
pigmentation as a result of less sunlight and UV exposure.


Spain’s Missteps: Despite wealth flowing
from colonies, the massive expenditures are consumed by ongoing
continental war efforts, which are primarily religious in nature. The
economic and political toll was heavy, as the wars did not go well, as
Spain fought against Protestants in the Netherlands and Germany, along
with the Protestant nations of England and Sweden. In addition, France
sided against them as well, despite being a Catholic nation like Spain.
France was more interested in diminishing Spanish dominance rather than
fighting for the Catholic cause outside its own borders. Spain’s expenseive and ineffectual war efforts result in economic decline, and
the subsequent decline of Spain, which would fall from its position as
the preeminent continental super power, falling behind England, France
and even the Netherlands. This underscores the importance of factoring
the cost of victory and war compared to the likely benefits. Especially
in a long, protracted conflict where there is not a clear benefit to
victory, other than prestige in this case for Spanish, which did not
want to lose its Dutch territories, although they were not particularly
profitable. Plus, Spain desired to be recognized as the protector of
Catholicism, believing that it would prove advantageous. Spain never had
a chance to attain political victory, which was imperative. Even if they
had subdued the Dutch and their supporters militarily, the Protestants
would never remain pacified, unless major concessions were awarded. So
there was not an end in sight for Spain even if they won, unless there
was a dramatic shift in policy (such as religious freedom). So in large
part, Spain’s ideology of carrying the Catholic banner contributed to
their downfall from dominance.

Expansionism/Enlightenment (1650 – 1789)

Renaissance (1350 – 1505)

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