Brief History of the World Wiki
Early Protestant Reformation
Period Early Modern Ages
Dates 1517-1547 AD
Preceded by
Early Age of Discovery
Followed by
Early Scientific Revolution
A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

–Fidel Castro

The Early Protestant Reformation lasted from about 1517 AD until 1547 AD. It began with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517. It then ended with the reign of Henry VIII, whose disagreement with the Pope on the question of an annulment, led almost by accident to the English Reformation.

The demand for renewal within the Catholic Church and to rediscover a simpler, more authentic version of the Christian life, was something in the air at the beginning of the 16th-century, spurred by earlier reformers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. All it was waiting for was the man and occasion that would make them into a religious revolution. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, deeply read in theology, and somewhat tormented in spirit. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Church; in particular the sale of Indulgences, and arguing for the holy text to be translated into every language to bring the Gospel truth closer to ordinary people. Luther's refusal to renounce all of his writings, resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. Yet, through the revolutionary potential of the printing press, Luther's ideas spread throughout Europe within two months, sparking an unparalleled conflagration that shook Christendom for more than a century, with far-reaching religious, political, economic, and social consequences. The Protestant Reformation diversified almost immediately, and other reformers arose independently of Luther such as Zwingli and Calvin. Yet none of these provoked the first major rejection of Papal authority by a nation-state. In England a unique religious change arose almost by accident. Henry VIII, the second king of the Tudor line, became entangled with the papacy over his wish to annul the first of his six marriages to get an heir. This led to one of the most remarkable assertions of secular authority in the whole 16th-century; one fraught with significance for England’s future. With the support of his obedient parliament, Henry VIII proclaimed himself Head of the Protestant Church in England. The Catholic Church was slow to respond to the Reformation, and the internal problems that had triggered it. But reinforced by the Counter-Reformation, the Papacy was soon well-placed to confront the challenge, providing standards to which Catholic rulers would rally. The whole of Europe became embroiled in the growing religious fissure, bringing with it more than one hundred years of religious war. What we might term Round 1 of these wars, from 1529 to 1555, involved Zwinglians, Lutherans, and Catholics in Switzerland and Germany; Round 2, from 1560 to 1609, involved Catholics and Calvinists in France and the Dutch Netherlands; and round 3, the Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648, involved nearly all of Europe. All of these wars involved political and dynastic issues as well as religious ones, creating a combustible cocktail.

Perhaps these were good years only for the Ottoman Turks. Venice watched her empire in the eastern Mediterranean crumble away. Charles V Habsburg, perhaps the most powerful rulers in Europe since Charlemagne, abdicated in frustration at the end of his reign; much of his inheritance in Hungary had been lost to the Turks, who at one point besieged Vienna itself; his rivalry with Francis I of France had resulted in little more than the illusion of dominating Italy; and the Reformation had ended forever the religious and political unity of the Holy Roman Empire. In his last years, Charles V was crippled by debt, despite a seemingly endless flow of treasure from the Americas, after the discovery and destruction of the Inca and Aztec civilisations. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turkish war machine rolled on. At its peak under Süleyman the Magnificent, the empire encompassed the Balkans, Anatolia, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, and north Africa. A new balance of power also emerged in the Mediterranean, with the Ottomans and Spain each dominating their respective halves, gradually reducing the Italian naval powers to irrelevant. Süleyman was a reformer as well as a conqueror, who turned his vast empire into a just and well-administered domain. At the time of his death in 1566, the Ottoman Empire was one of the foremost powers in the world, but tough times lay ahead.


Roots of the Reformation[]

The sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church, promising a shorter stay in purgatory for sins in return for a price.

On All Hallows’ Day 1517, in the university town of Wittenberg on the Elbe, a prominent local monk nailed a multi-point challenge to Rome onto the doors of the cathedral. His name was Martin Luther and his 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation (1517-1645), a great crisis that shook western Christendom and destroyed forever the old medieval unity of the Roman Catholic Church. Given that the reform movement, of which Luther was a part, had political, social, and cultural ramifications far beyond what would today be understood as the “religion”, it has joined the Renaissance and Age of Discovery as marking the beginning of the modern world. In the half-light of a dawning modernity, the Church was a powerful political, intellectual, and economic institution, as well as a lived religious experience of rituals, practices, and beliefs. The local priest was there for every pivotal moment of all a man's lives; baptizing them, marrying them, hearing their confessions, and providing last rites. Before there were clocks, only the bell of the parish church supplemented the sun as a record of passing time. Most people found the church's practices meaningful and accepted clerical behaviour, but there was nothing new about demands for ecclesiastical reform. They complained about bishops who lolled back upon the cushion of privilege to gratify their appetites and neglect their flocks; that abbot were financially and morally corrupt, guilty of simony (buying and selling church offices) and pluralism (holding several offices at once), and maintaining secret mistresses; that priests were barely able to read in any language, and went through the motions of mass in Latin without understanding what the words meant. The wish to rediscover a simpler and more authentic version of the Christian life was characteristic of many new movements. The Albigensian Crusade of the early 13th-century did not prevent the appearance of new heresies again and again in the next three centuries, because they expressed real needs; the quiet devotional Brethren of the Common Life, followers of the Dutch mystic Thomas à Kempis (d. 1471), to name but one. Heretics, in a sense, were living proof of dissatisfaction. In the century between the Great Papal Schism and the Reformation, there were some dismal popes who resisted refrom; the Renaissance Papacy (1414-1517). Unlike their European peers, popes were not hereditary monarchs, so could only promote their own families through nepotism; the word "nepotism" originally referred specifically to popes elevating their nephews to the College of Cardinals. The College became dominated by cardinal-nephews, crown-cardinals (relatives of European monarchs) and members of well-heeled Italian families (there were two pope each from the houses of Medici and Borgia). The wealthy popes and cardinals increasingly patronized Renaissance art and architecture, rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica, commissioning the Sistine Chapel, and summoning artists from all over Italy. Meanwhile, the Papal States began to resemble a nation-state, with the papacy more often engaged in war and diplomacy than theological matters: Pope Paul II (d. 1471) had a virtual mania for jewels and collectibles; Pope Alexander VI (d. 1503), born Rodrigo Borgia, fathered at least seven illegitimate children, three while serving as pope; Pope Julius II (d. 1513) became known as the "Warrior Pope" for his enthusiastic involvement in the Italian Wars; and Pope Leo X (d. 1521) supposedly quipped upon his accession, “God has given us the papacy, now let us enjoy it”. With expensive wars and ambitious building projects, popes turned to new sources of revenue from the sale of offices to indulgences (a remission for guilty sinners of time spent in the cleansing fires of Purgatory before entering Heaven). As a concept, indulgences had been part of Christianity from very early on, granted for specific good works such as going on pilgrimage. Then in the 12th-century, they became commercialized to fund expensive projects such as Crusades or cathedrals. By the 15th-century, indulgences were increasingly popular, but abuses had become a serious problem; the point had arisen as early as the days of Pope Boniface IX (d. 1404). Such is the great paradox of the Church in the early-16th-century. It had risen to a pinnacle of power and grandeur, but the point of this huge concentration of wealth was to preach a faith at whose heart lay the glorification of poverty and humility, and the superiority of things not of this world.

John Wycliffe left quite an impression on the Church: 43 years after his death, officials dug up his corpse, burned his remains, and threw the ashes into the River Swift. Still, they couldn't get rid of his ideas.

Movements had been made towards a Reformation prior to Martin Luther. Two outstanding men, John Wycliffe in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia (now Czechia and Slovakia), added theological issues to these critiques of Church structure, practice, and worldliness. John Wycliffe (d. 1384) introduced so many themes of the coming Reformation that he is usually identified as the main precursor of this greatest of all Christian upheavals. As a priest and professor at Oxford University, his writings took a controversial line on a great many issues: condemning the wealth and privileged status of the high clergy; questioning the pomp of their ceremonies; arguing that the Church had a defined sphere of activity, which did not extend to meddling in secular affairs; challenging indulgences and chuch sanctuary; condemning monasticism altogether as irredeemably corrupt; denying the doctrine of transubstantiation (that the bread and wine are literally changed into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist); and, perhaps most provocative of all, finding no Scriptural or historical basis for the papacy itself ("Christ is the only mediator between God and ourselves"). Central to his ideas was that all a Christian needed was the example of the Bible, which everyone should be able to read in their own language. In keeping with this, Wycliffe became involved in efforts to translate the Bible into English; a version now known as Wycliffe's Bible (1384), although his actual contribution is disputed. As the printing press had not yet been invented, very few copies ever existed. Moreover, it had been indirectly translated from Latin rather than the original Greek and Hebrew, so later biblical translators largely ignored Wycliffe's version. In 1377, Pope Gregory XI condemned Wycliffe and ordered his arrest, but he had a powerful supporter in John of Gaunt (d. 1399), the king's third son. He was briefly put under house-arrest, but then Pope Gregory died, plunging the papacy into the Great Papal Schism, and Europe's two rival popes had more pressing matters than an English heretic. After his death, Wycliffe's followers, derogatorily called Lollards (a Dutch word for "mutterer") by their Catholic contemporaries, grew more strident in their views. The Twelve Conclusions, drawn up by Lollards in 1395, went even further than Wycliffe in a more scornful tone; finding fault in saint relics, holy images, pilgrimages, confession, and clerical celibacy. They were driven underground by English Catholic authorities, but remained a persistent irritant until the English Reformation made their views the norm.

Jan Hus had a strong influence on Martin Luther himself, who later wrote "I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill".

Wycliffe was a thinker rather than a man of action. A generation later, Jan Hus (d. 1415) became the leader of a movement that involved political as well as ecclesiastical issues. Ever since the native Slavic dynasty of Ottokar II Přemyslid petered-out in 1306, Bohemia (now Czechia and Slovakia) had been ruled by the German House of Luxembourg. While the ethnic link between crown and subjects had been severed, Bohemia enjoyed something of a golden age in the 14th-century. Charles IV Luxembourg (d. 1378) was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1346, and made Prague his imperial capital. Under his enlightened rule, Prague became one of Europe's most splendid cities, with Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Prague University (the first university in Central Europe) built under his patronage. Alas, Charles' son, Wenceslas IV Luxembourg (d. 1419), proved unworthy of his inheritance. During a long reign, he was twice imprisoned for lengthy spells by rebellious Bohemian nobles, and eventually deposed in both Germany and Bohemia; Wenceslas' brother, Sigismund (d. 1437), succeeded him, who was already king of Hungary. Into this volatile atmosphere emerged Jan Hus, principle preacher at the influential Bethlehem Chapel and professor at Prague University. For ten heady years, Hus preached and agitated along largely Wycliffite lines in his own native Czech rather than Latin, comprehensible to ordinary men and women. He was first and foremost an ecclesiastical reformer, but this was also about the still-unresolved tension between Slavs and Germans for control along the Elbe. Hus made Prague so unfriendly to thousands of German teachers and students that they left en masse, relegating the city’s famous university to obscurity. With the Great Papal Schism moving to a close, Hus' criticisms of the Church put him in obvious personal danger. As a prominent voice for ecclesiastical reform, he was naturally invited to the ecumenical council of Constance (1414) to defend his views; the same council that restored unity to the papacy. Emperor Sigismund reassured him by promises of safe-conduct, but Hus perhaps knew what his fate would be, making his will before setting out. Within weeks of his arrival at Constance, Jan Hus was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake, apparently with the emperor's tacit approval. Hus' outraged followers erupted at the news, led the remarkable Jan Trocznowski (d. 1424), better known as Jan Žižka ("one-eyed" Jan), a successful general who had fought at the Battle of Grunwald (July 1410), and probably at Agincourt (October 1415) as an English mercenary. In 1419, the Hussites headed by Žižka marched through the streets of Prague to the Town Hall, and tossed several members of king's council from the windows to their deaths; sparking the Hussite Revolt (1419-1434) as well as introducing the word "defenestration" into European political lexicon. Skilled metal-workers, Hussite citizen armies were some of the earliest adopters of field artillery (mobile cannon-wagons) and arquebuse (the first reasonably portable firearms), at a time when both horses and men were naturally gun-shy. They also developed the military tactic we might call circling-the-wagons, creating temporary fortification made of armoured wagons arranged in a circle. The Hussites defeated four separate imperial-papal armies, and repeatedly ravaged central and northern Germany, even reaching the Baltic coast, where, it is said, they filled their drinking-flasks with sea-water to show that the Slavs, not the Germans, now owned the Baltic Sea. Eventually, the Hussites split into moderate and radical factions, and began fighting among themselves. In 1434, they submitted to the authority of the Bohemian king and Catholic Church. The peace agreement was a fudge: moderate Hussites were allowed to worship in their own idiosyncratic way; their seizure of church lands was authorized; and Bohemia was granted an effectively national church under a locally-elected archbishop. Despite this apparent victory, the Hussite Revolt left Bohemia devastated, impoverished, and under German dominance once again; this time by the Austrian Habsburgs.

Erasmus lived in search of knowledge, in pursuit of piety, and in fear of poverty. "When I get a little money I buy books," he wrote. "If any is left … I buy food and clothes". Along the way, he raised questions that would be influential in both the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.

There had also appeared in the 15th-century another current in religious life, perhaps more profoundly subversive than Wycliffe or Hus, because, it contained forces which might cut at the roots of the traditional religious outlook itself. This was the learned, Humanist, rational, intellectual movement which, for want of a better word, we call Religious Humanism. It is associated above all with the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (d. 1536), a sometime monk and later the foremost scholar of his time in all of Europe. Erasmus spent most of his life travelling Europe, finding employment as he could, and bringing him into contact with other like-minded men such as Thomas More of England and Lefèvre d’Etaples of France. The interest which united them can be described as using humanist learning, not as an alternative to Christianity, but as a means to deepen Christian spiritual life. Erasmus was profoundly loyal to his faith, and that meant, unquestionably, that he did not challenge the authority of the papacy or Catholic Church. But in a subtler way he challenged that authority in principle, for his scholarly and popular work had implications which were deeply subversive. Erasmus learned Greek so as to carefully edit the New Testament in its original form, stating in his preface that he wanted the holy text translated into every language to bring the Gospel truth closer to ordinary men and women. By correcting and analysing Scripture, he hoped to renew theology, but, unwittingly, became a great exposer of the spurious texts upon which bizarre Church dogma had been raised. Of that Church, he had a detached and even satirical view of the foibles of contemporary ecclesiastical reality, which envisioned reform from within. This reform would be based on what Erasmus called the “philosophy of Christ”, which emphasized inner spirituality and personal morality rather than doctrinal observances and outward displays of piety such as pilgrimages to religious relics; he once quipped that it was unfortunate there were only twelve apostles, because fourteen of them were buried in Germany. Erasmus was the centre of the literary movement of his time, corresponding with more than five hundred men in the worlds of thought and of politics, including Charles V Habsburg and Henry VIII of England. Though him, they learned to disentangle their own logic and faith from the mummified traditions of the Church, laying the intellectual foundations for the coming Reformation; when monks accused him of “laying the egg that Luther hatched”, Erasmus replied that he had expected “quite another kind of bird”. But events overtook this well-meaning man. In later life, Erasmus was side-lined for refusing to come-down firmly on Luther and the growing Reformation, instead emphasizing a middle way; his collegue and friend, Thomas More, died a martyr because he could not in good conscience accept the political cynicism of the English Reformation.

Discontent with the church practice and clerical behaviour was something in the air at the beginning of the 16th-century, waiting for the man and the occasion which would make them into a religious revolution. No other term is adequate to describe what followed the unwitting act of a German monk named Martin Luther.

Protestant Reformation[]

Martin Luther, the German monk who forever changed Christianity when he sparked the Protestant Reformation, becoming one of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of Christianity.

Martin Luther (d. 1546) was the son of a copper mine owner in Saxony, who enrolled at the University of Erfurt, intending to become a lawyer. In 1505, he was caught in a thunderstorm, and vowed to become a monk if his life was spared. Much to his father’s dismay, he took this vow seriously, joined an Augustinian monastery, and switched his studies from law to theology. In 1508, he accepted a position as professor at the the newly founded University of Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life except for brief absences. In 1510, he had an opportunity to visit Rome, and came away disillusioned and discouraged by the corruption, immorality, and lack of spirituality at the very heart of Christendom. Luther was somewhat tormented in spirit, obsessed by doubts about his own sinfulness and fears of damnation, This led him to fast frequently, wear a hair-shirt, and pour through the Scriptures, verse by verse, giving commentary. In working through the letters of Paul, he found the basis of an essential understanding of Christianity different from the one he had been taught. Luther’s thinking is based on two principles. The first, sola scriptura ("Scripture alone"), asserts that God’s word is revealed only in Bible, not in the traditions of the Church. It was a fundamentalist demand to cleanse Church teaching, creed, and practice of everything that could not be based solely on the Scriptures. This was nothing new; Wycliffe, Hus, and even St. Augustine (d. 430) could be quoted in favour of it. The second pillar of Luther, sola fide ("faith alone"), was genuinely radical. For Christians, salvation and redemption is a free gift of God's grace, attainable only through faith, not good works on the part of the individual. No one can "buy" Heaven through enough good deeds, observance of the sacraments, or endless pilgrimages. This contrasted with Catholic teaching that both faith and good works are necessary for salvation. At the same time that Luther was experiencing his inspiration, materialism within the Church was offensively evident in Germany. Foremost among the German high nobility was Bishop Albrecht of Mainz (d. 1545), one of the seven prince-electors. Albrecht held the archbishopric of Magdeburg in addition to Mainz. Such pluralism was against Canon Law, but Pope Leo X had agreed to overlook the irregularity in return for a large donation to the building costs of the new St. Peter’s Basilica. Both pope and archbishop were men of the world; the pope was a Medici. Leo made it possible for Albrecht to recover his costs by granting him permission to sell of Indulgences. Such a secret agreement might shock the faithful, but more immediately distressing to some was the behaviour of Johann Tetzel, a Dominican frair employed by Albrecht to run the indulgence sale. By all accounts, Tetzel was a showman, and went far beyond official Catholic doctrine on indulgences. He even had a catchy jingle, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs". In October 1517, gullible parishioners returned to Wittenberg with Tetzel's extra-potent sin-clearing certificates, and news of this travesty reached the ears of Luther. Nothing could be further from his concept of salvation by faith than the impudent selling of God's grace. Luther had often preached against indulgences in his sermons, but now he took a more public stand. As both a lawyer and theologian, he formulated his famous Ninety-Five Theses with great care, and enclosed a copy in a letter to Archbishop Albrecht, who passed them to Rome accusing Luther of heresy. According to some accounts, he also nailed them to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg. Such an act would have been very strange - they were written in Latin for those learned in theology, not ordinary church-goers - but it has become a standard part of Luther lore. The tone of the Theses is scholarly, rather than defiant, proposing them as subjects for debate. Instead of launching a debate in Wittenberg, he sparked a European conflagration of unparalleled violence. By January 1518 friends of Luther had translated the Theses from Latin into German, and the recently invented printing press transformed the situation. Within two weeks, copies had spread throughout Germany; within two months, they were everywhere in Europe. Luther was as surprised as anyone else by the eruption which now engulfed him. In the summer of 1518, Luther was ordered to present himself in Rome, which he was only able to avoid due to the intervention of Frederick "the Wise" of Saxony (d. 1525), whose rule included Wittenberg. The delay in scotching the chicken of heresy in the egg was fatal. Soon the papacy found itself confronted by a groundswell of support in Germany, fueled by deep grievance at centuries of papal interference, and sustained and inflamed by Luther’s own sudden discovery that he was a literary genius of astonishing fluency and productivity; the first to exploit the huge potential of the printed pamphlet. In his writings, sermons, and lectures, Luther continued to develop his reform ideas, moving further and further away from Catholic theology: asserting that both popes and ecumenical councils could err; that secular leaders should reform the Church if the papacy did not; that there was no distinction between clergy and lay people (an idea known as “the priesthood of all believers”); and that requiring clergymen to be celibate was a fruitless attempt to control a natural human drive.

Martin Luther's appearance at the Diet of Worms only created an even broader audience for reform ideas.

The papacy was determined to suppress this impertinence. In June 1520, a papal bull banned Luther's writings, and threatened him with excommunication unless he recanted. His response was to publicly burning a copy of the bull before a wondering audience; his excommunication followed in December 1521. The enforcement of the ban fell to the secular authorities, so supporters of Luther prevailed upon emperor Charles V Habsburg (d. 1556) to hear his case at the Diet of Worms (April 1521). Luther obtained a safe conduct to and from the imperial parliament, but was no doubt aware of the value of imperial promises to Jan Hus a century earlier. Luther arrived at Worms supported by a large number of enthusiastic German knights. In a lengthy speech before the assemble, he once again refused to give-in to demands that he recant his ideas. “Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture and plain reason,” he said, “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” The most famous part, “Here I stand”, has come to be viewed as the beginning of modern freedom of religious conscience; it was the title of a popular biography of Luther published in the 1950. Alas, the words have not stood up to historical scrutiny, recorded in none of the eye-witness accounts, and were added later as a rhetorical flourish. In response, Charles V and the Diet issued the Edict of Worms, declaring Luther an outlaw. He left Worms with his safe conduct guaranteed for a few days, but, once it expired, it became the duty of every loyal subjects to seize the heretic, and a crime to give him shelter. Bumping along in his wagon to Wittenberg, Luther was "abducted" by soldiers of Frederick the Wise, and taken to the safety of Wartburg Castle. The German princes were entangled it in their own complicated relations with the emperor and the papacy; Luther had become a handy weapon in the ancient struggle to decide who truly ruled Germany. Luther remained in hiding for the better part of a year, where he plunged into a task that profoundly influenced the development of both Protestantism and German literature; translating the New Testament into pithy colloquial German. The Luther Bible was ready for publication in 1522; and the complete Bible, with the Old Testament translated from the Hebrew, was published in 1534. Others had already translated the Bible into German, but Luther's rhymes and rhythms, consciously drawn from the speech of ordinary people, are timeless. Even the glories of England's King James Bible can’t compete. During Luther's absence, Wittenberg had degenerated into choas, with moderate and radical followers competing to put Luther's ideas into practice. Although still under threat of arrest, Luther returned to Wittenberg in March 1522, where he preached a series of powerful sermons that quickly calmed the situation. The German Reformation had by then become entangled in German politics and the country seemed on the verge of civil war. Luther was thus able to spend the rest of his life in his home city, writing and organising a new church, Lutheranism. Setting a model for later Protestant clergy, Luther married Katharina von Bora, a former nun, and the couple eventually had six children.

Huldrych Zwingli summarised his position in the Sixty-Seven Articles. Though 28 shy of Luther's Theses, they were more persuasive to secular authorities. Zwingli praised Luther as “that one Hercules ... who slew the Roman boar”, but Luther never held the Swiss pastor in such high regard.

There was no simple Reformation phenomenon; throughout Europe other individuals began to preach and publish against the existing doctrines and practices of the Church. In Switzerland, Huldrych Zwingli (d. 1531), the powerful preacher at Zürich's major church, developed his own reform ideas at the same time as Luther. The cities of Switzerland were the perfect context for the new movement of reform. Independent, free of any feudal ties, they were run by municipal councils in which merchant elites usually had the predominant voice. Zwingli agreed with Luther about the primacy of faith and the Scriptures, preached against indulgences, the veneration of saints, clerical celibacy, and began translating the Bible into Swiss German. He advocated an even simpler service than Luther, with no liturgy, music other than the singing of psalms, or church decorations; he sought an Iconoclast-style eradication of all religious images and shrines, no matter how historic or beautiful. Zwingli and Luther also disagreed vehemently about the meaning of the Eucharist, the central sacrament in Christianity, based on Jesus’ words as he gave his disciples bread and wine at the Last Supper. No issue in the Reformation was debated as sharply as the Eucharist. Although both rejected Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, Luther replaced it with a view of of Christ's presence even more difficult to grasp, while Zwingli understood it merely as a commemorative service. Luther attacked Zwingli as “of the Devil” and nothing but a “wormy nut”, until fellow reformer Martin Bucer (d. 1551) attempted to mediate between the pair. The three men met at Marburg in 1529, but could not reach agreement on the Eucharist, though they did agree to tone-down their rhetoric. From that point, the reform movement split into two major branches: followers of Luther now called Evangelical Protestantism and those who followed Zwingli called Reformed Protestantism. In general, Reformed ideas spread more widely in Switzerland and southern Germany, while Evangelical ideas in northern Germany and Scandinavia. Meanwhile, Zwingli recognized that, if reforms were going to be permanent, secular authorities as well as religious individuals would have to accept them. He worked closely with the municipal council of Zurich, which officially changed the structure of the church service, ordered that religious images be removed from churches, and established a new court to adjudicate cases that had previously been under the jurisdiction of the bishop’s court. Like Luther in Wittenberg, Zwingli faced radicals who believed that his reforms were too conservative, and moved independently toward a more extensive break with the past. Their leader, Conrad Grebel (d. 1526), insisted upon logic the sacrament of baptism; one of only two sacraments retained by Luther and Zwingli, the other being the Eucharist. If each member of the reformed faith is personally responsible for his/her relationship with God, then how can an infant be baptised? For this we now called this group “Anabaptists”. Under Zwingli's guidance, the reaction of Zürich was swift and extreme; "if they wanted water, they shall have it". Anyone even attending a ceremony of this kind was liable death by drowning. Anabaptists were just one of several emerging groups of the so-called “Radical Reformation”, whose theology and spiritual practices varied widely. Over the next century both Catholics and Protestants tortured and executed thousands of radicals in many parts of Europe, often in very gruesome ways. Persecution led them to move to parts of Europe that were more tolerant and later even further; Socinians went to Ottoman Hungary, Hutterites to southern Russia, while Baptists, Unitarians, and Quakers to the United States, among others. Anabaptists themselves survive in off-shoots such as the Mennonites and Amish.

John Calvin, widely considered the pre-eminent Protestant theologian in the second generation of the Reformation.

Switzerland’s most important contribution to the Reformation was created by John Calvin (d. 1564). Calvin was born in France and originally studied law. Having converted to Protestantism, he fled persecution in Catholic France for Geneva in 1534, where he soon published The Institutes, a synthesis of Protestant thought arranged in a logical, systematic way. In this, Calvin sets out his key doctrine: God is all-power but loving; the fall of Adam separated humanity from God's love; all humanity is completely sinful and depraved; redemption and a possible reunion with God comes through the redemptive power of Christ; and there is no free will, for God has determined who will be saved and who will not. The latter idea, the doctrine of predestination, had been asserted by Christian thinkers since St. Augustine (d. 430), but Calvin made it absolute. God’s election occurred at the beginning of time, so one's own actions could do nothing to change one’s fate. It is not easy to understand the success of this gloomy creed. However, asking how do we recognize the elect, Calvin replied that we cannot know for sure, but we can confidently say that immoral people are not saved and good people are; those who pray, who attend mass, who are hard-working, honest, thrifty, and generous of spirit. Since redemption had already been decided, human energies could be put to fulfilling God-given “calling” (occupation or profession) in this world. Calvinism ultimately appealed to a wide spectrum of people, but proved especially popular with urban professionals who were attracted to its vigour and dynamism. In 1538, Calvin was expelled by Geneva's city council, alarmed at the rigour of his creed. He sheltered in Strasbourg for three years until Geneva reconsidered, having lapsed in his absence into religious discord. On his return, Calvin sets about transforming the city into a civic theocracy; the church and state should act together, and the leaders of the church should have ultimate authority. Under Calvin, Geneva was not a place for the easy-going. A well-disciplined city, like a well-disciplined individual, might be evidence of God’s election. Most public entertainment - such as theatres, dances, card games, and even drinking - were prohibited or restricted, both because they could lead to immorality and wasted time for the elect. The pastors investigated and disciplined those guilty of heresy, profanity, adultery, gambling, witchcraft, family fights, premarital sex, and absence from church. They made annual visit to every home, and encouraged people to report improper behaviours of their neighbours. Their punishments ranged from scolding to whipping to the death penalty, On one occasion a young man was beheaded for striking his father. Men and women received the same punishment, unlike the European norm in which women were considered morally and intellectually weaker, so indulged with milder punishments. On the credit side, there was a more democratic approach to church affairs. The presbyterian system puts power jointly in the hands of pastors and lay elders, with neither having any authority until elected by the congregation. Calvin was, meanwhile, deeply committed to uplifting the French Huguenots in his homeland, and poured enormous energies into an academy for those who wished to become clergymen and missionaries. Moreover, Geneva became the unofficial epicentre of the Protestant movement, providing refuge for exiles from all over Europe; most were greatly impressed by what they saw. Calvinism spread in different patterns in various parts of Europe. In Germany, it became the state church of a few principalities, even though it was not officially recognized by the Peace of Augsburg. In England, Calvinist reformers worked within the state church to move theology in a Calvinist direction, which came to be called Puritanism. In Scotland, John Knox, who had studied with Calvin in Geneva, worked through the Scottish Parliament to set up a Calvinist state church; Scottish settlers took Calvinism to Ireland later in the century. In France and the Dutch Reformation, which were officially Catholic, they were initally organized secretly, though later more openly.

The variety of the Protestant Reformation defies summary and simplification. Complex and deep-rooted in its origins, it owed much to circumstance and was varied in its expressions. In Europe, it was disruptive, creating new ecclesiastical cultures founded on the study of the Bible, intense personal scrutiny, and preaching, to which it gave an importance sometimes surpassing even the sacraments. Negatively, it called into question all existing ecclesiastical institutions and created political forces which princes could manipulate for their own ends; usually against the popes whom they saw simply as princes like themselves. Rightly, Protestantism was to become one of the forces determining the shape of modern Europe and therefore of the world.

Catholic Counter-Reformation[]

The Council of Trent (1545-63), assembled to counter the Protestant momentum. It succeeded where several pervious attempts at reform had fail due to powerful individuals who liked the status quo.

Leaders within the Catholic Church responded to the Protestant challenge with the Counter-Reformation (1534-1645). which historians see as two interrelated movements, one a drive for internal reform linked to earlier reform efforts, and the other a series of measures designed to combat Protestantism intellectually, politically, militarily, and institutionally. In both, the papacy became the centre of the reform movement rather than its chief opponent. It began somewhat fitfully under Pope Paul III (1534-49), who appointed reform-minded cardinals to report on abuses within the church. The cardinals found evidence of many of the failings pointed to by Martin Luther, including simony (buying and selling church offices), pluralism (holding several offices at once), incompetent and absentee bishops, laxity in monastic orders, and inadequately trained priests. But it took the pope a full 11-years to finally establish a formal response, an ecumenical council at Trent in northern Italy in 1545. The delay was largely caused by the many conflicting interests between Charles V Habsburg and Francis I of France; the former insisted on it being held on imperial territory, while the latter feared that may somehow benefit Charles. From an unpromising start, the council grew in stature, meeting off and on for the next 18-years until 1563. By the end it proved a turning point for the Catholic Church, responding with considerable vigour to the two prongs of the Protestant counter-challenge. On the question of abuses within the Church, the council accepted the validity of the criticism, and put in place corrective measures: doing away with simony and pluralism; requiring bishops to live within their dioceses; founding seminaries to properly train clerics in preparation for a more austere life; archbishops and bishops were given more authority; and parishes took on new importance. On doctrinal matters, the council refuses to yield an inch: the number of sacraments remained at seven; transubstantiation was reaffirmed; clergymen were to remain celibate and chaste; redemption by good works as well as by faith was endorsed; the efficacy of pilgrimages and relics restated; and the Pope's right to grant Indulgences was confirmed, though the involvement of any fee was forbidden. Theologians, such as Robert Bellarmine, were tasked with defending Catholic doctrinal positions that had been attacked by the Protestant reformers, though none could rival the eloquence and moral engagement of Luther or the passion of John Calvin. Paul III, and his successors, Paul IV (d. 1559) and Pius IV (d. 1565), also supported measures designed to stop the Protestant momentum. The Inquisition was given the power to investigate those committing acts deemed theologically unacceptable, and was particularly effective at ending Protestantism in Italy. In 1556, the popes promulgated the first Index Librorum Prohibitorum ("Index of Prohibited Books"), a list of thousands of book and authors that Catholics were forbidden to read, print, or distribute; it later included intellectual works of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. Like Reformation, the Counter-Reformation went beyond forms and principles in a new devotional intensity, rejuvenating the fervour of laity and clergy alike. Besides making weekly attendance at mass obligatory, and regulating baptism and marriage more strictly, it sought, too, to redeem rural districts sunk in traditional superstition so deep that missionaries called them "our Indians".

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, an important force in the two major objectives of the Counter-Reformation; Catholic education and missionary work.

Reforms involved monastic orders as well. Older orders - such as the Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans - carried-out measures to restore discipline and get back to their original aims of caring for the poor and the sick, and public preaching. The most important of the new religious orders was the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, founded by Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556). Loyola was a Spanish nobleman and gallant soldier. After being wounded in one of Charles V's wars, he was force to lie in bed recuperating for weeks. During this time, he found himself without the kind of books he enjoyed, heroic romances. Instead, the only reading available was a religious text by a German monk about the lives of saints, in which the spiritual life was conceived as one of holy chivalry; the idea fascinated Loyola. Like Luther, he went through a period of inner turmoil, obsessed by doubts about his past sins. But rather than a new theological approach, he ultimately resolve this through a rigorous program of meditation, prayer, and self-discipline; adapted from Christian mysticism. He later described his techniques in the Spiritual Exercises. At the age-of-33, Loyola began preparing himself for a spiritual life. With no formal educations, he first enrolled at a preparatory school to improve his Latin; his classmates were under 14-years-old. After this, he spent a decade or so studying theology in the Spanish universities of Alcalá and Salamanca, and then Paris; by a curious irony, he studied in Paris at the same time as John Calvin, though it is not recorded that they ever met. In each university, the charasmatic Loyola gathered a group of like-minded young followers, including Francis Xavier, whose later missionary work in Asia won him the title "Apostle of the Indies". Though most of them were not ordained, they bound themselves together by taking the standard monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1537, they travelled together to Rome to offer their services directly to Pope Paul III, echoing the visits of St. Francis and St. Dominic to Innocent III. Like these 13th-century saints, Loyola was very much of his own time; a man of the 16th-century, where the twin challenges were the drift of much of Europe into Protestant heresy, and the opening up of a far-flung pagan world by the Age of Discovery. To these challenges Loyola could bring the energy and the organising skills of a veteran soldier. After some initial misgivings, the pope responded in 1540 by recognizing the group as a new religious order, the Society of Jesus. Their warrior-founder liked to think of the Jesuits, as they soon came to be called, as the militia of the Church, highly centralized, utterly disciplined, and completely subordinate to papal authority; they were sometimes dubbed "Soldiers of God". By his death in 1556, Loyola's order has more than 1,000 members. Preparation for admission took many years of training, and only those who passed rigid examination were allowed to take the special fourth vow of obedience to the pope as a full member. In Europe, the Jesuits undertook extremely effective missionary work both in areas that were wavering in their loyalty, such as Poland-Lithuania, and in territories that had officially become Protestant, such as England, despite the risk of arrest and execution. The order founded schools, taught at universities, and composed thousands of textbooks; during their first two centuries, the Jesuits established over 700 schools in Europe and another hundred in the rest of the world. Their intellectual eminence and political skill raised them to high places in the courts of Europe; often becoming confessors to kings. Meanwhile, the Jesuits were at the forefront of missionary efforts in every part of the world. Francis Xavier (d. 1552), one of the original companions of Loyola, led an extensive mission into Asia, notably to India and Japan; he is reputed to have converted more people than anyone since Paul the Apostle. Matteo Ricci (d. 1610) is considered the founding figures of the Christian missions to China; he became the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601. Jesuit missionaries were also active among indigenous peoples in New France (Canada), Portuguese Brazil, and the Spanish Americas.

With the ancient colourful certainties reinforced, an improved priesthood entering service, and the foot-soldiers of the Jesuits, the Catholic Church was suddenly well placed to confront the Protestant challenge, and to provide standards to which Catholic rulers could rally. Many Catholics really took the Church's reforms to heart, intensifying their devotions. Among the most renowned was the Spanish nun and mystic, Teresa of Ávila (d. 1582). At age 21, against her family's wishes, Teresa professed vows as a Carmelite nun at Ávila. The convent was known for its leniency, but, after a serious illness forced her to spend three-years in relative quiet, she began to live-out the Church's rededication to faith and good works, being extremely strict in her practice. She was a proponent of self-flagellation in imitation of Christ's suffering on the cross. Increasingly at odds with the spiritual malaise prevailing in her convent, she began founding reformed Discalced Carmelite convents restoring austerity and strictness to religious life. Teresa's written contributions, which include her autobiography The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work The Interior Castle, went on to become Counter-Reformation classics. The same reforming zeal was applied to monasteries by Spanish friar, St John of the Cross (d. 1591). Saints such as Teresa of Avila, and there would be several during the 17th century, were the perfect Catholic response to the Protestant reformers; they were as morally severe as any Swiss Calvinist or English Puritan. This revitalization was also a matter of devotional life at the local level. Confraternities, Catholic voluntary associations of lay people, were established or expanded in many urban parishes and even in villages; Venice had almost 400 by 1700. They held processions and feasts, handed out charity to the poor, administered hospitals and orphanages, and purchased candles, furnishings, and art for churches. It is conventional to call this renewal of the Catholic Church the Counter-Reformation, but the phrase is too negative. In the end, the movement had effects just as deep and long-lasting as the Protestant Reformation.

Henry VIII of England[]

Henry VIII Tudor, whose quarrel with the papacy over his wish to dissolve the first of his six marriages in order to remarry and get an heir, led almost by accident to the English Reformation. His declaration of church supremacy was, in a way, a jump from the frying pan of papacy into the fire of divinely ordained monarchy. That battle was to come under the Stuarts.

Henry VIII Tudor (1509-1549 AD) is without doubt one of England's most famous kings; arguably one of the world’s most famous kings. Part medieval tyrant, part glamorous "Renaissance Prince", the complexities and sheer scale of his legacy ensured that, in the words of one historian, "throughout the centuries, Henry has been praised and reviled, but he has never been ignored". When Henry ascended the throne he was just seventeen. A well-proportioned, good-looking but restless youth, until his brother Arthur’s death he had been intended by his father, Henry VII. for the Church. He was unusually intellectual, the first English king to receive a first-rate humanist education from leading tutors; he read and wrote English, French, and Latin, his annotations filling the books in his large library. He was also a complicated man; intelligent, athletic, a poet, boisterous, passionate, arrogant, and ruthless. Henry’s first act, even before his coronation, was to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon (d. 1536), the daughter of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. He respected the Roman Church and won ready dispensation from the pope to marry a sister-in-law, on the grounds, strongly asserted by Catherine, that her marriage to the 15-year-old Arthur had been unconsummated. There is every sign that Henry and Catherine were happy. She was attractive and intelligent, and they remained together for the first twenty years of his reign. At this stage in his life, Henry cared little for politics, spending most of his time on his leisure - gambling, jousting, hunting and tennis - with government delegated to the royal council. Like his Henry VII, he chose advisers on merit rather than birth, the most prominent initially being Archbishop Thomas Wolsey (d. 1530), thought to have been a butcher’s son. Under king and cardinal, the avoidance of foreign wars, so scrupulously maintained by Henry VII, broke down. In 1511, Pope Julius II made an abrupt about-face in the Italian Wars (1494–1559), creating the the anti-French Holy League. Henry followed Ferdinand V of Spain, and Maximilian I Habsburg into the new League against Louis XII of France, having decided to use the excuse to revive the hoary claim to French territory. In 1512 he sent an army under Thomas Grey of Dorset to reconquer Aquitaine, which England had lost during the Hundred Years' War, only to see it return defeated. A year later, Henry went to France in person, besieging Thérouanne, defeating a French relief force at the Battle of the Spurs (August 1513), and besieging and taking Tournai. The French kind urged James IV of Scotland (d. 1513) to honour the Auld Alliance, renege on Henry VII’s Treaty of Perpetual Peace, and respond in kind to this English aggression. In August, James crosses the river Tweed to invade northern England. In Henry's absence, Thomas Howard of Surrey was charged with driving the invaders back to Scotland. The two sides met at the Battle of Flodden (September 1513), one of the biggest disasters in Scottish history. Scottish pikemen were slaughtered by storms of English arrows, with Henry’s brother-in-law James IV killed in the fighting, alongside 10,000 soldiers includning a large proportion of the nobility. The Scottish crown devolved on to the head of an infant, James V, as Scotland entered a profoundly unsettled period. Meanwhile, Henry decided not to pursue the war with France; he had been supporting Ferdinand and Maximilian, but received little in return, and England's coffers were now empty. Wolsey had a key role in negotiating the subsequent Anglo-French peace treaty, under which England retained Tournai, secure an annual pension, and Louis XII would marry Henry's young sister, Mary. Wolsey was now in the ascendant. Twenty years the king’s senior, he became chief minister in 1515 and a cardinal the same year, uniting in his portly person the political power of church and state. Henry meanwhile dabbled in ship-building, expanding the royal navy from five ships to thirty. and theology, corresponding with Erasmus. When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg church in 1517, Henry wrote a lengthy denunciation of them; a grateful pope awarded him the title "Defender of the Faith", which still graces all British coins. The king and Wolsey now looked across the Channel at the emerging conflict between new kings Charles V Habsburg and François I of France, but were soon out of their diplomatic depths. In 1520 came the ultimate folly of a star-struck ruler; a summit conference with Francis, the Field of Cloth of Gold at Guînes, near Calais. Pavilions in renaissance designs containing a great hall, a chapel, and a fountain in the courtyard with three separate spouts from which flowed water, spicy wine, and red wine. The meeting between the two monarchs with a retinue of some 6,000 attendants was interspersed with jousting and entertainers. The strong air of competition laid to rest any hopes of friendly relations in place of the wars of the previous decades. Wolsey instead arranged an alliance with Charles V, but England’s only rewards were to lose the French subsidy won at Tournai, reprisals against the English cloth trade with the Dutch Netherlands, and a growing enmity between Henry and Wolsey. The cardinal's magnificently expanded palace at Hampton Court, outshining Henry’s Richmond, became a source of envy rather than wonder, as did his new Cardinal’s College in Oxford.

Painting of Catherine of Aragon's speech at the Legatine Trial at Blackfriars, a moment accurately rendered in Shakespeare's play Henry VIII.

It was at this time, the mid-1520s, that Henry VIII concluded that his marriage was cursed. A wife in any great dynastic marriage was expected to provide a male heir for her husband, and in this, Catherine of Aragon tragically failed. She bore Henry six children, three of them sons. All were either stillborn or died in infancy, except for one, a daughter Mary, the future Queen Mary Tudor. But female succession was risky, especially as the Wars of the Roses had shattered the certainty of royal succession. No woman had inherited the English throne since Matilda in the 12th-century, and she did not provide an encouraging example. Henry had fathered at least one illegitimate son - Henry Fitzroy of Richmond, born in 1519 to his mistress Elizabeth Blount - which convinced him that the problem was his marriage. Some historian have speculated that a genetic abnormality explains both his reproductive problems and his later physical decline, but his own diagnosis was that his marriage to Catherine was against God’s commandments, as laid down in the Book of Leviticus, “Who so marrieth his brother’s wife doth a thing that is unlawful, he shall be without sons”. This, in fact, is mistranslated from Hebrew, and should say “they shall be childless”, but that of course did not fit. Meanwhile, Henry was openly infatuated with Anne Boleyn, a charismatic lady-of-the-court of 25. She had been unusually well-educated in Paris for a woman of that time, and dazzled the court with her French clothes, music, dancing, and wit. Although her sister, Mary, had been one of Henry’s earlier mistress, Anne rejected his advances, even when reinforced with a shower of jewels and lover’s knots. She would have no sexual relations with him while he was still married to Catherine. A divorce could be achieved by a papal annulment of the marriage. There was good recent precedent; Louis XII of France had his first marriage annulled in 1498, for the nakedly political reason of securing Brittany for France. To allow Henry’s current marriage to Catherine, the pope had accepted that she had never consummated her marriage to his brother, Arthur. Henry now needed to assert the reverse, that it had been consummated, and therefore his marriage to Catherine was invalid. The obstacle was that Catherine resisted with Spanish defiantly stuck to her story, denying the consummation; an annulment would make her daugter illegitimate. In addition, politics inhibited any readiness by Pope Clement VII to be accommodating. After the Battle of Pavia, the pope was effectively a prisoner of the Charles V Habsburg, who was Catherine’s nephew. Circumstances made the issues of principle - which Henry took very seriously - far more dangerous. Could the pope interpret (or as Henry saw it, break) God’s law expressed in the Bible? Was the pope superior to a Christian king in his own realm? These were burning questions in the 1520s and 1530s. Henry was not a patient man, and his attempt to persuade the Pope to annul his marriage took the form of pressure and threats. His explosive frustration, exacerbated by a jousting wound in his leg, led him, in Wolsey’s words, "to put one half of his realm in danger … and set private whim against all Christendom". Wolsey struggled hard to secure an annulment, but failed and his star abruptly fell. In 1529, he was stripped of his offices and property, most famously Hampton Court, which became one of Henry's favourite residences. Wolsey fell ill and died on the journey south from York to the Tower of London. Yet his disappearance solved nothing.

Henry chose as his councillors talented men, often from humble backgrounds. His meritocracy advanced lawyers and clerks such as Cardinal Wolsey (left) and Thomas More (right) and (opposite) Thomas Cromwell (left) and Archbishop Cranmer (right), for whom place and corruption enabled them to acquire land and thus influence at court and parliament.

Henry VIII now took his revenge on the Church, as Wolsey had predicted. From 1529, he had parliament pass one measure after another to remove the English Church from the jurisdiction of Rome. Although those who held Protestant sympathies in England remained a minority of the population until political events intervened, but they were particularly prevalent among certain groups; merchants with connections to continental Europe, humanist academics, lawyers who resented the clerical privileges, and political opponents of Wolsey. Henry's legislation thus passed the House of Commons easily, but in the Lords, where bishops were strong, there was furious resistance. Henry was not a subtle man, so cajoled, pressured and bullied the Lords; three bishops were arrested, and pardoned only after paying a huge fine. Meanwhile, more and more men, who were hostile to Rome, were appointed to senior clerical offices, most importantly Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) soon to be made an archbishop. In 1532, Thomas More, successor to Wolsey, balked at a final breach with Rome, and, resigned, rather than concede the king’s absolute supremacy over the church, passing his office to a brilliant young lawyer, Thomas Cromwell (d. 1540). By December of that year, Anne Boleyn was pregnant, and, lest his child be born out-of-wedlock, the king pursued both his will and his pleasure with despatch. In January, he privately married Anne, the bigamy quietly ignored. In March, Cranmer was appointed to the recently position of Archbishop of Canterbury; approved by the pope in an effort to prevent a final breach. In April, parliament approved the crucial Act of Restraints in Appeals, ending legal recourse to Rome. In May, Archbishop Cranmer, sitting in judgement at a special court at Dunstable Priory, ruled Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon illegal, and his marriage to Anne Boleyn valid. In June, Anne was crowned queen, while Catherine was banished from court, and forbidden to see her daughter Mary. In 1534 Henry enacted the formal Act of Supremacy, under which the king was "supreme head in earth of the Church of England", and made it treason punishable by death to deny it. Prominent figures in public life were required to swear on oath of their acceptance. A few brave men refuse to do so, including two men of European fame: Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, a pioneer of Greek and Hebrew learning; and Sir Thomas More, former chief minister and renowned author of Utopia (1516), an original work of humanist thought descibing an imaginary land governed by equality and justice. Fisher had gone so far as to encourage Charles V Habsburg to intervene, while More had firmly remained silent though now this was being described as "a silence that echoed across Europe". A compromise would have been possible, as Archbishop Cranmer urged, but Henry insisted on complete public submission. At show trials in 1535, both were found guilty and beheaded. But most bishops and lower clergy obeyed the king’s will, as did the nobility. This did not make them Protestants. Henry himself was no evangelical reformer, and doctrine was barely involved. He reconfirmed almost all Roman Catholic beliefs and practices such as transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, confession to a priest, withholding communion wine from the laity, prayers for the dead, and salvation from good works (not from faith alone). Those less moderate than himself - even those close to him - risked the block; he continued to have Lutherans or Calvinanist burned as heretics throughout his reign. Henry had not so much denied the pope, as usurped him; instead of the Roman Catholic Church, there was to be an English Catholic Church. The Church of England would only begin to be transformed into a recognisably Protestant denomination during the regency of his son, Edward VI Tudor, but conflicts between conservatives and radical reformers within the Church would convulsed England for more than 150 years.

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, founded in the 7th century, and, by the 14th century, one of the richest and most influencial monasteries in England. It was dissolved in 1539, after the last abbot, Richard Whiting, was hanged-drawn-and-quartered. As a member of the House of Lords, Whiting had assented to the Act of Supremacy when it was first presented to him in 1534.

Henry did back reform where pilgrimages and monasteries were concerned. By the former, he wanted to forestall the dangerous likelihood of More and Fisher becoming modern Thomas Beckets, popular defenders of the church's liberties. Royal injunctions were issued ordering the destruction of shrines and images to which pilgrimage offerings were made, such as lighting votive candles; the shrine of the "traitor" Becket were destroyed at Canterbury Cathedral. Meanwhile, Henry set about replenishing the royal coffers with the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the efficient Thomas Cromwell. While the king was not opposed to religious houses on theological grounds, there was concern over the loyalty of the monastic orders, which were international in character and resistant to the new royal authority. The confiscation was not unprecedented; Henry V had dissolved around ninety smaller houses to pay for Agincourt; and Gustav Vasa of Sweden provided a tempting contemporary example. Beginning in 1535, Cromwell's were sent out to make a detailed inventories of ecclesiastical property, and to find evidence of laxity, immorality and corruption; not hard to find prior to the Catholic Counter-Reformation. In 1536, the process began of closing down nearly 900 monasteries, convents and other religious houses, and confiscating their wealth; their land, their libraries, their art, their jeweled shrines and sacred vessels. Most were stripped and then demolished, often using gunpowder. Many sites became quarries, the excellent stone used for a slew of picturesque Tudor manor-houses. Monasteries had often been unpopular as landlords, but their suppression, and fear of what might follow, provoked the biggest popular uprising of the century in northern England, calling itself the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-37). The participants, who numbered over 40,000, demanded an end to the closure of religious houses, which were centred of community life and relied on by the poor for food and shelter. Many were simply devout Catholics distressed at the upheaval that the king and parliament had visited on their faith. They repaired and reopened some monasteries that had been closed. Henry was responded with characteristic vindictiveness, promising the rebels that he would "burn, spoil and destroy their goods, wives, children with all extremity". But Thomas Howard of Norfolk, sent to suppress them, risked his master's wrath and negotiated, promising a general pardon and a parliament to be held at York to address their demands. As in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the rebels should never have trusted him. When the danger subsided, Henry renounced all concessions, and ordered summary executions of rebels. In all, 216 people were tried and executed, including two lords, seven abbots, and several knights. By 1540, all monasteries, convents and other religious houses had gone. Monastic lands were sold to anyone with money to pay, creating a revolution as a new merchant class gained access to a landed status previously confined to the nobility; forming a powerful interest group against a return to the old order. No comparable transfer of wealth had occurred since the Norman conquest. The consequence did more than anything to prepare the English nation for the modern age.

Henry's six wives were: Catherine of Aragon (mother of Queen Mary I), the union was annulled after 24 years; Anne Boleyn (mother of Queen Elizabeth I), beheaded after 3 years; Jane Seymour (mother of Edward VI), died in childbirth after a year; Anne of Cleves, the union was annulled after six; Catherine Howard, beheaded after one year; and Catherine Parr, died a year after her husband.

Not many men have six wives; even fewer execute two. It is not surprising that Henry VIII has an assured niche in popular English history. His marriage to Anne Boleyn, at first passionate, lasted only three years. The vivacity and opinionated intellect that had made her so attractive as an illicit lover, made her too independent to play the submissive role expected of a queen. Eight months after their marriage, came the disappointing birth of a girl, Elizabeth; the future Queen Elizabeth Tudor. For Henry, this was an apparently unforeseen catastrophe; he had defied his Church and fought parliament to beget a son, and Anne, like Catherine, had failed him. She instantly lost her charm, and he was soon comparing her unfavourably with the submissive charms of a 25-year-old court beauty, Jane Seymour (d. 1537), to whom the king shifted his favour. Anne's downfall came shortly after her third miscarriage, probably of a male child, in January 1536. In May of that year, she was suddenly arrested and sent to the Tower of London on charges of adultery. Anne’s fate has attracted many theories, but remains an enigma. Was it an all-out effort by Henry to leave his fruitless marriage? A plot engineered by Cromwell who viewed Anne as a liability in his pursuits of an alliance with Spain? Malicious and unfounded court gossip? Or simply the perils of being close to a merciless and unpredictable tyrant? A young household musician, Mark Smeaton, was arrested and confessed, probably under torture, to adultery with the queen. This single confession was sufficient, but three other courtiers, including Anne's own brother, were accused of being her lovers. Though the others protested their innocence, all four were tried, condemned, and executed on 17 May. Anne Boleyn herself was beheaded on Tower Green two days later, delayed only by her request to be beheaded in the French manner, with a sword rather than an axe. If Henry felt tearful self-pity at the execution of his wife, he soon got over it; eleven days later, he married Jane Seymour. In October 1637, she did at last bear a son, and England had a future king, Edward VI. but the birth was difficult and the queen died twelve days later. The euphoria that had accompanied Edward's birth turned to deep sorrow, but it was only over time that Henry came to long for his third wife; she was to be the only queen he chose to be buried with. At the time, Henry recovered quickly from the shock, and measures were put in place to find another wife, which, at Cromwell's insistence focused on a continental alliance, for the breach with Rome had pitted all of Catholic Europe against him. In 1539, he was persuaded to marry a Dutch princess, Anne of Cleves, as a diplomatic necessity. The story is famous. Cromwell eulogised on Anne’s beauty, backed up by a portrait of her as a glamorous young lady by the leading artist of the day, Hans Holbein. His diplomacy foundered on the rock of reality. Anne turned out to be a tall, lanky thirty-four-year-old with a pockmarked face who spoke only German. When she arrived in England, Henry went in disguise to meet her, and disliked her on sight, dubbing her no better than a "Flanders Mare". He conceded a diplomatic wedding, but carefully did not consummate it on the wedding night; parliament annulled the union within months. She backed out good-naturedly, and received a generous allowance with the title of "The King's Sister". Also part of the story is that Henry blamed Cromwell, which brought about his downfall. In June 1540, Cromwell, who had towered higher even than Wolsey, was brusquely arrested at a meeting of the royal council, and his badge of office ripped from his neck. As with most of the sudden dramas of Henry’s reign, the reasons are probably more complicated. Cromwell had shown himself too favourable to religious radical reformers, extending his monastic dissolution into a wave of iconoclasm, and facilitating the circulation Lutheran beliefs forbidden by the king. With his Reformation well advanced, Henry was now seized by doubts. He worried that he had gone beyond offending Rome and had offended God. In 1539, he passed the so-called Act of the Six Articles, explicitly aimed at radical Protestant evangelicals; Anabaptists were burned at the stake. Cromwell lost his head in July 1540, the day Henry married Catherine Howard (d. 1542), young niece of the powerful and conservative Duke of Norfolk. Henry - now an unhealthy fifty-year-old, grossly overweight, and in constant pains from gout - was undoubtedly less rampant than in his prime. His new queen was an auburn-haired 17-years-old, but she only briefly rekindled the dying embers. Catherine sought consolation from her large and gloomy husband by committing in reality what Anne Boleyn had been accused of; namely insanely reckless indiscretions with young men. When the king was inevitably informed that she had been neither a virgin on her wedding night, nor faithful as a wife, Catherine and her alleged lovers ended up on the scaffold in 1542. In a remarkable triumph of hope over experience, Henry got married yet again in 1543, to an intelligent and cultivated 31-year-old widow, Catherine Parr (d. 1548). This time nothing untoward happened, and, importantly, Catherine exerted a calming influence. She nursed her ailing husband, guarded Edward, and reconciled the king with his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth; both were restored to the line of succession to the throne in 1543. For his remaining few years, all Henry's children, from three different mothers, lived together for the first time in the royal household.

Thomas Wolsey’s great palace at Hampton Court became a source of envy rather than wonder. In 1528, he passed to the king as a gift, in a vain attempt to check his own downfall. Wolsey died two years.

As king, Henry VIII greatly expanded royal power during his reign. All the decisions were ultimately made by the king himself, and his closest advisors such as Wolsey, More, Cromwell, and later Richard Rich (d. 1567). This spurious air of autocracy was emphasized by the frequent use of strenghtened treason laws to quell dissent, often without a formal trial by means of bills of attainder. Henry did undoubtedly execute at will, including two of his wives, two top aides, eight close attendants and friends, 20 peers, one cardinal (John Fisher), and numerous abbots. Neverheless, as evident during Henry's break with Rome, he stayed within established limits, that forced him to work closely with parliament, though it proved highly supportive of his religious policy, with little dissent. Unlike his frugal father, Henry was an extravagant spender. He augmented the royal treasury by seizing church lands and converting money previously paid to Rome into royal revenue, but was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance. In 1538, Henry began the construction of an extravagant new palace in Surrey, lavishly decorated throughout in Renaissance style by craftsmen mainly from Italy, some of whom had worked on the French king's Fontainebleau. Its name reflected conscious competition, in this field as in others, with his fellow monarchs in Europe; it was called Nonsuch, a boast that there was no such palace elsewhere equal to it in magnificence. He seldom occupied Nonsuch Palace, and it survives only in a few prints, torn down in 1683. Vast sums also went on extending or adorning Richmond Palace, the Palace of Whitehall, Westminster Abbey, King's College Chapel in Cambridge, Trinity College, Cambridge, Christ Church in Oxford, and Wolsey's Hampton Court Palace. Henry is traditionally cited as one of the founders of the Royal Navy, increasing it from five ships to thirty and personally supervising the design of a seven-tier battleship, Henry Grâce à Dieu (also known as "Great Harry"), the biggest in Europe. By acts passed in 1536 and 1543, English law and administration were for the first time effectively extended both to Wales and to Ireland. In Wales, this was to some extent beneficial, as it abolished any legal distinction between the Welsh and English, and gave them representation in parliament. But the acts also contained an infamous language clause, banning Welsh speakers from public office. The effect was to codify a class system based on language; Welsh was now seen as the language of the lower class, with those of higher class choosing English over Welsh. The Welsh Tudors thus did more to suppress Welshness than any Plantagenet. As for Henry’s religious revolution, Wales for the most part followed England in accepting Anglicanism. In Ireland, it was a different story. In 1534 the powerful Fitzgeralds took advantage of Henry’s international isolation to rebel, though to secure broad support. What had effectively become a civil war was end by the intervention of 2,000 English troops - a large army by Irish standards - which began bloody and indiscriminate repression. This initiated the Tudor Conquest of Ireland, an escalation of violence and religious conflict that led to repeated atrocities during five wars over 150 years, as any hope of reasonable Anglo-Irish coexistence disappeared. The conflicts of the 16th century would be transmitted into every succeeding century. In foreign affairs, Henry desire to cut a figure on the European battlefields led him to re-enter the Italian Wars in 1542. With both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn dead, relations with Charles V improved considerably, and concluded a new alliance. The Anglo-French War (1542–1546) was a ruinously expensive and unsuccessful adventure, only remembered now because during a French attack on Portsmouth, in 1545, the great ship Mary Rose capsized and sank, drowning 500 men. In preparation for a planned march on Paris in alliance with the emperor, Henry moved to eliminate the potential threat of Scotland under youthful James V. The Battle of Solway Moss (November 1542) can only be described as a Scottish route; James, who was not present, died a short time later, it was said of "a broken heart". The next year, Henry hesitated to invade France, annoying Charles. When he finally went to France personally in 1544, but the long sieges of Boulogne and Saint-Dizier, and the failure of the allies to cooperate, meant the campaign fizzled out. By the end of the year, Charles concluded a seperate peace with France, leaving Henry with Boulogne, expensive to capture, fortify and garrison, and later sold back to the French at a loss. The most lasting effects of the war were a line of forts along the south coast built against a feared French counter-invasion, and the elevation of infant Mary Queen of Scots. There followed eight years of war between England and Scotland, a campaign later dubbed the Rough Wooing, to force Mary into marrying Henry's son Edward. The king’s powers were now waning; his armour for the French campaign survives, showing his vast obesity. As death approached, he appeared to modify his commitment to the Reformation, asking for masses to be said in perpetuity for his soul. In his last speech to parliament, on Christmas Eve 1545, Henry pleaded not for the old or the new religion but rather for a reconciliation between the two under a newly "nationalised" Church of England. But it was not a Catholic but his old Protestant ally, Archbishop Cranmer, who attended him at his death in 1547. Henry did what many European monarchs regarded as undoable, he defied Rome and survived. He was one of Europe’s great revolutionaries. Henry VIII was succeeded in turn by each of his three children, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.

Early Reformation in Germany[]


In imperial Germany, the Reformation became inexorably entangled with the ancient struggle to decide who truly ruled; the Holy Roman Emperor or the German princes. When Charles V Habsburg (d. 1558) secured the imperial throne in 1591, his vast dominions included, not only the German states of Austria and Bohemia (now Czechia and Slovakia), but also Spain, Flanders (now Belgium), the Dutch Netherlands, part of Hungary, Naples, and Sicily, as well as most of the New World. The famous phrase "the empire on which the Sun never sets" was first coined for this realms, rather than the later British Empire. Here at last was a king-emperor with the power and wealth to become a new Charlemagne. To secure their position against a ruler with such unheard-of resources, the German princes needed to find new resources of their own. They enlisted the support of their subject, by appealing to long-standing resentment at papal meddling in German politics, and by claiming that they were acting in the interests of the nation. Martin Luther himself unleashed his incomparable pen on a national tale of historical victimhood, "The Emperors Frederick, the First and the Second, and many other German emperors were, in former times, so piteously spurned and oppressed by the popes … Therefore let us rouse ourselves, fellow-Germans, and fear God more than man". This was not a new idea. In 1508, the German prince-electors claimed the privilege to crown the Holy Roman Emperor themselves, dispensing with the centuries-old custom of waiting for an imperial coronation by the popes. Meanwhile, Luther worked closely with secural princes, especially Frederick of Saxony, who kept him out of danger after being outlawed. He viewed them as fully justified in asserting control over, and reforming, the church within their territories. In On Secular Government he instructed all Christians to obey their secular rulers, whom he saw as divinely ordained. In this, Luther’s hopes were largely fulfilled. Individuals may have been convinced of the truth of Protestant teachings, but territories became Protestant when their ruler - whether a prince, a noble, or a city council - brought in pastors who had accepted Protestant ideas, sponsored public sermons, re-educated their clergy, supportrf schools and universities that would impart correct doctrine, closed convents and monasteries, and confiscated church property. This happened in many of the states of the Empire during the 1520s and '30s. There was a danger, too: might not Luther’s radicalism stir-up their subjects into reject all earthly authority? In the Knights' Revolt (1522-23), free-knights, who controlled small territories along the Rhine, revolted against larger territorial princes. Their grievances were primarily economic and military; knights were becoming obsolete because of recent military changes, and their small estates could not support them. But they used rhetoric based on Luther's ideas to justify their movement. This revolt was quickly suppressed but inspired another revolt with much more far-reaching consequences; the Great Peasants' War (1524-25). Peasants in many parts of Germany objected to new laws enclosing common land and resticting fishing rights, and rising levels of taxation. In 1524, what began as a protest about fishing in a particular stream, quickly became a widespread peasant rebellion; the largest mass uprising in Europe before the French Revolution. In March 1525, a union of seperate groups in central and southern German issued the Twelve Articles, calling for the complete abolition of serfdom, as it was invented by man without basis in Scripture; thus linking Protestant ideas of religious freedom with issues of social justice. Their demands were backed by military action, and peasant armies seized castles, noble houses, abbeys, and a few cities. They had expected Martin Luther to support them, but he was by nature conservative, urging rulers “as God’s sword on earth to knock down, strangle, and stab the insurgents as one would a rabid dog”. Peasant armies included former mercenaries, so were not completely inexperienced, but once veteran imperial armies returned from Italy to rally territorial rulers, they were duly crushed with brutality and vengeance; slaughtering upwards of 100,000 peasants and poor townsfolk.

The Reformation was now safe for the rulers of Germany. The first to take the plunge was the furthest from Rome, the Teutonic State beyond the Elbe. Their Grand Master, Albert Hohenzollern (d. 1568), having met Luther personally, declared himself no longer the mere head of a religious order obedient to the pope, but the hereditary duke of a Protestant state. This was in 1525; political Protestantism and Prussia were thus born in the same moment. Others followed where Prussia had gone: mostly northern German princes and southern German cities. While Charles V at first took a hard line on Luther, outlawing him and banning his work, thereafter, he became increasingly distracted by wars against Francis I of France and the Ottoman Turks. Hoping to pursue a policy of reconciliation, he called an Imperial Diet in 1530, to meet at Augsburg. Luther’s associate Melanchthon developed the Augsburg Confession, and the Protestant princes presented this to the king-emperor. He strongly rejected it and Protestant princes closed ranks, forming a military alliance called the Schmalkaldic League (1531). The military situation meant that Charles could not respond immediately; he had only recently seen off the Ottoman high tide at the Siege of Vienna (1529). The 1530s and early '40s saw complicated military and political maneuvering among many of the European powers, but, by 1543, Charles V had triumphed in his great struggle, and was now in no mood to compromise. Initially the king-emperor was very successful, driving the League's forces out of southern Germany, forcing the southern cities to come to terms, and culminiating in the Battle of Mühlberg (April 1547). A highly-trained veteran army, including the dreaded Spanish Tercios, marched deep into Germany, and decisively defeated the League on the banks of the Elbe. Once again, a Holy Roman Emperor seemed to bestride Germany. However much the German princes disliked one another, they disliked the prospect of losing their independence even more. Protestants and Catholics banded together and threatened to call on French help rather than allow Charles V to rule absolutely. After a period of inconclusive fighting, it was clear to both sides that no military victory could resolve the deep religious divisions within the empire. In 1555, a weary Charles V, desperate for a solution, instructed his brother, Ferdinand, to call another Imperial Diet at Augsburg to sign the Peace of Augsburg (1555) in his name. In effect, the emperor conceded to the reality that had emerged in Germany since Luther's Ninety-Five Theses sparked-off the conflict. Each German ruler, great or small, was given the right to decide whether to be Lutheran or Catholic; neither Calvinism nor Anabaptism were allowed. The formula was later succinctly described in the Latin phrase cuius regio, eius religio (whoever rules the territory, his is the religion). It was a curious concession for an emperor who had sought to create a united Empire with a single church. Yet it was one necessary if he was to keep any loyalty of Germany’s princes as a splendid but distant overlord. The Peace of Augsburg did accomplish what its makers had hoped: it ended religious war in Germany for many decades, in large part because the forces of Protestantism and Catholicism were so finely balanced. Limitations and problems in the settlement would become clear by the late-16th-century, with the issue fought out once again on bloody battlefields of the Thirty Years' War.

Scandinavia Reformation[]

Kalmar Union 1400.jpg

Compared with the religious turmoil that engulfed the European powerhouses of Germany, England, and France, Scandinavia adopted Protestantism somewhat more peacefully. After the 10th-century Viking Age, Scandinavia tends not to play a major role in wider European politics. The story of the next 500 years was one of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (which included what is now Finland) struggling to maintain stable kingdoms, with the added ambition of bringing one or both of the others into a political union. Norway gradually became the junior of the three, dominated first by Sweden, and then by Denmark. Denmark and Sweden, meanwhile, engaged in two closely related means of shifting the balance of power, warfare and marriages, set against a backdrop of moves by the German-dominanted Hanseatic League to gain monopoly control of the fur and fish trade. In 1388, Swedish nobles turned to Margaret Estridsen of Denmark (d. 1412) for help in opposing the Germans. Their combined efforts were successful, and in 1397 a treaty set up the Kalmar Union, uniting Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under Margaret. The treaty provided for a common foreign policy, but separate laws and representative assemblies in each kingdom. The Swedish Riksdag was unique, because along with the usual estates of clergy, nobility, and bourgeois, it had a fourth estate for the peasantry. The Kalmar Union (1397-1523) only briefly remained a political reality. Margaret's successor Eric VII Estridsen (1412-42) fought less successfully against the Hanseatic League and appointed Danes to public office in Sweden, souring relations. In 1438, the Swedish parliament effectively withdrew from the union, electing their own king, which in turn prompted the Danish nobility to depose the unpopular Erik. Attempts to restore the union of the three realms continued for another century, with only brief success. The last such king, Christian II Oldenburg of Denmark (d. 1523), reconquered Sweden on his third attempt in 1520, though it proves a shortlived triumph. With almost the entire Swedish nobility gathered in Stockholm for his coronation, Christian promptly had them all arrested and convicted of heresy by the pro-union Archbishop Gustavus Trolle. Over the course of three days from 7 November 1520, eighty Swedish nobles, bishops, and prominent bourgeoisie were brought to the main square to be beheaded. The so-called Stockholm Bloodbath became one of bitterest moments in Sweden's history. If the intention had been to secure the throne, it proved wholly unsuccessful. Among the victims were the father and two uncles of a young noble, Gustav "Vasa" Eriksson, who emerged as the leader of the Swedish independence movement. Gustav received financial backing the Hanseatic League, which was at war once again with Denmark, but, at first, enjoyed little success, failing to garner sufficient support to challenge Christian's regime. Chased by loyalist armies, Gustav had no alternative but to flee Sweden for Norway. Two exhausted skiers caught-up with him near the Norwegian border, to tell him that the nobles, who had until now refused to support him, had changed their minds. This pivotal event is still celebrated every year in the famous Vasaloppet cross-country ski-race. After this, the rebellion steadily grew in strength, and, in June 1523, Gustav entered Stockholm to be crowned king.

Gustav Vasa is considered the founder of modern Sweden and the "father of the nation".

As king of Sweden, Gustav Vasa (1523-60) was in a precarious position, his realm devastated by three years of civil war, and with the hard-nose businessmen of the Hanseatic League impatient for a return on their investment. But how to repay in a country where only the Church was rich? And how to get rid of his most prominent opponent, Archbishop Trolle? The solution to both problems presented itself in two clerics, brother Olaf and Laurentius Petri, who had recently returned from the University of Wittenberg where they studies under Martin Luther himself. Like his contemporary Henry VIII of England, politics were intertwined with religion to produce the Swedish Reformation. At the Diet of Västerås (1527), Gustav persuaded the assembly to break from the papacy, and establish a Lutheran Protestant Church. If Henry VIII had little genuine religious conviction, then Gustav had none, only a desperate need of funds. He plundered Church property and wealth with astonishing cynicism, and used it to buy the support of the lower nobility with part the proceeds. The rest, he used astutely to centralize his administration, and build an extremely efficient army and navy, both of them used frequently over the next century and a half. Hostilities and alliances among Scandinavian powers shifted constantly, with the Danes and Swedes sometimes united as in the Thirty Years' War in Germany, and sometimes fighting against each other, as in the Great Northern War (1563–70), which ultimately ended in Danish defeat.

Hans Tausen, one of the principle figures in Danish Reformation. He was the first Danish priest to take a wife. He was also the first to publish a Danish translation of the Bible.

Meanwhile in Denmark, the parliament (rigsraad) deposed Christian II soon after the loss of Sweden, and elected to the throne his uncle Frederick I Oldenburg (1523–33), ruler of Schleswig-Holstein on the southern Jutland Penisula. Frederick rarely visited Denmark proper, but, when he did, the rigsraad was alarmed to observe that he appeared to sympathize with the Lutheran heresy. He openly protected Protestant reformer Hans Tausen, another student under Luther at Wittenberg. In 1525, Tausen was expelled for his views from Antvorskov Church in Viborg, but continued to travel and preach throughout Denmark, at first in the open air, and then a small chapel that soon proved too small for the crowds. He eventually moved to Copenhagen, which became a hotbed of reformist activity, fostered by general resentment a Church tithes. On Frederick's death in 1533, the Catholic majority in the rigsraad attempts to withhold the crown from his son, Christian III Oldenburg (1534-59), who was known to be an even more committed Lutheran. The result was a civil war, which ended in Christian's favour thanks to his brilliant general Johann Rantzau, and support from the merchant classes; by now the Hanseatic League was dominated by Protestants. After capturing Copenhagen in July 1536, Christian arrested several prominent Catholic bishops, established a Danish Lutheran Church, and confiscated Church property in order to clear his war debts. Surprisingly little violence took place in Denmark, but imposing Lutheranism on Norway proved more difficult, and even more so on Iceland, which Denmark also dominated; though "exploited" perhaps better reflects their relationship. In Iceland, widespread Catholic resistance continued until Bishop Jón Arason was beheaded in 1550. Brought into the new faith within a few short years due the financial problems of two rulers, Scandinavia has nevertheless remained firmly Lutheran ever since. 

Swiss Reformation[]

Religion map of Switzerland in 1700.jpg

In the early 16th-century, Switzerland was a semi-independent part of the Holy Roman Empire, though it was really a loose confederation of thirteen cantons. The cantons were often hostile to one another, as well as to powers from outside the Swiss Confederation. Promoted initially by Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich, Protestantism spread to five other cantons, while seven remained Catholic. After numerous minor incidents and provocations from both sides, a Protestant pastor was burned on the stake in Schwyz in 1529. and in retaliation Zürich declared war; the Wars of Kappel (1529-31). The Catholic cantons formed an alliance and sought the support of the pope and Charles V Habsburg. Not to be outdone, Zwingli made treaties with other Protestant cantons and planned a grand anti-Habsburg alliance involving France, England, and others. None of this ever materialised, but the two sides met militarily at the Battle of Kappel (October 1531), just south of Zurich; a decisive Catholic victory in which Zwingli was killed. Both sides quickly decided that a treaty was preferable to further fighting; the Peace of Kappel basically ordered each side to give up their foreign alliances, and allowed each canton to determine its own religion; introducing the principle cuius regio, eius religio ("whoever rules the territory, his is the religion") later adopted in the Peace of Augsburg (1555). The defeat meanwhile ended the pre-eminence of Zürich in the Swiss Reformation, with John Calvin and Geneva picking up the torch. But the tension and distrust between Catholic and Protestant cantons remained essentially unresolved, paralysing any common foreign policy. Unable to agree which side to take in the Thirty Years' War, the Swiss stuck to a policy of neutrality that is still characteristic of modern Switzerland. The Swiss Confederation, established courageously in the 15th-century, almost collapsed under the strain of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. But it did somehow hold together, while becoming an increasingly sleepy backwater of Europe, until rudely awakened by Napoleon in 1798.

Francis I and Charles V[]

King Francis I of France, his rivalry with Charles V Habsburg, involving a large measure of personal animosity, dominate the politics of western Europe for decades.

Henry VIII of England was just one of a trio of glamorous European rulers born within a few years of each other. A new mood of youth and swagger entered the French court with the accession of the 20-year-old Francis I Valois (1515-47), a cousin and son-in-law of childless Louis XII. It was clear from the outset that Francis really loved being king: loved the hunting, the feasting, the jousting, and loved above all the ready availability of beautiful women. He was married twice, who gave him seven children, but not much else. They were certainly no match for their husband’s regiment of mistresses; of whom the influential at court was Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, and the most famous was Mary Boleyn, later the mistress of Henry VIII and sister to his wife, Anne Boleyn. Francis was, in every fibre of his being, a man of the Renaissance; he also possessed the wealth to indulge his genuine passion for art. The magnificent art collection of French kings, which can still be seen at the Louvre, was begun during Francis' reign. It was entirely typical of him that he brought an aged Leonardo da Vinci from Italy, settling him in at Amboise, where the great man lived in comfort until his death; he painted very little during these years, but brought with him many of his greatest works, including the Mona Lisa. Books, too, he revered, working diligently to improve the royal library, which at his death contained over 3,000 volumes, and was open to any scholar; in the fullness of time it provides the nucleus of the Bibliothèque Nationale. His greatest intellectual triumph came in 1529 when, to the fury of the Sorbonne, he founded the Collège de France as an alternative, to promote such disciplines as Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and even Arabic. Francis poured vast amounts of money into building. Château d'Amboise was very largely his creation, as were Blois and Chambord and, best-loved of all his châteaux, Fontainebleau, where he gave his favourite painter, architect and sculptor, Francesco Primaticcio, a free hand and which still bears his salamander in every room. He also rebuilt the Château du Louvre, transforming it from a medieval fortress into a building of Renaissance splendour. Francis later married his son, the future Henry II Valois, to Catherine de' Medici (d. 1589), who, though infamous for her role in the French Wars of Religion, made an important contribution in bringing the arts, music, and ballet of her native Florence to the French court. It would have been an excellent thing for France if the Valois kings had been able to keep their hands off Italy; alas, they could not. Francis took up his father-in-law's ailing and expensive cause in Italian Wars (1494-1559). He wasted no time revenging himself for the loss of Milan. He defeated the forces of the Holy League at the long and hard Battle at Marignano (September 1515), shattering their Swiss mercenaries whose halberds had previously seemed invincible. In a mood of medieval chivalry, Francis had himself knighted on the battlefield by the almost legendary Pierre de Bayard; known in his own lifetime as the "knight without fear and beyond reproach". In October, he rode triumphantly into Milan, beside himself with joy and pride. During these early year of his reign, Francis was the premier monarch of Europe. But in 1519, there was a serious challenger to this position.

King Charles I of the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire

In that year, Maximilian Habsburg died, and was succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor by his grandson, Charles V Habsburg (1516-56). Through a mix of shrewd marriages and good fortune, Charles with his younger brother Ferdinand ruled a very large slice of Europe and beyond, including the imperial German crown, Austria, Spain, Flanders, the Dutch Netherlands, Bohemia (modern-day Czechia and Slovakia), and Hungary, as well as most of the New World. Other European rulers were desperate to foil this plan for virtual world hegemony: both Francis and Henry VIII declared themselves rival candidates for the imperial throne of Germany. Although the prince-electors, all German, hated the idea of a French or English emperor as much as Charles himself, the Habsburg took no chance, clinching the election by dispensing vast sums in bribes. This was the first encounter in a rivalry between Charles and Francis which came to dominate the politics of early-16th-century Europe; it involved a large measure of personal animosity. Charles' election expenses had been truly breathtaking, in part because his staunch Catholicism contrasted with the growth of Lutheranism alienating a few German princes, but mainly because the prince knew that, with such powerful candidates, they could hold out for truly stupendous kickbacks. Despite his vast domain and the flow of bullion from the New World, Charles V was crippled by debt throughout his reign; the interest rates of his Augsburg-based bankers, the Fugger family, were never less than 12% per annum. Meanwhile, other European rulers were desperate to foil his plan for virtual world hegemony. Francis, preparing to make war on his rival, attempted first to secure an important ally in his neighbour to the north, Henry VIII of England. The two were of much the same age and character: they shared the same boisterous energy, the same love of beautiful women. A degree of jealousy was inevitable; and of mistrust too, because of Henry's brief invasion in 1513. The two met in June 1520 at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It was a magnificent name and the occasion was more magnificent still. There was seemingly endless jousting, banqueting, dancing, mutual embracing, and exchanging of lavish presents neither could afford. It was all great fun, but when the two monarchs separated at last, neither trusted the other an inch. The English king immediately moved on to a less sumptuous but more fruitful meeting with Charles V in Kent. In 1521, Charles V strengthen his hand further, signing a treaty with Pope Leo X, as the result of which a papal-imperial army expelled the French once again from Milan, restoring the house of Sforza. This committed the pope fairly-and-squarely on the imperial side, and when Leo was succeeded in 1523 by his cousin as Pope Clement VII, Charles V naturally assumed that he would follow the same policy. Instead, the pope tried to make peace between the pair; an attempt that failed utterly, just as everyone had told him it would. The emperor was adamant that he would yield Milan only in exchange for Burgundy, part of his grandmother's inheritance. Francis in turn was determined to claim Milan once and for all. In mid-October 1524, Francis crossed the Alps for the second time, at the head of an army numbering more than 40,000. Before the end of the month, Milan was duly recovered. He then turned south to Pavia, whose imperial garrison proved a tougher nut to crack than he had expected. With winter approaching, the French king’s most sensible course would have been to retire to Milan. Instead, he besieged Pavia for four unusually cold and uncomfortable months without success, and was still there in February when an imperial army appeared on the horizon. The ensuing Battle of Pavia (February 1525) was the first to prove conclusively the superiority of firearms over medieval warfare. When the fighting was over, the French army had been virtually annihilated. Francis himself had shown, as always, exemplary courage; after his horse was cut from under him, he had continued to fight on foot until at last, overcome by exhaustion, he had allowed himself to be captured. A few weeks later, he was in a deeply gloomy fortress in Madrid, negotiating peace with Charles under duress. The only thing to be said about the resulting Treaty of Madrid (January 1526), by which, in return for his own liberty, Francis surrendered Burgundy as well as Naples and Milan, is that he had not the faintest intention of observing it. Before Francis returned to Paris, there was one unhappy little ceremony to be completed first. On the Bidasoa River, which formed, as it still does, part of the border between France and Spain, two rowing boats made their way from opposite banks to a pontoon in mid-stream; one carried the king; and the other bore two little boys, the 8-year-old Dauphin and his younger brother, who were on their way to Spain as hostages.


Francis of course refused to surrender Burgundy, but did not want to antagonise Charles V more than necessary. However, the balance of power in Italy had shifted. News of the treaty had left Pope Clement aghast; the emperor was now too powerful. He hastily recruited Milan, Venice and Florence into a new Holy League, and invited France to join; despite his sons, Francis agreed. But he still felt threatened; France was surrounded by hostile territory. If it was to prevail, the best hope lay in finding a new powerful ally, and that could only be Süleyman "the Magnificent" of the Ottoman Empire; to the rest of Christian Europe, the Antichrist, Satan’s representative on earth. It was a wild, outlandish idea, unthinkable in former years, but somehow Francis managed the tightrope of keeping Christian and Turkish allies together for long enough to compel Charles V into a new peace. The resulting treaty came to be called the Ladies Peace (July 1529), because negotiations were undertaken by Francis' mother and Charles' aunt: Francis renounced all his claims in Italy, including Milan and Naples, for which he and his predecessors had struggled so hard for the best part of forty years; while Charles V promised not to press his claims to Burgundy, and ransomed the French king’s sons. Pope Clement, architect of this latest round of conflict, appeared to receive his just deserts. In 1527, an imperial army, mutinying over unpaid wages, had entered Rome and sacked it in a manner reminiscent of the Vandals, while the pope sheltered helplessly in the Castel Sant'Angelo. The peace did not last long. Simply unable to accept defeat to his rival, Francis went to war once more in 1542. Sultan Süleyman was preparing a major expeditions into central Europe, and, having no need for his fleet, offered to lend it to France. At the king’s request, the Ottoman fleet, under the former Barbary Coast pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa, ravaged the coasts of Italy and Sicily, while carefully avoiding the Papal States. In August 1543, a joint Franco-Ottoman expedition besieged Nice, which at that time was ruled by the staunchly imperialist House of Savoy (centred on the present Piedmont region of Italy). The first assault was famously beaten back in a counter-attack led by a local washerwoman. Nice was saved, temporarily; a week later the city submitted, and was sacked and put to the torch. Francis then did something even more scandalous when he turned the port of Toulon over to Barbarossa to use as winter quarters for his entire fleet. Many of the town's inhabitants fled in terror, but to the astonishment of those who remained, Barbarossa imposed an iron discipline; in the words of one eyewitness, "never did an army live more strictly or in better order". Yet another French minor expedition to Italy, and an Anglo-Imperial invasion of northern France both came to nothing, and the status quo was restored once again in 1548. In one final round, Francis' son Henry II Valois (1547-59) forged even closer links with Sultan Süleyman, launching an all-out war against Charles V in various theatres: eastern France, the Mediterranean and Italy. The Italian campaign, however, was decidedly half-hearted. Henry never shared his predecessors' enthusiasm for the peninsula, and welcomed the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (April 1559), which brought that whole sad saga to an end. There was no doubt about it: the Habsburgs had won on points. France once again renounced all claims in Italy, while the Habsburgs kept direct control of Milan and Naples. To France, on the other hand, went Calais, to the predictable fury of England. The Papal State, seemingly a loser, emerged much strengthened a decade or so later, once the Counter Reformation was under way. With a close alliance, Rome and Spain were well placed to control the entire peninsula, ending the independence of several city-states, until the only truly independent states were the Republic of Venice and Duchy of Savoy. But Italy was at peace, and that long and agonising chapter in her history, a chapter that had brought her nothing but devastation and destruction, was over at last. Much of Venice's hinterland, though not the city itself, had been destroyed in 1499 and again in 1509. Rome had been sacked of course in 1527. The long siege of Florence in 1529 destroyed most of its suburbs. The sophisticated medieval commerce and industry of Italy virtually vanished. This may have occurred anyway, with the discovery of Atlantic trade routes bypassing the Mediterranean, but the Italian Wars hastened the process. Afterward, the peninsula became something of a sleepy place, peripheral to European politics, until the arrival of Napoleon in 1796.

During the reigns of Francis I and Charles V, Protestant Reformation swept through both their realms. Though not personally interested in religious reform, Francis was relatively tolerant of the new movement, until the Affair of the Placards changed his attitude for the worse. What was to become known as the Edict of Fontainebleau (1540) was issued, declaring Protestantism as high treason, but that merely stalled the French Wars of Religion. In the meantime, some Protestants fled persecution in France, among them a certain John Calvin. As a staunch Catholic, Charles V took a harder line, issuing a decree at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), whereby all Protestant princes, dukes, counts and free-cities of imperial Germany were obliged to recant. Despite winning almost every battle fought, he abdicated all his thrones in 1556, dismayed at the failure of his efforts to secure religious unity. He divided his vast holdings between his son Philip II Habsburg (who got Spain, the Dutch Netherlands, and the Spanish Empire), and his younger brother Ferdinand I Habsburg who got Austria and other central European holdings, and the title of emperor). The Habsburg family was thus divided into a Spanish and an Austrian branch, though both supported each other, were firmly Catholic, and frequently intermarried to their later regret.

Ottoman Heyday[]


Perhaps these were good years only for the Ottoman Turks. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Turkish war machine rolled on. For a century or so. the political situation from the Budapest and Vienna to Cairo and Tabriz depended largely on which neighbour was best resisting their expansionist tendencies. If the sultan's Janissaries were fighting Hungary and her allies, then Egypt and Persia enjoyed some respite; and vice versa. Later, Russia became another factor in this constant jostling for space. During the reign of Bayazid II (1481-1512), the son of Mehmed "the Conqueror", the Turks thrust mainly to the west, conquering the last Venetian possessions in Greece by 1501. But he is perhaps most notable for resettling thousands of Jewish refugees after their expulsion from Spain in 1492; they would contributed much to the rising power of the Ottoman Empire, including building the first printing press in Istanbul. Bayazid ridiculed Ferdinand and Isabella, saying "You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler, he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine". Under his son, Selim (1501-20), the focus shifted to the east, where the new Safavid Dynasty of Persia was becoming a threat. The native Safavids are one of the most important dynasties in the history of Iran, overseeing a renewed flowering of Persian art culture, and cementing the Shi'a version of Islam once and for all. Before 1501, Persia had dominated by intruders for centuries; Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Timur. At the age of 14, their founder, Ismail Safavi, capture the city of Tabriz and made it his capital. A decade later, he had conquered all the old Persian heartlands, from Baghdad to Herat, using the Shi'a faith as a rallying cry. This, combined with raids across the border and Ṣafavid propaganda stirring-up rebellion, put him on a collision course with the Sunni Ottomans. At the Battle of Chaldiran (August 1514), Ismail's army had the better position on home territory, but was no match for Selim's more professional modern army, equipped with artillery and muskets. Ismail himself barely escaped with his life, and the Ottomans went on to sack his capital of Tabriz. But this did not lead to the conquest of Persia nor the collapse of the Ṣafavids. The Janissaries became increasingly discontented with a relative lack of booty compared with campaigns in Europe, compelled Selim to retire, and Ismail recovered his lost territory without resistance. So this encounter between Ottoman and Safavid was only the beginning of a long but intermittent struggle. Meanwhile, the Ottomans embarked on an even bolder undertaking. In 1516, Selim assembled a great army, seemingly for a second campaign against Safavid Persia. Instead, he invaded Mamlūk Sultanate of Egypt (1250–1517), which had fallen into internal decay, and was ripe for conquest. The Mamluks was caught completely unprepared; indeed, the Ottomans had been loose allies just six-years earlier at the Battle of Diu against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. The entire sultanate fell easily in easily in a single year-long campaign; the ill-disciplined Mamlūk army without artillery was overwhelmed, while major populated centres betrayed their masters preferring the security and order offered by the Ottomans. Thus, in a single sweep, Selim doubled the size of his empire, from Syria and Palestine, to the Arabian Peninsula, and ultimately Egypt itself. These acquisitions, under efficient administration, made the Ottoman Empire one of the most powerful and wealthy states of the 16th century. They now controlled the entire Middle Eastern portion of the ancient international trade routes between Europe and Asia, both the Silk Road and Indian Ocean trade network. It only remained for the Ottomans to prevent Portuguese naval activities from monopolising the old sea route, a campaign that had modest success well into the 17th-century. Meanwhile, guardianship of the pilgrimage routes to Mecca and Medina established the empire as the most prestigious of all Muslim states. Indeed, the Abbasid Caliph had been residing in Cairo as a Mamluk puppet ever since the Sack of Baghdad in 1258; he formally surrendered his position of religious leader of Sunni Islam, though the Ottomans did not officially claim that title themselves until the late-18th-century. Moreover, the Ottomans gained direct access to the intellectual, artistic, and administrative heritage of the heartland of Islamic civilization, which had previously been transmitted to them only indirectly.

Khair-ed-Din, better known as Hayreddin Barbarossa, the most notorious and feared of all the Barbary pirate. Born the son of a potter in a village on the Greek island of Midilli, he learned to sail selling his father's wares around the islands. Barbarossa eventually managed to become the ruler of Algiers, then the chief admiral of the Ottoman navy, and successfully defied Christian Europe’s most powerful monarchs, Charles V Habsburg. When the Ottoman's reached a truce with Spain, he retired and died peacefully in Istanbul in 1546.

Beyond Egypt, the Ottoman conquest rolled-on in a somewhat unorthodox manner. In north-west Africa, the great Almohad Sultanate (1121–1269) had clung on a little longer after their expulsion from Spain after 1212, to be replaced by a series of increasingly fragmented native Moorish (Berber) dynasties. By the 15th, the valuable coastal strip, known because of the Berbers as the Barbary Coast, was attracting the attention of the two leading Mediterranean powers; Spain in the west, and the Ottomans in the east. The Spanish-Ottoman rivalry lasted well into the 16th-century, but was gradually won by the Turks. Their unorthodox device was to allow Turkish pirates, or Corsairs, to establish themselves along the coast, and later grant them formal status as Ottoman protectorates. One of the earliest, and most famous Corsairs of them all, was Khayr "Barbarossa" ad-Din (d. 1546). He and his brother captured the port-city of Algiers in 1516, which had been seized six-years earlier by the Spanish. Barbarossa was welcomed as a liberated by the local population, many of whom had only recently been expelled from Spain, and were eager for revenge. Over the next six decades, several other ports were firmly established from Morocco to Libya, most importantly at Tripoli, Tunis, Salé, Rabat, and Algiers. The chief purpose and source of income for all these Ottoman settlements were piracy against Christian shipping, and raids on European coastal towns, mainly in the western Mediterranean and West African seaboard, but on occasions as far north as the British Isles, Dutch Netherlands, Iceland, and even Newfoundland. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone lost 466 merchant ships to Barbary pirates. After three centuries, the depredations of piracy prompted French intervention in Algeria; that, at any rate, was the stated reason, though the reality was somewhat less glorious.

Süleyman's 46-year reign is regarded as the golden age of the Ottoman Empire. A remarkable figure, he was known in the West as Süleyman the Magnificent for his military prowess, and in his own realm as Süleyman the Lawgiver for his achievements in the field of law, as well as literature, art, and architecture.

Selim’s successor, Süleyman (1520-66), assumed the throne with wealth and power unparalleled by any sultan before or after. As a result of his father’s successes, treasury revenues had doubled without imposing important additional financial obligations, and he faced no internal opposition. Under Süleyman, the chief battlefields of Ottoman expansion in Christian Europe were Hungary and the Mediterranean. The relatively strong European enemies faced his predecessors had been replaced by a continent bitterly divided by the Reformation and personal rivalry of Francis I of France and Charles V Habsburg. And Hungary, the doorway to Central Europe, was ripe for the plucking. Under Matthias "Corvinus" (1458–90), medieval Hungary was one of central Europe's leading powers. Like the monarchs elsewhere in western Europe, he strengthened royal power, developed a fair and efficient tax policy (unpopular only with the leading nobles), patronized Renaissance art, and created one of the earliest professional standing armies, the so-called Black Army, to defend and extend the frontiers of his realm. A period of disorder, however, followed Corvinus’ death without an heir. The nobles elected one of their own as his successor, Vladislaus II of Bohemia (1471–1516), because he was known to be weak. The nobility were, thus, able to reassert their power, which in turn led to a major peasants’ revolt under the leadership of one György Dózsa. It was ruthlessly crushed by the Hungarian nobles, with 70,000 peasants including Dózsa himself gruesomely tortured and executed. The retrograde Tripartitum Law that followed the crackdown codified the rights and privileges of the nobles, and reduced the peasants to perpetual serfdom. By the time Louis II Lajos (1516-26) took the Hungarian throne at the tender age of nine, he couldn't count on either one; his marriage into the Austrian Habsburg family had split the Hungarian nobility. This was the rich opportunity facing Süleyman; a divided and vulnerable Hungary that, with the current political climate in Europe, could expect little aid. Using a huge army and siege cannon, Belgrade fell to him in 1521, a fortess-city on the Danube crucial to Hungarian defences. The Ottomans raided Hungarian lands and conquered small territories, but did not press further until 1526. At the Battle of Pavia (1525), Francis I of France was defeated and captured by the Habsburgs, and, after several months imprisoned, obliged to sign an unfavourable peace treaty. In a watershed moment in European diplomacy, the French king begged Süleyman to make war on the Habsburgs; the road to Vienna led across Hungary. At the resulting Battle of Mohács (August 1526), a relatively prosperous and independent medieval Hungary died. With the the Black Army of Matthias Corvinus having been dissolved by the nobility, King Louis fielded an obsolete army, mostly consisting of armoured knights and levy infantry; the commoners, nobility, and the royal house all had enmity for one another. Indeed, the Ottomans took the important city of Osijek without little resistance, because the squabbling nobles had refused to march unless led by the king himself. The Hungarians fought with great courage but little wisdom, and were almost annihilated. Among some 18,000 dead was King Louis himself, probably drowned attempting to flee the rout. Yet Süleyman could not believe that this suicidal army was all that his once formidable foe could muster, and did not press his advantage. The vacant Hungarian throne was now claimed by Ferdinand I Habsburg, brother of Emperor Charles V, but passed to a Hungarian noble, John Zápolya (1526-40), as an Ottoman vassal. In 1529, Süleyman struck directly at the Habsburgs, laying siege to Vienna itself. This was the meeting of two European powers at their peaks, though difficulties of distance and of bad weather decided the matter, rather than Christian resistance. The Ottoman army reached Vienna in late September, after a miserable march in unseasonably heavy rains, that had forced them to abandon most of their heavy cannons. More rain and failure to make a breach sapped morale, and the siege was abandoned after just 18-days. The campaign was successful, however, in a more immediate sense, securing Zápolya's rule of Hungary until his death; some historians speculate that this had actually been Süleyman's main aim. However, Ferdinand refused to accept defeat, pressuring the clildless Zápolya to name him as his successor. The agreement was upset when, just before Zápolya's death in 1540, his wife bore a son, whom the Hungarian parliament recognised as king John Sigismund (1540-51). The result was an Austrian invasion and an Ottoman counter-invasion that led to the division of Hungary into three parts; the Habsburgs in the west; the central section including the capital of Budapest went to the Turks; while John Sigismund in the east, ruling a semi-independent Hungarian rump-state known as the Principality of Transylvania (1540–1711). The war in Hungary continued off-and-on until 1562, when a peace treaty recognized the status quo.

The Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto (c. 1572) Paolo Veronese. The lower half of the painting depicts the famous Christian victory over the Ottomans, whilst at the top a female personification of Venice is presented to the Virgin Mary, with St. Roch, St. Peter, St. Justina, St. Mark and a group of angels in attendance.

Ottoman-Habsburg conflict extended into the Mediterranean too. For more than a century, the island of Rhodes had been a thorn in the Ottoman side, as home of the Knights Hospitaller. Off the coast of Anatolia, it was the perfect spot for the purposes of the order; a great hospital for pilgrims to the Holy Lands, and a pirate base for attacking Turkish shipping. Rhodes finally fell after an arduous six-months siege of the Knights' Castle, one of the most formidable bastion in Christendom. It had been unsuccessfully besieged by Mamluk Egypt in 1444, and then by the Ottomans in 1480. But in 1522, an entirely new sort of force arrived: 400 ships delivered 100,000 men to the island. Against this force, Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam had about 7,000 men-at-arms and the Knights' Castle, perhaps the most formidable bastion in Christendom. The siege lasted six months, at the end of which even Süleyman seemed to recognise de L'Isle-Adam's valiance, and allowed the defeated Hospitallers-free passage to Sicily. With the Ottomans emerging as a major naval power for the first time, Charles V Habsburg gave the Hospitallers a new Mediterranean island as a pirate base Malta; as a token symbol of Spanish sovereignty, they were to pay an annual tribute of one single Maltese falcon. Meanwhile, Charles V and Pope Paul III set about assembling a massive Christian fleet to confront the Ottomans; 302 ships from Spain, Venice, Genoa, and Hospitaller Malta. The resulting naval Battle of Preveza (September 1538) was fought around the same gulf as Battle of Actium (31 BC). Like Mark Antony, the Ottoman fleet, under former Barbary pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa, was trapped in the gulf with a smaller fleet; just 122 ships. Assuming that Barbarossa's numerically inferior fleet would not emerge from its entrenched position, the Christian fleet began reorganising itself for an assault. This was when Barbarossa boldly emerged from his den and struck at the perfect moment with the Christian ship strung out and disorganised. In a confused the response, the Christian coalition lost 49 ships before withdrawing; the Turks did not lose a single ship. This gave to the Ottomans the naval initiative in the Mediterranean, until the Battle of Lepanto (October 1571). In response to the Ottoman capture of Venetian Cyprus in 1570, a powerful Christian coalition was assembled by the pope, including Spain, Venice, and Genoa. At Lepanto, the Offoman fleets was ambushed by the Christian fleets and virtually destroyed, using the ancient tactics of ramming and boarding; 30,000 Turks were killed and 200 ships sunk or captured. It was a startling, if mostly symbolic, blow to the image of Ottoman invincibility. Within six months of the defeat the Ottoman fleet had been rebuilt by the shipyards of Istanbul, which went on to capture Tunis in 1573, and force Venice to make peace; formally ceding Cyprus. But the Ottomans lost a significant number of veteran admirals at Lepanto, and their days of naval supremacy in the Mediterranean were over, though they remained a major naval power for another century or so. Meanwhile, Ottoman naval strength was felt in the Indian Ocean against the Portuguese too. Süleyman turned Suez and Aden on the Red Sea, and Basra on the Persian Gulf into major navel bases, that enjoyed modest success in contesting the European shipping-monopoly well into the 17th-century. Meanwhile, Süleyman waged three major campaigns in the east against Safavid Persia. In the first in 1534, he conquered Iraq including Baghdad, a success that rounded off the achievements his father. The second campaign in 1548 brought Armenia under Ottoman control. However, the third in 1554 served rather as a warning to the Ottomans of the difficulty of subduing Ṣafavid Persia, which refused to confront them directly while successfully deploying scorched-earth and Fabian tactics. Süleyman had to settle for an unsatisfactory peace in 1555, that left Persia intact and the the problems confronting the Ottoman eastern frontier unsolved.

Inside the Süleymaniye Mosque, commissioned by Süleyman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan. Santa Sophia, once the central cathedral of the Byzantine Empire, was his inspiration.

While Sultan Süleyman was known as "The Magnificent" to his Christian foes, he was always Kanuni Süleyman or "The Lawgiver" to his own Ottoman subjects, for his achievements in the field of law, as well as administration, literature, art, and architecture. Assessments of Suleiman's domestic reign have frequently fallen into the trap of the Great Man theory of history. He surrounded himself with statesmen of unusual ability, men such as chief ministers (grand vizier) Ibrahim Pasha and Rüstem Pasha, legal specialist (ulamā) Ebussuud Efendi, who all contributed to making the period memorable. Süleyman overhauled the Ottoman legal system. The overriding law of the empire remained Shari'ah, the divine law of Islam. Yet there were many areas of distinct law that depended on the sultan's will alone, such as criminal law, land tenure, and taxation. Like Justinian the Great, he collected all the judgments that had been issued by the nine Ottoman Sultans who preceded him, and set about eliminating duplications and choosing between contradictory statements. He then issued a single legal code known as the kanun‐i Osmani, all the while being careful not to violate the devine laws of Islam; it was to last more than three centuries. In his own judgements, Süleyman gave particular attention to the plight of the downtrodden; he protected his Jewish subjects, and denounced their persecution in the Catholic West; and freed his new Hungarian subjects from the bonds of serfdom. In administration, Süleyman reformed the tax system too, making it more transparent and fair. He carefully supervised the imperial bureaucracy, ensuring that hiring or promotion was based on merit, rather than family ties or the whims of high officials. Under Süleyman's patronage, the Ottoman Empire entered a golden age in its cultural development, asserting its own cultural legacy distinct from Arab or Persian influences. Süleyman himself was an accomplished poet, but many great talents enlivened Turkish literature, most notably Bâkî, a poet of great rhetorical power and linguistic subtlety. Süleyman was also a prolific builder. All over the empire mosque complexes mark his reign, with courtyards surrounded by building to serve the community, such as libraries, baths, soup kitchens, hospitals, poor-houses, and medreses (schools or universities). The Ottoman school system provided a largely free education for Muslim boys, that surpassed anything available in Western Europe at the time. Süleyman became renowned for a series of monumental architectural achievements. The greatest of these were built by his chief architect, Mimar Sinan (d. 1588), under whom Ottoman architecture reached its zenith. Sinan was responsible for over three hundred buildings, including his two masterpieces, the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne (Adrianople). The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and Kaaba in Mecca were also significantly renovated.

In the decades after Süleyman's death in 1566, the Ottoman Empire began to experience significant political, institutional, and economic challenges. Historians once characterized this as a "period of stagnation", but modern scholars take a more nuanced view. The empire came under increasing strain from inflation and the rapidly rising costs of warfare, which impacted Europe too. It underwent a series of difficult political and military transformations in response to this, and ultimately succeeded in adapting to the new conditions of the 17th-century, remaining a major power, both militarily and economically. The Ottoman decline really began with the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte's ultimately failed invasion of 1798. The former stirred up an era of national awakening in the Balkans, beginning with the Serbian Revolution of 1804. Meanwhile, the latter spurred Sultan Selim III (1789–1807) into the first major attempt to modernize the Ottoman army, which met firm opposition from the Janissary corps, jealous of their position and privileges; it cost Selim his throne and his life.

Portuguese Indian Ocean[]

Old European Map of the Diu Island in India, where the crucial Battle of Diu took place.

By the early-16th-century, enough had been done for the Age of Discovery and new enterprise to be attacked confidently; there was a cumulative factor at work, as each successful voyage added both to knowledge and to the certainty that more could be done. As time went by, there would also be profits. Then there was the psychological asset of Christianity. Soon after the establishment of settlements this found a vent in missionary enterprises, but it was always present as a cultural fact, assuring the European of his superiority to the peoples with whom he began to come into contact for the first time. In the next four centuries, it was often to have disastrous effects. Confident in the possession of the "true religion", Europeans were impatient and contemptuous of the achievements of the civilizations they disturbed. The result was always uncomfortable and often brutal. It sometimes brought about the destruction of whole societies, but this was only the worst aspect of a readiness to dominate which was present from the outset in European enterprise. In the Indian Ocean, Portuguese mariners tried to control the centuries-old Indian Ocean trade in spices, silks, and other Asian goods. They decided that the best way to do this was to build fortified trading posts (factories) in important port, to force the expulsion of rival merchants, and to required all merchant vessels to buy licenses (the Cartaz system) or risk being boarded if they met a Portuguese warship. At best this meant torturing their captain to death; at worst, slaughtering their crews and passengers, looting their cargoes, and burning the ravaged hulks. Cannons, sturdy ships, and sailing experience made this Portuguese protection racket possible; despite their tiny numbers. Indian and Muslim merchant vessels rarely carried guns, while their warships were usually light rowed galleys, with few cannons, and designed for action close to shore. Portuguese ships were bulkier and better able to withstand storms at sea, with heavier, longer-range cannons, able to bombard cities as well as blast holes in enemy vessels. They often attacked quickly, throwing their opponents off guard, and used tactics new to the Indian Ocean, like blockading harbours. The Portuguese were far from home, with no backup if they lost, so they were ruthless against what were always larger local forces. And because their main rivals were Muslims, these activities often took on something of the zeal and brutality of a Crusade. The Portuguese also used disputes among local groups to their advantage, gaining bases or ports from one ruler in return for helping him attack his neighbours. The first Portuguese factory in India was set up in Calicut, but it was overrun in a riot a couple of months later; Calicut was bombarded in retaliation. Profiting from the rivalry between Calicut and nearby Cochin (now Kochi), the Portuguese were well-received and consequently the first permanent factory was established here in 1500; followed by Kannur (1502) and Kollam (1503). However, by 1504, an international anti-Portuguese coalition had begun to form, driven by commercial self-interest and outrage at Portuguese atrocities; in one notorious incidents, a pilgrim ship called the Meri was captured and sunk while returning from Mecca to India in October 1502, with the loss of more than 400 men, women and children. This coalition eventually included: Indian princes, notably the Gujarat Sultanate (1407-1573), the most important trader in western India; Mamluk Egypt (1250-1517), the main middleman in the Middle East; the Republic of Venice, (726–1796), the main buyer in the Mediterranean; and the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), the most important Muslim power at the time. To this end, a fleet of modern warships began to be assembled at the port of Suez on the Red Sea, with the help of Venetian and Ottoman shipwrights. When news of this reached Portugal, they realised that it was now or never; either they build a proper empire in the India Ocean, or lose everything they'd worked for. In 1505, Francisco de Almeida (d. 1510), a distinguished counsellor to the Portuguese king, was appointed the first viceroy of Portuguese India. The Muslim-Indian fleet finally arrived in India in 1508, basing itself at the Gujarati port of Diu, and winning a minor engagement with the Portuguese at Chaul habour, in which Almeida's son died. Vowing revenge, the Portuguese fought and destroyed the fleets at the naval Battle of Diu (February 1509), The two side were evenly matched, but superior Portuguese firepower and tactics won the day; sailing ships armed with heavier guns, arranged in a formal line of battle, and firing continuously. Afterwards, Diu and Calicut were quickly forced to submit on humiliating terms, while Mamluk Egypt would also soon collapse and become part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517.

Afonso de Albuquerque, whose actions as viceroy of India were crucial to laying the foundations of the Portuguese Empire. In a rare and piercing moment of self-awareness, even Albuquerque doubted the justice of his deeds, “I fear the time will come when instead of our present fame as warriors we may only be known as grasping tyrants”.

The Battle of Diu was one of the most important of naval history, for it marked the beginning of European dominance over Asian waters for almost 400 years, until the Battle of Tsushima (May 1905). Under Almeida's successor, Afonso de Albuquerque (d. 1515), the Portuguese set about establishing a colonial empire. Realising that Portuguese India needed a capital, Albuquerque conquered Goa in 1510, during which almost the entire Muslim population was massacred or fled. Here, he built a church in honour of St. Catherine (as it was recaptured on her feast day), established the first Portuguese mint in India, encouraged Portuguese settlers to marry local women, and tried to build rapport with the Hindus by protecting their temples and reducing taxes; it remained an overseas Portuguese territory until 1961. Next, Albuquerque turned to three strategic choke-points in the Indian Ocean: Malacca was captured in 1511, controlling the narrow strait between Sumatra and Malaysia; Hormuz was captured in 1515, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf; and Aden was assaulted in 1513, '15, and '16, at the mouth of the Red Sea, though the port resisted all of Albuquerque's expeditions. In 1534, the capital of Portuguese India was moved to Bombay (now Mumbai), when the Gujarat Sultanate, squeezed between the rising Portuguese and the rising Mughal Empire, was obliged to surrender the narrow peninsula. After the Ottomans conquered Egypt in 1517 and became the official protectors of Mecca and Medina, they challenged Portuguese control of Indian Ocean trade routes with modest success. Sultans Selim I (d. 1520) and Süleyman I (d. 1566) built a new fleet of ships at Suez that took strong control of the Red Sea, established a new naval base at Basra to threaten Portuguese Hormuz, and allied with regional powers in several naval campaigns. However, support for these ventures waned in the late-16th-century, when Safavid Persia became the more pressing threat. Further eastward in Asia, Albuquerque learned of the route to the fabled Spice Islands (the Maluku Islands) once he captured Malacca. The first Portuguese ship reached them in 1513, though it took more than a decade of skirmishes with local island states before becoming a new centre for their activities. In 1513, Rafael Perestrello (d. 1517) was dispatched to pioneer European trade relations with China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Although Chinese emperors did not support long ocean voyages after those of Zheng He (d. 1433), private Chinese merchant ships sailed all over the South China Sea, trading silk and porcelain for spices and cotton. They also bought silver from Japan to be made into coins in China, despite trade with Japan being technically illegal; Chinese emperors saw the Japanese as uncivilized raiders and pirates. At first, the Chinese found the Portuguese even more uncivilized than the Japanese, so it took them decades to get permission to trade. What changed their minds was not an improvement in Portuguese manners, but the fact that in 1543 the Portuguese landed by accident in Japan. They had a significant impact on Japan, even in this early interaction, introducing European goods such as glassware, clocks, and especially muskets; Oda Nobunaga (d. 1582) would re-unify Japan, after a century of turmoil, in large part by adapting artillery and handheld weapons to Japanese warfare. The Portuguese sent large, well-armed ships to handle this new trade with Japan, and Chinese recognized these ships could also provide safe transport for Japanese silver to China. They gradually relaxed restrictions on Portuguese traders, and, in 1557, granted them a permanent lease for Macau. The Portuguese grew wealthy on shipping goods all over the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, as well as to Europe. By the late-16th-century, their ships also brought American silver and new American crops such as potatoes and corn (maize), which came across the Pacific to the Philippines in Spanish ships. Along with merchants, Catholic missionaries were sent to Portuguese trading posts. Although the conversion of local people was a very slow process, bishoprics were established in many colonies, and even an archbishopric in Goa, with a seminary in the expectation that an indigenous clergy would develop. No non-European was ever accepted as a full member of the clergy in any Portuguese colony, however; no amount of training could alter their ethnic status.

To be clear, the Portuguese were still just one group among many in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, even by the end of the 16th-century. Existing trading patterns and structures of power changed relatively little to allow them to collect some tribute and handle some trade, but with little significant impact on powerful states like China, India, and Japan. In Portugal itself, Asian trade provided wealth to merchants and a few mariners, and some taxes and fees to the Portuguese kings. This influx of money was not enough to allow Portugal to withstand a Spanish invasion and conquest in 1580, however. This union meant that Portugal was dragged into the Spanish conflict with the Dutch Netherlands, a country that was well-positioned to begin establishing their own overseas empires.

Spanish Conquest of the Americas[]

Spanish conquests in the Americas were like the Portuguese conquests in the Indian Ocean in many ways. They were quick and ruthless, depended on technical superiority, and took advantage of hostilities that already existed among different indigenous groups. The Spanish had one weapon that the Portuguese did not, however - germs. Europeans brought with them infectious diseases that were common in Eurasia, such as measles, mumps, bubonic plague, influenza, and smallpox, against which native Americans had no resistance. Their impact was devastating, even for those who never saw a Spanish ship or a soldier, often spreading ahead of the actual landing parties, so that when the Spanish got to an area several weeks or months later the people were already sick and dying. This dramatic drop in population, more than 95 percent in some places, allowed the Spanish (and later other Europeans) to establish land-based empires, rather than simply a string of trading posts. Both guns and germs were important in the Spanish conquest of the two largest New World empires, the Aztecs and the Incas. The way these empires had developed also helps explain why small Spanish forces succeeded so easily. Both had been built through military conquest in the 14th and 15th centuries, and not all of their subject peoples were completely subdued; they often welcome the Spanish as liberators.


In the decades after Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, the Spanish in the New World were limited to islands of the Caribbean. With settlements established on Puerto Rico (1508), Jamaica (1509), Cuba (1511), and later Trinidad (1530), to add to their first secure base on Hispaniola, the Spanish control all the large islands. The smaller islands were largely ignored, to later Spanish regrets, though exceptions were made for Margarita and Cubagua off the Venezuelan coast, because of their valuable pearl beds; these were harvested so intensively that the oysters had been devastated by 1531. The Spanish were at first disappointed with their discoveries in the New World, which offered much glory, but paltry trade and little gold. That’s not to say there weren’t riches; the land was fertile, the seas bountiful, and the indigenous populations forcibly pliant. Their initial high hopes of dazzling wealth soon gave way to sugar-cane cultivation for export and exploitation of natives; the first sugar mill was built on Hispaniola in 1515. Disease and overwork rapidly decimated the indigenous populations, however. The pre-Columbian population of Hispaniola is estimated in the hundreds of thousands; it was already practically wiped out by 1500. The solution was the same one that had worked on the Madeira and Azores; import African-born slaves. The first sizeable shipment arrived in 1518. As the Treaty of Tordesillas did not allow Spanish ships into African ports. slaves had to be bought from the Portuguese. Initially they were transported to Seville or the Azores first, but, from 1525, they were transported directly across the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean; what is often called the Triangular Trade.

Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who overthrew the Aztec Empire and won Mexico for the crown of Spain.

Even in the early-1510s, the western Caribbean was largely unexplored by the Spanish, but, from 1514, the ambitious governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (d. 1524), sent a series of expeditions to the mainland to bring back slaves and gold if they can. In 1517, one such expedition reached the Yucatán Peninsula, and was astonished by what they found. The Maya Civilization had long since decayed, but these people were a far cry from the stone-aged cultures of the Caribbean. In 1519, Velázquez assembled a much large expedition under the conquistador Hernán Cortés (d. 1547), with instructions to open trade but abstain from founding a permanent settlement; Velázquez wanted that glory for himself. Cortés set off from Cuba with 11 ships carrying 630 men, with 16 horses and about 20 guns, ranging from cannon to arquebuses. In March 1519, he landed on the Yucatán coast, where he learned of the great riches of Aztec Mexico (1345-1521), and gained two translators; one, a Spanish castaway who had been captured by the Maya eight years earlier and had learned their language; and the other, a local native women, known to the Spaniards as La Malinche, who spoke both Mayan and Aztec (today in Mexican Spanish, the words malinchismo means something like cultural traitor). Cortés then sails further along the coast and, in April, took matters into his own hands. Flouting the governor's orders, he directed his men to found a settlement at Veracruz, and had himself elected governor until instructions from the Spanish crown stated otherwise; this strategy was not unique with ambitious men always hoping to redeem themselves later with spoils. Some of his men, loyal to Velázquez, tried to seize a ship and return to Cuba, but Cortés moved boldly against them, killing two of the ringleaders and scuttling all of his ships; one ship had already returned to Spain to seek the agreement of Charles V of Spain. In August, Cortés began his march on the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The Spanish party was soon confronted by the Tlaxcala people, who warlike spirit had never been conquered by the Aztecs. The pair fought a series of three hard fought battles, where the effect of horses and guns proved decisive. After each, Cortés released prisoners with messages of peace, and eventually the Tlaxcalan ruler realised that it would be better to ally with these newcomers than kill them. Thus, in October, Cortés continued his march, with about 2,000 Tlaxcalan warriors, and soon reached Cholula, the second largest Aztec city and an important religious site. Here, the Spanish perpetrated a dreadful massacre of thousands of unarmed citizens and partially burned the city. Reports of what happened are contradictory; either this was a pre-meditated effort to instill fear in the Aztecs waiting for them at Tenochtitlan or in a pre-emtive attack against native treachery (as Cortés claimed). In November, Cortes and his companions reach Tenochtitlan, where they were peacefully received by the Aztec king, Moctezuma II (d. 1520), hoping to better understand these newcomers. Moctezuma lavish his visitors with gifts which, rather than placating them, excited their ambitions for plunder. In a letter, Cortes claimed to have learned at this point that the Aztecs considered him to be an emissary of the god Quetzalcoatl; though this is contested by some modern historians. For a week, the Spaniards were in awe at the sight of the splendid city, which it is believed had a population of around 200,000; larger than any city in Spain, and in Europe, only Paris, Venice, Naples, and Constantinople might have rivaled it. But Cortes was well aware of the extreme danger of their situation. He devised a plan by which the emperor would be removed from his own palace and transferred to the building where the Spaniards were lodged. The capture of Moctezuma was carried out with a brilliantly controlled blend of persuasion and threat, with the result that he continued to act as emperor under Cortés' "protection"; a few hundred Spanish adventurers had taken control of the mighty Aztec Empire.

The fall of Tenochtitlan on 13 August 1521. At least 100,000 were killed, with some 40,000 corpse left floating in the canals. The Tlaxcalans, Spanish allies, did not spare even young women and very young children.

In April 1520, Spanish politics and envy finally caught up with Cortés. Governor Velázquez had sent another expedition from Cuba, under Pánfilo de Narváez, to arrest Cortés; 19 ships carrying 1,400 men. Cortés left 200 men in Tenochtitlán under his lieutenant Alvarado, and took the rest to confront Narváez. With perhaps as few as 300 men, he launched a surprise night attack on Narváez's camp, and quickly took control of his artillery, then persuaded Narváez's men to join his cause with promises of gold. Cortés then speedily returned to Tenochtitlán, where he found the city in open revolt. The headstrong Alvarado had become paranoid and killed several hundred Aztec nobles at a festival as a pre-emtive attack. In July 1520, Moctezuma was killed; the Spanish claim he was mortally wounded by his own people, while Aztec sources claim he was murdered by the Spanish. Hard pressed, Cortés was forced to fight his way out of the city, with heavy losses; La Noche Triste ("Night of Sollows"). Then there were further losses on the retreat to Tlaxcala; 870 Spaniards died out of 1,210, thousands of native allies, and most of the looted gold was lost. However, from this unpromising position, events began to flow in Cortés' favour. Velázquez had been discredited by the Narváez debacle, replaced as governor, and reinforcements began to arrive from Cuba. And a smallpox epidemic began to ravage central Mexico, killing at least 40% of the population of Tenochtitlán by the end-of-1520, including the new Aztec emperor, Cuitláhuac, who had ruled for just 80-days. In its wake, the Aztecs took on a largely defensive strategy, preserving their army in Tenochtitlán; this must have seemed a sensible approach, since the only Aztec victory over the Spanish had been in the city. Meanwhile, Cortés and his Tlaxcalan allies subdued the outlying cities one by one, and, by May 1521, the Aztec capital stood alone. Cortés then ordered something that had not been seen in central Mexico since the rise of the Aztecs; a siege. The Siege of Tenochtitlan (May-August) lasted 75-days, and, despite stubborn Aztec resistance, the city and Aztec civilisation fell; there would be no further organised resistance. But there was a problem; most of the treasure had been lost either during La Noche Triste, or thrown into the lake by the Aztecs before the fall. The Spanish destroyed the precious art and artefacts of Aztec culture with an unprecedented thoroughness; mainly in their lust for gold and silver. A few did get shipped back to Europe, where they were seen and appreciated by Renaissance artists, notably Albrecht Dürer. Cortés' conquest of Mexico won him the approval of Charles V of Spain, who appointed him as its first governor, which he ruled for a few years with the same energy and resolve shown in its conquest. Campaigns proceeded rapidly through Central America, spurred by a race between Cortés and the governor of Panama to find the fabled "Seven Cities of Gold" including El Dorado. Only the Maya Civilisation, secure in the jungle Yucatán, survived a little longer; their last stronghold only fell in 1699. The Spaniards were only in the most formal sense the destroyers of Maya Civilisation, which had long since decayed. But the Christian conquerors did obliterate its cultural legacy in an ideological assault on paganism. Specifically they hunted and burned every screen-fold book, in which the Mayans had recorded their history and ritual knowledge; only three have survived. As a result, we know little today about what seems to have been the most siphisticated of all the pre-Columbian civilizations. In 1524, royal officials were sent out to rule what Cortés had conquered. In 1535, the first viceroy of Mexico (dubbed New Spain) was appointed, with his capital in Mexico City, and governing not only Mexico but the entire Caribbean.


About ten years later, the conquistador Francisco Pizarro (d. 1541) set out upon a similar conquest of the Inca Peru (1418–1533), with, If possible, even more dreadful rapacity and ruthlessness. Born to a poor family, Pizarro chose to pursue fortune and adventure in the New World, where he accompanied Vasco Núñez de Balboa on his trek across the Isthmus of Panama, and became one of the first Europeans to “discover” the Pacific Ocean. It was Pizarro who later arrested Balboa for an embittered rival, and for this he was handsomely rewarded; appointed mayor of the newly founded Panama City. There he heard of a chance encounter off the coast of Peru. In 1527, two Spanish ships were surprised to come across an ocean-going raft with a crew of about twenty. When they seized the raft, its rich contents astonished them; many pieces of gold and silver as personal ornaments, small scales presumably to weigh gold, and a bag of emeralds and other jewels for trade. This glimpse of the fabulously wealthy Inca Empire could only inflame Spanish greed. Pizarro accompanied the first expedition to Peru led by Diego de Almagro (d. 1538). Unfortunately, the warlike spirit of the people of Columbia seemed so defiant that Almagro returned to Panama, but Pizarro persuaded just thirteen men to continue south; later known as "The Famous Thirteen". In April 1528, his little band reached the Inca town of Tumbes, in what is now western Ecuador, where they confirms that this was indeed a rich and civilized society. Pizarro spent most of the next eighteen months at the royal court in Spain, trying to win over Charles V of Spain to his scheme for a voyage of conquest. The great Hernán Cortés happened to be at court at the same time, who offered his personal encouragement. In July 1529, Pizarro was officially named governor of the nominal province of Peru. leaving his associate Diego de Almagro in a secondary positions; a fact that later led to discord. Unlike Cortes' speedy advance into Mexico, Pizarro's progress south was slow. He didn't leave Panama until December 1530, then marched his 250 men and 37 horses along the difficult coast of Ecuador, causing great hardship. Finally in May 1532, Pizarro reached Tumbes again, but found the place deserted and destroyed. Nearby, he founded the first Spanish settlement, which he called San Miguel de Piura, and then marched into the Inca Empire with just 62 horsemen and 106 foot soldiers. The Spaniards were to be helped by two fortunate circumstances. One was that the empire was in a state of turmoil caused by a prolonged civil war between two brothers, sons of Huayna Inca Capac (d. 1524), who had died in a plague - perhaps one that came to the Americas with the Spanish. Victory had recently gone to Atahualpa (d. 1533), but there was still much support for his rival in the Inca capital, Cuzco. In these circumstances the advance of the small band of strangers was dealt less forcefully than it might otherwise have been. The other piece of good fortune was that Atahualpa was encamped in the north, feasting his victory at the thermal baths outside Cajamarca, not far from the Spaniards' starting point. Pizarro and his small party of conquistadors entered the valley of Cajamarca in November. Atahualpa's 80,000-strong army was encamped in bright tents beyond the city. Curious about these strangers and no doubt complacent at their tiny numbers, Atahualpa agreed to meet with Pizarro in Cajamarca; he was particularly interest in the envoy's horse, an animal that he had never seen before. Pizarro was well aware of how Cortes had controlled Mexico through a captive ruler. He now sets about doing the same in Peru. On 16 November 1532, the Spaniards concealed their limited forces - cavalry, infantry, arquebuses, artillery - in the arcades around the town square. Atahualpa arrived with about 6,000 unarmed followers; this was a diplomatic mission and a battle was not expected. Then two Spaniards walked towards the emperor; a priest and an interpreter. The priest began solemnly expounding at length on the truth of the Christian faith, and then handed Atahualpa a bible. Atahualpa was insulted and confused, so tossed it to the ground. At this, the priest hurried back to the buildings, and gave the signal to open fire. The Spaniards unleashed volleys of gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incas, trapped by the narrow entrances to the square, Although this is sometimes called the Battle of Cajamarca, it was in truth more like a massacre; the Incas lost more than 2,000 men, while the Spanish had just one wounded soldier. In the chaos, Pizarro seized Atahualpa and dragging him to safety. All of Atahualpa's top commanders were either killed in the square or were away subduing Cuzco, so the Inca response was confused. And so there followed the highest stakes hostage situation in history. Atahualpa was treated with every respect, but refused to cooperate with Pizarro, saying "I will be no man's tributary". Instead, noticing the Spanish lust for treasure, he offered a ransom for his freedom; a room (22ft x 17ft x 8ft) filled once with gold, and twice with silver, within six months. The filling of the room provides Pizarro with welcome breathing space; he needed time for Spanish reinforcements to enlarge his tiny army. In February 1533, Diego de Almagro arrived with 50 horsemen and 100 foot soldiers, with more to follow. In May, Atahualpa had delivered on his promise. The Spaniards had probably never intended to keep their word, and were now uncertain what do with him. A rumour grew that Atahualpa had secretly ordered a great army to advance from the south to rescue him. It was false, but it provided a convenient excuse for his very expedient death. In July 1533, Atahualpa was accused of treason, rapidly convicted in a show-trial, and tied to a stake in Cajamarca's town square, where his followers had been massacred. He was sentenced to be burned to death, but the priest persuaded him to accept Christianity, so he was granted the mercy of a garrott. After Atahualpa' death, the Spanish conquistadors rapidly complete their conquest of the Inca Empire, entering the Inca capital of Cuzco with barely a struggle in November 1533. The empire, barely a century old, and recently ravaged by smallpox and civil war, had already collapsed.

Francisco Pizarro's conquest of Peru has ofter been regarded by historians as one of the most improbable in recorded history. He faced the Incas with a smaller army than Cortés, at a much greater distance from the support of the Spanish Caribbean.

With the conquest of Peru complete, Pizarro set about consolidating his power as governor. Cuzco was high up in the mountains and too distant from the sea to serve as the capital. In 1535, he founded the city of Lima, a few miles inland on the Rimac River. Peru had been conquered in a more buccaneering spirit than other parts of the developing Spanish Empire. The province long retained that character delaying the establishment of stable colonial government. This is well suggested by the fate of the leading families in the conquest. While Francisco Pizarro governed from Lima, he installed Atahualpa's younger brother, Manco Inca Yupanqui (d. 1544), in Cuzco as a puppet-emperor, under the charge of his brothers, Hernando and Gonzalo. Pizarro's friendship with his lieutenant, Diego de Almagro, had been deteriorating for some time, especially over the splitting of Atahualpa's massive ransom; Pizarro had called forth his official position as governor to claim the lion's share, despite an earlier promise among the conquistadors to equally split the benefits. When Almagro departed to pacify the south, the Pizarro brothers mistreated Manco so badly that he escaped into the mountains and rallied Inca resistance; the Free Inca State (1535-72). In early-1536, the Inca laid siege to Cuzco, taking advantage of Almagro's absence. After his return in late-1536, Almagro was appalled to learn of the Manco's Inca rebellion. He lifted the siege and then occupied the city himself, imprisoning the Pizarro brothers. Almagro was soon confronted by an army sent by Pizarro to liberate his brothers, but drove it off with a daring night attack. The next year, Manco took advantage of the Spanish in-fighting to launch a second siege of Cuzco, this time coordinated with one on Lima. Although Lima was easily relieved by sea, Almagro was hard pressed in Cuzco for almost 10-months. During this time De Almagro fell ill, and Pizarro grabbed the opportunity to launch a second assault on Cuzco, coming out victorious at the Battle of Las Salinas (April 1538); Almagro was condemned to death and garroted in his own dungeon. Then in 1541, Francisco Pizarro was assassinated by Almagro's supporters led by his son Diego. By all accounts, Charles V of Spain had already grown exasperated with Pizarro, and was no doubt relieved. In 1541, he appointed the first viceroy of Peru, who had Diego de Almagro. In 1544, Pizarro's brother Gonzalo killed the viceroy, and was executed himself in 1548; his brother, Hernando, was already imprisoned in Spain by this stage, where he remained for 20 years. As for Manco Inca Yupanqui, his followers retreated further into the rainforest, where they waged a guerilla style campaign against the Spanish; luring individual conquistadores out of the towns, clubbing them to death, and then vanishing back into the rainforest. More Spaniards died in these small-scale attacks than in the rest of the conquest of Peru. But, with the Spanish population in Peru roughly double every years, it was a futile struggle. The Free Inca State effectively ceased to exist when Manco's son was captured and executed in 1572.

A Spanish piece of eight, so called because it was worth eight of the older Spanish silver reales.

In both Peru and Mexico, the conquistadors and other settlers founded new towns, built Christian churches, set-up agricultural plantations, and rights to exploit the native population on the model first established in the Caribbean. By1600, there would be about 200,000 people in the Spanish Americas, who imported goods so they could live like the elites of Europe; wearing clothing made of English wool, eating from Dutch dishes, drinking sweet Portuguese wine, and worshipping in churches designed by Italian architects. The discovery of a prodigious source of silver at Potosí, in modern Bolivia, had sped up the pace of development. This region, high in the Andes, is the world's largest silver deposit, and Inca silver had mostly come from surface deposits; it eventually had as many as 5,000 working mines. Around the same time, another rich silver vein was found at Zacatecas in Mexico; gold was tapped too, though in much less quantity. The Spanish government gave the rights to mine silver to private investors - in exchange for 20 percent of the silver - who brought in experienced managers together with machinery, and organised the mines as capitalist enterprises, just like in Europe. They adapted and expanded the Aztec and Inca systems of forced labour, drafting the indigenous population to mine and transport silver; they were also forced to mine mercury, needed to extract the silver from ore, but highly poisonous. Spanish officials, however, sought to convert the natives to Christianity, and missionaries often objected to these harsh demands. They could also do nothing about the spread of germs; dangerous conditions combined with disease to kill people even faster. Nor could they prevent people simply fleeing to remote villages rather than work in mines. The mine owners responded to these problems by bringing in African slaves, though they died in great numbers too. Meanwhile, the Spanish government wanted to make sure this silver got back to Europe, so they built sturdier ships with better weapons and more soldiers. The organised Spanish Treasure Fleet system began to operate from 1564, travelling in convoy every year to Spain, where it supplied the Spanish crown with one-fourth of its total income. These convoys were general cargo fleets used for transporting a wide variety of goods, including silver and gold, agricultural produce, lumber, gems, pearls, sugar, tobacco, and other exotic commodities from the overseas territories. Spanish goods needed in the colonies such as textiles, wine, books, oil, and tools were transported in the opposite direction. By 1571, the Spanish had a colony at Manila in the Philippines, where silver was traded with Chinese merchants for silk, porcelain, spices, and other luxuries; another convoy sailed each year to Acapulco in Mexico. The conquest of the Americas brought glory and wealth to Spain, which made it the most powerful country in Europe in the late-16th and early-17th century. This provoked the jealousy and hatred of others, enhanced by stories about Spanish atrocities in the New World. The so-called “Black Legend” (anit-Spanish propaganda) was based largely on the writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas (d. 1566), a Spanish Dominican friar who took part in royal investigations into the mistreatment of natives by colonial officials. He published a series of essays from 1552 detailing, condemning, and probably exaggerating Spanish abuses; to him, all Indians were peaceful and childlike innocents, while all Spaniards were violent, cruel, and greedy. When combined with European conflicts - the Italian Wars for the French, the Dutch Revolt for the Dutch, or simple opportunism for the English - this provided a justification for New World voyages, piracy, and colonization by other European nations. Meanwhile the relative ease with which the Spanish conquered the Caribbean, Mexico, and Peru, bolstered a strong sense that Europeans were destined to impose civilization and Christianity on these “new” peoples. When combined with assessments of African inferiority fostered by the slave trade, this created a great sense of European cultural superiority that persisted throughout the colonial era; some would argue that it still exists today.

Portuguese Brazil[]


Brazil was deemed to be part of the Portuguese share of the globe, through the accident of the Tordesillas Line, but, with colonial ambitions focussed on the Indian Ocean, they were slower than the Spanish in setting up any form of administration. It was not until 1533 that the first steps were taken to colonize this rich territory by John III of Portugal (d. 1557). He devised a system to effectively occupy Brazil, without paying the costs. The Brazilian coastline was divided into fifteen strips of land, each about 150 miles in length, and granted on a hereditary basis to fifteen prominent noblemen; who become known as donatários. Each was in turn responsible for founding cities, granting land, and levying taxes over as much territory as they could colonize inland from their stretch of coast. The system was a failure, with only four donatários making any success of this venture. In 1549, John III was forced to change his policy, bringing Brazil under direct royal control, and appointing a governor general; as in Spanish America. The headquarters of the new governorate was established at São Salvador, which remained the capital of Portuguese Brazil for more than two centuries. Accompanying the first governor general in 1549 were members of the newly founded order of Jesuits. In their mission to convert the Indians they were often the first European presence in new regions far from the coast. They frequently clashed with adventurers also pressing inland to find silver and gold, or to capture Indians as slaves. These two groups, with their very different motives, brought a Portuguese presence far beyond the Tordesillas Line. By the late-17th-century the territory of Brazil encompassed the entire basin of the Amazon as far west as the Andes. At the same time, Portuguese colonists were moving down the coast beyond Rio de Janeiro, reaching the river Plate in 1680, and provoking a century of Spanish-Portuguese border conflicts in the region which is now Uruguay. The economic strength of Portuguese Brazil derived at first from sugar plantations in the north; established as early as the 1530s by one of the four successful donatários. By 1680, Brazil was Europe’s largest source of sugar, and sugar had become a normal part of many people’s diets. Per capita consumption in England was several pounds per year, still tiny compared with modern sugar consumption - the United States has the world’s largest per capita sugar consumption, at about 150 pounds a year - but much more than it had been in the Middle Ages, when sugar was such a luxury that people thought of it more as a drug than as a food. From 1693, Brazil also benefited at last from the mineral wealth, which underpinned Spanish America. Gold had been found in the region of Minas Gerais, in the southern part of the colony. The discovery set-off the first great gold rush of the American continent, opening up the interior as the prospectors swarm westwards, and underpinning Brazil's economy for much of the 18th century. Diamonds were also discovered in large quantities in the same region in the 18th century. The shift in Brazil's economy from sugar to mineral wealth brought a change in the colony's centre of gravity. For the first two centuries, São Salvador, in the north, was the seat of colonial government. But the gold and diamonds made their way to Europe through the port of Rio de Janeiro, greatly adding to the prosperity and sophistication of this southern city. The capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1763.