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15th Century, 1401 to 1500

1401  Timur conquers Damascus and reconquers Baghdad.

1402  Timur wins a great battle at Angora (Ankara). He is concerned about having helped Christians by defeating a Muslim army. He sends envoys to the Christian knights ruling Smyrna and demands that the knights convert to Islam or pay tribute. They refuse both, and Timur attacks and orders the city's entire population, including women and children, annihilated. The heads of the defeated, it would be said, are displayed in a pyramid.

1405  A Ming dynasty emperor, Yongle (or Zhu Di), orders one of his eunuchs, Zheng He, a Muslim who has traveled to Mecca and knows the world a little better than others in China, to sail a fleet of ships on the high seas in pursuit of his cousin, the former emperor.

1406  China's emperor, Zhu Di, sends troops that begin an eighteen-year attempt to conquer Annam (Vietnam).

1406  The geography of Ptolemy, an ancient Greek, is introduced in Europe. This holds that the earth is the center of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolve around it in perfect circles.

1407  London has a new institution – a place for the insane called Bethlehem hospital.

1408  In Britain, John Wyclif's England language bible has been published.

1409  Prelates meet at Pisa to name a pope to replace the two claiming to be pope. The two existing popes refuse to step aside.

1410  A Germanic force, the Teutonic Knights, are trying to gain control of Poland. The knights are allied with the kings of Bohemia and Hungary. Their army has volunteer "crusaders" and numbers around 27,000.  An army of 39,000 fighting for the Polish king, Wladyslaw Jagiello, includes Lithuanians, Ruthenians and Tatars in addition to Poles, and they defeat the Germans. The Teutonic Knights decline in power and Eastern Europe does not become a German colony.

1413  In England, followers of John Wyclif, dead since 1384, hold that the Bible is the only rule of faith. They appeal to the Catholic clergy to return to the simple life of the early Church. They oppose war, the doctrine of transubstantiation, confession, and images in worship. They march on London, and Henry V, fearing social disorder, suppresses the movement.

1415  John Hus, a Czech and former dean of philosophy at the University of Prague, travels to the Council of Constance to propose his reforms for the Church. Upon his arrival he is tried for heresy and burned at the stake.

1415  Prince Henry of Portugal, with a fleet of 200 ships and 20,000 men, captures the port of Ceuta from the Moors.

1416  Dutch fishermen are using drift nets.

1419  Lately the Portuguese have been building latine-rigged ships, which can tack into the wind. They are are exploring waters off the coast of northern Africa, and they lay claim to the island of Madiera. 

1420  The Portuguese are fighting inhabitants of the Canary Islands, south of Madiera.

1421  In Austria, Jews are imprisoned and expelled. 

1421  In Florence, the first patent is granted – for a barge with hoists, used for hauling marble. 

1422  In Japan, a Zen teacher, Ketsugan, is performing exorcisms.

1425  Zen temples in Japan are contributing to cultural diffusion by importing Chinese literature, aritistic styles and religious ideas.

1428  Pope Martin V orders John Wyclif's bones exhumed and burned.

1428  King Alfonso V, king of Naples and Sicily, orders Jews in Sicily to convert to Catholicism.

1429  The Hundred Years' War is still on, and, in May, Joan of Arc defeats the English at Orleans. In August she enters Paris in triumph.

1431  Some Englishmen see Joan of Arc as truly a witch and as an agent of the devil – a common response to adversity in this age. Joan is captured. The English turn her over to ecclesiastic authorities – the Inquisition – and at the French town of Rouen, then under English rule, Joan is burned at the stake.

1431  The Mexica (Aztecs) have won a three-year war with the Tepaneca, who have been dominant in central Mexico and to whom the Mexica have been paying tribute. The Mexica have conquered the Tepaneca city, Azcapotzalco. The Mexica establish an alliance with the Acolhua, of the city Texcoco, and the Tepaneca, of Tlacopan. This alliance is to be the foundation of a Mexica empire.

1431  Admiral Zheng He of China leads a fleet of 52 ships, with nearly 30,000 men, to the east coast of Africa.

1433  The Songhai have rebelled against the Mali Empire and are disrupting Mali's trade on the Niger River. Mali is in decline. The Songhai are able to sack and occupy Timbuktu.

1434  In this pre-industrial age the biggest business is banking, and in the Tuscan city of Florence a banking family, the Medici, begins to dominate the city politically.

1434  Portuguese start sailing past Cape Bojador, beyond which had been considered a "Sea of Darkness" from which no European had returned.

1435  Amid rebellion and turmoil, Sweden's parliament meets for the first time, to be dominated by noble families and the body that maintains Swedish national identity.

1436  From the Caucasus region, al-Ashraf Qaytbay, at the age of twenty, is brought to Egypt as a slave, purchased by a merchant for recruitment as a Mamluk warrior. He is an able horseman, and his gifts are to catch the eye of Egypt's leading militarists.

1438  The Chanca tribe attacks the Inca city-state of Cusco from the north. In defense, the Inca begin to reorganize their governmental system, to expand their alliances and with force to build the Tahuantinsuyu Empire.

1439  Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church leaders agree to reunify these two branches of Christianity. The Russians do not agree and the Russian Orthodox Church is to remain independent of the Vatican in Rome.

1441  In one of their caravels, the Portuguese transport around 200 slaves from Africa to Portugal.

1448  In China, hyperinflation reduces the value of paper money 97 percent.

1448  On a small island known as Arguin (Arguim), rougly 700 kilometers south of Cape Bojador, the Portuguese build a castle and establish the first European trading post in Africa.

1448  The Russian Orthodox Church becomes independent of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

1450  In Kyoto, the Ryoanji Zen temple is built. It has a garden of fifteen rocks on raked white sand – an austerity to aid meditation.

1450  The wealthiest state on Africa's east coast, Zimbabwe, is abandoned after having suffered from overgrazing, eroded farmlands and a loss of timber. Kingdoms neighboring Zimbabwe are conquered by Mwene Mutapa.

1452  In Europe, metal plates are being used in screw-type presses.

1452  There is famine in the Mexica (Aztec) city of Tenochtitlan.

1453  Constantinople has been declining economically, in population and military strength. Using European artillery and experts, the Ottoman Turks break through Constantinople's walls. Disciplined Muslim forces capture the city. This ends Constantinople as the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the heart of the remains of the Roman Empire.

1453  The French capture Bordeaux, the last place the English hold except for the port city of Calais, on the English channel. The Hundred Years' War ends without a formal treaty signed and no renouncing of rights to the French throne by an English king.  Nationalism had increased, and common people in England are upset at what they see as England having lost the war. With the end of the Hundred Years' War, trade revives and economic depression ends. 

1453  Forty-one Jews are burned at the stake in Breslau, Poland.

1455  In the German town of Mainz, Johann Gutenberg, using metal type in a screw-type printing press, prints the "Gutenberg" Bible. His printing press is a step up from screw presses used in agriculture. He was the first European to use type-setting, beginning around 1439. Printing was to increasing the circulation of literature, stimulate a rise in literacy, knowledge and science.

1455  With humanistic leanings and an enthusiasm for literature and art, Pope Nicholas V has in the last five years given rebirth to the Vatican Library – putting it on course to becoming one of the largest libraries in the world. He dies at age 58.

1456  Judges and commissioners in the archbishop's palace in the city of Rouen declare that Joan of Arc was innocent of the charges that led to her execution – after nineteen years of appeal and almost one year of hearings. The Archbishop declares the case ended.

1456  The Ottoman Turks overrun Athens, begin a stay that will last 400 years, and they turn the Parthenon into a mosque.

1459  The Ottoman Turks have taken control of all Serbia.

1461  Two families, both descended from King Edward III (who reigned from 1327 to 1377 and was of the Plantagenet dynasty) have been at war for years. One family is the House of York the other the House of Lancaster. This is the War of the Roses. Edward, from the House of York, defeats the Lancastrians at Mortimor's Cross. He is proclaimed king and ascends the throne as Edward IV.

1461  King Loius XI of France creates a postal service.

1463  The Ottoman Turks expand into Bosnia. They execute Bosnia's king, Stefan Tomasevic – the last of the Kotromanic dynasty. Assassination, as a means of resistance to foreign rule, is viewed by the Serbs of Bosnia as a heroic act.

1464  The Songhai and Mali Empire fight over Timbuktu, with great loss of life. The Songhai win and the Mali Empire is more obviously in decline.

1466  An Albanian, George Kastrioti, also known as Skanderbeg, has led another successful resistance against an Ottoman invasion, and he is a hero across Christendom.

1467  In Japan a dispute over succession of the Ashikaga shogunate begins the Onin War, which exacerbates the strife between regional warlords (daimyo).

1468  Skanderbeg has been ill and dies in bed, and the Ottomans absorb Albania.

1468  In Egypt, al-Ashraf Qaytbay becomes the Mamluk sultan. He buys 46,000 more slaves from the his area of origin – the Caucusus. These slaves are normally from ages ten to 20, shipped through the Turkish straits. It is a trade in the hands of the Genoese.

1469  Ferdinand of Aragon marries Isabella of Castile.

1471  After having secured much of what today is central and northern Peru, the Inca have expanded their empire into Ecuador. With a new king, Tupac Inca, they begin to expand southward into Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

1472  Benin is a walled city several kilometers wide in a forested region inland from where the Niger River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its king, Ewuare trades captives taken in battle, delivering them as slaves to the Portuguese. 

1472  On one of his journeys the Mamluk sultan, Qaytbay, is rushed by peasants. He waves back his bodyguards, greets them and allows them to clutch at his garments.

1477  France's Louis XI gains control of Burgundy.

1477  In Japan the Onin War ends. The shogunate is weakened and power shifts to feudal warlords (daimyo).

1478  A conspiracy, that includes the Archbishop of Pisa and has the support of Pope Sixtus IV, leads to an attack on the Medici while they are in church. The Archbishop and several others are hanged. Pope Sixtus puts Florence under the interdict and excommunicates the Medici leader of Florence, Lorenzo de Medici. The pope forms a military alliance with the King of Naples, and  Lorenzo's diplomacy prevents an attack.

1479  After four years of war, Spain accepts monopoly trade for Portugal along Africa's Atlantic coast and Portugal acknowledges Spain's rights in the Canary Islands.

1479  The Ottoman Turks and Venice have been at war since 1463.  Venice is defeated militarily and gives up that part of its empire, along the Adriatic Sea, that the Ottoman Turks occupy. 

1480  Leonardo da Vinci of Florence, age 28, of invents the parachute.

1480  Moscow's Ivan III feels strong enough to refuse to pay tribute to the Mongols

1481 Louis XI of France gains the territories of Anjou, Bar Mine and Provence.

1480  Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain employ the Spanish Inquisition to investigate whether converted Jews are secretly clinging to Judaism.

1481  Two Latvian monarchs are executed for murdering the Polish king, Kazimierz IV.

1482  Portuguese have founded new trading settlements on Africa's "Gold Coast." They are trading ironware, firearms, textiles and food for gold, ivory, food and slaves.

1482  The Ottoman Turks occupy Herzegovina and join it administratively with Bosnia. Its nobles and a large percentage of its peasants are to accept Islam.

1482  Cairo is one of the largest and wealthiest of cities and is much admired by western travelers.

1483  Edward IV of England has died. His son succeeds him as Edward V, and he is murdered. The Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of Edward IV, usurps the throne and is crowned Richard III.

1483  Pope Innocent VIII issues a statement deploring the spread of witchcraft and heresy in Germany. He orders that cats belonging to convicted witches be burned as well as the witches.

1485  Henry Tudor, a relative of the Lancaster family, defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. The Tudor family takes power and is crowned Henry VII. 

1485  Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York, uniting the Lancaster and York families. The War of Roses is over.

1491  King Charles VIII of France invades Brittany and forces 14-year-old Ann of Brittany to marry him, adding Brittany to French territory.

1492  Spain's monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, do their part in a war against Islam – they annex Granada. Also they give Jews three months to convert to Christianity if they are to avoid banishment from the country. And the voyage that the monarchy is paying for, led by Christopher Columbus, sets sail for China by going westward.

1493  Christopher Columbus returns from the Caribbean, and later in the year he sails back to the Caribbean. 

1494  Kings were doing what kings had been doing for ages: pursuing wealth, territorial expansion and control over people. This year Christopher Columbus – an agent for Ferdinand and Isabella – begins using people of the Caribbean as slaves.

1494  Piero de Medici has ruled since the death of his father, Lorenzo, in 1492. He makes peace with the French, who have invaded Tuscany (in which Florence is located). A political rising drives him into exile. Florence is in anarchy. A Dominican priest, Savonarola, is anti-Renaissance. He is opposed to popular music, art and other worldliness.

1496  Jews are expelled from Syria.

1496  Sultan Qaytbay dies at the age of 53 followed by grand amirs competing to succeed him.

1497  Boys working under Savonarola collect from homes things associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, pictures, books, fine dresses, the works of immoral poets. Savonarola has these burned. Renaissance art work is lost. Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Savonarola.

1497  In Scotland, children are required by law to go to school

1498  Toothbrushes appear in China.

1498  Vasco da Gama reaches India.

1498  Savonarola is hanged. An enraged crowd burns Savonarola at the same spot where he ordered his bonfire.

1498  Columbus sails from Spain with six ships on his third voyage to the Americas.

1498  Jews are expelled from Nuremberg and Bavaria.

1498  The Ottoman Turks invade Dalmatia and devastate land around Zara. Venice goes to war again against the Ottoman Turks.

1500  Portugal settles the islands of Sao Tome and Principe off the Atlantic coast of Africa.  

14th Century (1301 to 1400 CE) | 16th Century (1501 to 1600 CE)

Copyright © 2004-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.