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Gergio Deluci, Christopher Columbus Arrives in America in 1492, 1893 painting.
Gergio Deluci, Christopher Columbus Arrives in America in 1492, 1893 painting.

The 15th century was the century which spans the Julian years 1401 to 1500.

In Europe, the 15th century is seen as the bridge between the Late Middle Ages, the Early Renaissance, and the Early modern period. Many technological, social and cultural developments of the 15th century can in retrospect be seen as heralding the "European miracle" of the following centuries. In religious history, the Roman Papacy was split in two parts in Europe for decades (the so-called Western Schism), until the Council of Constance. The division of the Catholic Church and the unrest associated with the Hussite movement would become factors in the rise of the Protestant Reformation in the following century.

Constantinople, in what is today Turkey, then the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire, falls to the emerging Muslim Ottoman Turks, marking the end of the tremendously influential Byzantine Empire and, for some historians, the end of the Middle Ages.[1] The event forced Western Europeans to find a new trade route, adding further momentum to what was the beginning of the Age of Discovery, which would lead to the global mapping of the world. Explorations by the Portuguese and Spanish led to European sightings of the Americas (the New World) and the sea passage along Cape of Good Hope to India, in the last decade of the century. These expeditions ushered in the era of the Portuguese and Spanish colonial empires.

The fall of Constantinople led to the migration of Greek scholars and texts to Italy, while Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the mechanical movable type began the Printing Press. These two events played key roles in the development of the Renaissance.[2][3]

The Spanish Reconquista leads to the final fall of the Emirate of Granada by the end of the century, ending over seven centuries of Muslim rule and returning Spain back to Christian rulers.

The Hundred Years' War end with a decisive French victory over the English in the Battle of Castillon. Financial troubles in England following the conflict results in the Wars of the Roses, a series of dynastic wars for the throne of England. The conflicts end with the defeat of Richard III by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field, establishing the Tudor dynasty in the later part of the century.

In Asia, under the rule of the Yongle Emperor, who built the Forbidden City and commanded Zheng He to explore the world overseas, the Ming Dynasty's territory reached its pinnacle. Tamerlane established a major empire in the Middle East and Central Asia, in order to revive the Mongol Empire.

In Africa, the spread of Islam leads to the destruction of the Christian kingdoms of Nubia, by the end of the century leaving only Alodia (which was to collapse in 1504). The formerly vast Mali Empire teeters on the brink of collapse, under pressure from the rising Songhai Empire.

In the Americas, both the Inca Empire and the Aztec Empire reach the peak of their influence.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners. Crash Course: World History #21
  • ✪ Fall of The Roman the 15th Century: Crash Course World History #12
  • ✪ Context of 15th Century European Exploration
  • ✪ The 15th Century - Prelude to the Italian Wars 1.
  • ✪ The Evolution Of Knightly Armour - 1066 - 1485


Hi, I’m John Green; this is Crash Course: World History and today we’re going to do some compare and contrast, because that’s what passes for hip in world history circles. Right, so you’ve probably heard of Christopher Columbus who in 1492 sailed the ocean blue and discovered America, a place that had been previously discovered only by millions of people-- Mr Green, Mr Green! Columbus was just a lucky idiot. Yeah, no. Here’s a little rule of thumb, Me from the Past: If you are not an expert in something, don’t pretend to be an expert. This is going to serve you well both in your academic career and in your Kissing Career. MOVING ON. [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] So unlike Me from the Past, I’d argue that Columbus has a deserved reputation in history— [Save his Harry Potter directional stint] but was he really the greatest sailor of the 15th Century? Well, let’s meet the other contestants. [playing for a lifetime supply of Garlique] In the red corner, we have Zheng He, who, when it comes to ocean-going voyages was the first major figure of the 15th century. And in the blue corner is Vasco da Gama, from scrappy little Portugal, who managed to introduce Europeans to the Indian Ocean trade network. Columbus, you have to sit in the polka-dotted corner. [until you learn special effects are a privilege, not a crutch] As you’ll no doubt remember from our discussion of Indian Ocean trade, it was dominated by Muslim merchants, involved ports in Africa and the Middle East and India and Indonesia, and China and it made a lot of people super rich. This last point explains why our three contestants were so eager to set sail. Well, that and the ceaseless desire of human beings to discover things and contract scurvy. Let’s begin with Zheng He, who is probably the greatest admiral you’ve never have heard of. Couple of important things about Zheng He: First, he was a Muslim. That may seem strange until you consider that by the late 14th century China had long experience with Muslims, especially when they were ruled by, wait for it.... The Mongols. [Hark! The commotive, cacophonic caterwauling of clattering conquerors!] Secondly, Zheng He was a eunuch. (He was one of a kind?] Fortunately, 15th century China had excellent general anesthesia, so I’m sure it didn’t hurt at all when they castrated him— what’s that, Stan? They didn’t have any anesthesia? Oh, boy. Oh. STAN, I’M SEEING IT! I can see, AH AH AHHHH. Stan! SHOW ME SOMETHING CUTE RIGGHT NOW! Oh, hi there kitty! How’d you get in that little teacup? Thank you, Stan. Right, so Zheng He rose from humble beginnings to lose both of his testicles, and become the greatest admiral in Chinese history. Let’s go to the thought Bubble. Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He led seven voyages throughout the Indian Ocean, the expeditions of the so-called treasure ships, and they were huge. Columbus’ first voyage consisted of three ships. Zheng He led an armada of over 300 ships. With a crew of over 27,000— more than half of London’s population at the time. And some of these ships were, well, enormous. The flagships, known as treasure ships, were over 400 feet long and had 7 or more masts. See that little tiny ship there in front of the Treasure Ship? That’s a to-scale rendering of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. Zheng He wasn’t an explorer: The Indian Ocean trade routes were already known to him and other Chinese sailors. He visited Africa, India, and the Middle East, and in a way, his journeys were trade missions, but not in the sense of filling his ships up with stuff to be sold later for higher prices. China was the leading manufacturer of quality goods in the world, and there wasn’t anything they actually needed to import. What they needed was prestige and respect so that people would continue to see China as the center of the economic universe, so there was a tribute system through which foreign rulers or their ambassadors would come to China and engage in a debasing ritual called the kowtow wherein they acknowledged the superiority of the Chinese emperor and offered him or her but usually him gifts in return for the right to trade with China. The opportunity to humble yourself before the Chinese emperor was so valuable that many a prince was happy to jump on a treasure ship and sail back to China with Zheng He. Also, these tribute missions brought lots of crazy things to China, including exotic animals: From Africa, Zheng He brought back a zoo’s worth of rhinos, zebras, and even giraffes. Basically, he was like the medieval Chinese Noah. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So the Chinese were world leaders in naval technology, and they wanted to dominate trade here in the Indian Ocean. So why, then, did these voyages end? One reason was that Zheng, He couldn’t live forever, and sure enough, he didn’t. Also his patron, the Yongle Emperor, died. And the emperor’s successors weren’t very interested in maritime trade. They were more concerned with protecting China from its traditional enemies, nomads from the steppe. To do this, they built a Rather Famous Wall. The Great Wall was mostly built under the Ming with resources that they had because they stopped building gigantic ships. Just imagine what might have happened if the Ming emperors had embraced a different strategy. One that was based on outreach instead of isolationism. And now, to the blue corner… Representing Portuguese exploration, we have Vasco da Gama. Couple things about Portugal: First, it has a fair bit of coast line. Secondly it was also relatively resource poor, which meant it relied upon trade to grow. Also, the Iberian peninsula was the only place in Europe where Muslims could be found in large numbers in the 15th century, which meant the Christian Crusading spirit was quite strong there, presumably because Muslims had brought so much stability and prosperity to the region. And chief among these would-be crusaders was Prince Henry the Navigator, so called because he was not a navigator. [What is in a name, Metta World Peace?] He was, however, a patron, not only of sailors themselves, but of a special school at Sagres in which nautical knowledge was collected and new maps were made, and all kinds of awesome stuff happened. And all that knowledge gave Portuguese sailors a huge competitive advantage when it came to exploration. Henry commissioned sailors to search for two things. First, a path to the Indian Ocean so they could get in on the lucrative spice trade. And second, to find the kingdom of Prester John, a mythical Christian King who was supposed to live in Africa somewhere, so that Henry could have Prester John’s help in a crusade. Da Gama was the first of Henry’s protégés to make it around Africa, and into the Indian Ocean. In 1498, he landed at Calicut, a major trading center on India’s west coast. And when he got there, merchants asked him what he was looking for. He answered with three words: Gold and Christians. Which basically sums up Portugal’s reasons for exploration. So, once the Portuguese breached the Indian Ocean, they didn’t create, like, huge colonies, because there were already powerful empires in the region. Instead, they apparently sat in the middle of the Indian Ocean doing nothing. Actually, they were able to capture & control a number of coastal cities, creating what historians call a “trading post empire.” They could do this thanks to their well-armed ships, which captured cities by firing cannons into city walls like IRL Angry Birds. But since the Portuguese didn’t have enough people or boats to run the Indian Ocean trade, they had to rely on extortion. [C.R.E.A.M. Get the money- Dollar, dollar bill y'all.] So, Portuguese merchant ships would capture other ships and force them to purchase a permit to trade called a cartaz. And without a cartaz, a merchant couldn’t trade in any of the towns that Portugal controlled. To merchants, who’d plied the Indian Ocean for years in relative freedom, the Portuguese were just glorified pirates, extracting value from trade without adding to its efficiency or volume. So, the cartaz strategy sort of worked for a while, but the Portuguese never really took control of Indian Ocean trade. They were successful enough that their neighbors Spain, became interested in their own route to the Indies, and that brings us to Columbus. But first, let’s dispel some myths: One: Columbus and his crew knew the earth was round. [Some folks still aren't convinced] He was just wrong about the earth’s size. Columbus used Ptolemy’s geography and the Imago Mundi, based on Muslim scholarship— and ended up overestimating the size of Asia and underestimating the size of the oceans. Two: Columbus never thought he’d made it to China. He called the people he encountered “Indians” because he thought that he’d made it to the East Indies, what we know as Indonesia. Three: Columbus was not a lucky idiot. He navigated completely unknown waters primarily relying on a technique known as dead reckoning, in which you figure out your position based on three pieces of information: The direction you’re going, your speed, and the time, which you figure out via hourglass. With only that technology to guide you, its not actually that easy to hit a continent. Come here people who are saying he didn’t hit a continent, that he only hit some islands. Come here. Dahhh! Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? An open letter to the Line of Demarcation… But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, its a globe. T hanks Stan! Just what I always needed. Dear Line of Demarcation, You have so much to teach us about the way that the world used to work, and the way that it works now. In 1494, Pope Alexander VI settled a dispute between Portugal and Spain by dividing the world into two parts: The Spanish part, and the Portuguese part. This whole thing, at least according to Pope Alexander VI, could be split between Spain and Portugal. At least when it came to so-called unclaimed land. I mean, unclaimed by whom? You know all the American Indians were like, “wait, this land is available? In, in that case, we’ll just, we’ll just keep it. If its all the same to you.” Anyway, Line of Demarcation, I have great news for you. What Alexander VI did totally worked. We haven’t had a problem since. Best wishes, John Green. So, Columbus’s first journey (he made four, the last three of which were pretty calamitous) was tiny, and he initially landed on a s mall Caribbean island he called San Salvador in search, like the Portuguese, of Gold and Christians. He was able to convince Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to fund his expedition by promising riches and conversions of the natives, hopefully to sign them up for yet another crusade. And there’s a long-standing myth that Columbus tricked Ferdinand and Isabella into paying for his trip, but in fact they’d commissioned two different sets of experts to analyze his plans, both of which agreed, he was [totes cray cray]. One called the plan, “Impossible to any educated person.” But even so, Ferdinand and Isabella footed the bill, partly because they were full of Crusading zeal after expelling the Muslims from Spain, and partly because they were desperate to get their hands on some of that pepper richness. [Also some Kleenex, to help with the subsequent sneezy richness?] Columbus of course, failed at finding riches— he returned with neither spices nor gold. He did create some Christians, as we’ll discuss in a future episode, but in terms of goal accomplishment, Columbus was much less successful than either Zheng He or Vasco de Gama. [and most certainly, David Yates] But within two generations of Columbus, Spain would become fantastically wealthy, and for a time they were the leading power in Europe. Columbus’s voyages also had a huge, largely negative, impact on the people the Spanish encountered in the Americas. And excitingly from my perspective, once Columbus returned from San Salvador, we can speak for the first time of a truly world history. Except for you Australia. So who was the greatest mariner of the 15th century? Well, as usual, it depends on your definition of greatness. [Eccleston, Tennant, Smith? Frak it... Adipose?] If you value administrative competence over ill-advised adventure, than Zheng He is certainly the winner. But the reason we remember Columbus over him or Vasco de Gama is that Columbus’s voyages had a lasting impact on the world, even if it wasn’t necessarily a positive one. And that makes me wonder what kind of person you’d want to be: A capable administrator and brilliant sailor like Zheng He? A daring captain like de Gama? Or the bearer of a complicated but famous legacy like Columbus? Let me know in comments. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself, and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. [Seriously, no Canadians made it past Stanley Cup Round 1?] Last week’s Phrase of the Week was, “You smell pretty.” [missed an opportunity for banjo picking there...] Thanks for that suggestion, by the way. If you want to suggest future phrases of the week, you can do so in comments where you can also guess at this weeks phrase of the week or ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my home town, Don’t forget you're Stuck In My Heart Now, Where My Blood Belongs.



Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl, directly influenced the result of the Hundred Years' War.
Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl, directly influenced the result of the Hundred Years' War.
Filippo Brunelleschi, regarded as one of the greatest engineers and architects of all time.
Filippo Brunelleschi, regarded as one of the greatest engineers and architects of all time.




The renaissance king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. His mercenary standing army (the Black Army) had the strongest military potential of its era.
The renaissance king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. His mercenary standing army (the Black Army) had the strongest military potential of its era.




Modern painting of Mehmed II marching on Constantinople in 1453
Modern painting of Mehmed II marching on Constantinople in 1453
Detail of The Emperor's Approach showing the Xuande Emperor's royal carriage. Ming Dynasty of China.
Detail of The Emperor's Approach showing the Xuande Emperor's royal carriage. Ming Dynasty of China.
King Henry VII, (1457–1509), the founder of the royal house of Tudor
King Henry VII, (1457–1509), the founder of the royal house of Tudor


The seventeen Kuchkabals of Yucatán after The League of Mayapan in 1461.
The seventeen Kuchkabals of Yucatán after The League of Mayapan in 1461.
The Siege of Rhodes (1480). Ships of the Hospitaliers in the forefront, and Turkish camp in the background.
The Siege of Rhodes (1480). Ships of the Hospitaliers in the forefront, and Turkish camp in the background.




Significant people

Visual artists, architects, sculptors, printmakers, illustrators

See links above for Italian Renaissance painting and Renaissance sculpture.


Musicians and Composers


Science, invention and philosophy

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

List of 15th century inventions


Important personages


  1. ^ Crowley, Roger (2006). Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453. Faber. ISBN 0-571-22185-8. (reviewed by Foster, Charles (22 September 2006). "The Conquestof Constantinople and the end of empire". Contemporary Review. Archived from the original on 22 August 2009. It is the end of the Middle Ages
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Renaissance, 2008, O.Ed.
  3. ^ McLuhan 1962; Eisenstein 1980; Febvre & Martin 1997; Man 2002
  4. ^ Winstedt, R. O. (1948). "The Malay Founder of Medieval Malacca". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies. 12 (3/4): 726–729. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00083312. JSTOR 608731.
  5. ^ "An introduction to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644)". Khan Academy. Asian Art Museum. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  6. ^ Modern interpretation of the place names recorded by Chinese chronicles can be found e.g. in Some Southeast Asian Polities Mentioned in the MSL Archived 12 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine by Geoffrey Wade
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Ricklefs (1991), page 18.
  8. ^ Leinbach, Thomas R. (20 February 2019). "Religions". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  9. ^ Noorduyn, J. (2006). Three Old Sundanese poems. KITLV Press. p. 437.
  10. ^ Mueller, Peter O. (1993) Substantiv-Derivation in Den Schriften Albrecht Durers, Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-012815-2.
  11. ^ Also sometimes in contemporary documents Barthélemy de Cler, der Clers, Deick d'Ecle, d'Eilz – Harthan, John, The Book of Hours, p. 93, 1977, Thomas Y Crowell Company, New York, ISBN 0-690-01654-9
  12. ^ Unterkircher, Franz (1980). King René's Book of Love (Le Cueur d'Amours Espris). New York: G. Braziller. ISBN 0-8076-0989-7.
  13. ^ Tolley
  14. ^ Brigstocke, 2001, p. 338
  15. ^ "Hans Holbein". Catholic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2007.


  • Tolley, Thomas (2001). "Eyck, Barthélemy d'". In Hugh Brigstocke (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866203-3.
This page was last edited on 4 June 2019, at 04:34
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