13 Wars and Transitions

Era 1490-ca 1540 (or 1559):

  • a major turning point in European political history
  • balance of power in Europe: from Mediterranean to Atlantic
  • transition from “late medieval” structures to “early modern”
  • coincides with spread of Renaissance culture to N. Europe
  • religious controversies

General political scene in Europe ca 1450


Hundred Years War  (Joan of Arc burned, 1431)

Wars of the Roses; rise of  Tudors after 1485

France: strong recovery from 100 yrs war. Large army

HRE:  Habsburgs

Iberian peninsula: main transitions 1490s and later

end of reconquista

early trading posts in N Africa etc.

Italy: balance of power with Lodi, 1454

Byzantines: Constantinople falls to Turks 1453.

End of Roman Empire

From Mediterranean to Atlantic Economy

East Asia and overland trade

Turkish expansion continues

Portugal, Aragon, Castile (soon linked)


naval technology

Papal recognition: African coast, Atlantic islands

Commodity agriculture

Sugar, sweet wine production; competition w. Sicily (Aragon)

The Invention of Sugar Refinery / Jan Collaert I after Jan van der Straet

Processing raw sugarcane into solid sugar loaves. The Invention of Sugar Refinery, Jan Collaert I after Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus. Engraving, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 in. In New Inventions of Modern Times (Nova Reperta…) (Antwerp: Philips Galle, ca. 1600), pl. 13. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 49.95.870(4). The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949. Source: www.metmuseum.org

plantation farming: African slaves

metals: E. Europe. Antwerp: central trade location

Aragon and Castile

1492 Joint admin  Ferdinand of Aragon, Isabella of Castile

expulsions of Muslims, Jews

reorganized bureaucracy

papal-supervised treaties, 1494, 1529

colonization of New World: Castille

Effects on Europe  16th c: economy

New centers of wealth: Iberian peninsula, Low Countries



Italian peninsula: “Wars of Italy”

Stability: Lodi 1454

Destabilization: deaths of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492),

Ferrante of Naples (1494)

instability in Milan

Milanese faction reminds Charles VIII (Fr): claims to Naples

French army crosses Alps Sept. 1494

Did not stay but warfare continues

Pope Alexander VI:  “Holy League”

Papacy, Venice, Milan, Emperor Maximilian, K of Aragon

Supposedly against Turks; really against Charles VIII

Louis XII of France (1498-1515) Milan  1499

1508 League formed at Cambrai against Venice (Agnadello 1509)

1511 New Holy League against French

1512 Medici return to Florence


Last main phase: Francis I and Charles V

Francis I 1515 retakes Milan

1516 Charles inherits Spanish crown (HRE 1519: Charles V)

— French lose to HRE 1525

Sack of Rome 1527

Final phases of War:

1529 treaties (Barcelona and Cambrai):

Spanish win title to Naples; end of French claims to Milan

1559 Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, 1559

Spanish Habsburgs in much of Italy


Lepanto 1571, near Gulf of Corinth

Holy league victory (Venice, Philip II of Spain, Pope Pius V) over Turks


  • Decline of Italy?
  • Still independent: Venice, Papal States, some smaller states

Politics, religious reform

  • Atlantic economy
  • “early modern” economy
  • relative vs absolute decline: ex: Florence and Tuscany
  • wool industry, silk
  • urban, rural investments
  • Trade via Livorno

Turkish threat unevenly felt; so too New World


regional differences, warfare

Christian realms