17th century

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The 17th century began on January 1, 1601 and ended on December 31, 1700. The average world population at the beginning of this century is estimated at 560 million people, while it is estimated to have increased to 600 million by the end of the century.

The networking of all continents, which began in the 16th century, a. through a global trade network, intensified further in this century. The Dutch emerged as a global trading power and pushed back the Iberian empires . France and, increasingly, England also became involved in world trade. European influence remained limited on a global scale as China and India were the world's largest economies and the Ottoman Empire maintained its strong position. Thus an early modern equilibrium between the world regions characterized global trade.

The world in 1700

The climatic conditions at the height of the Little Ice Age led to crop failures, which were followed by famines and epidemics. Since numerous wars with high losses were also fought, many contemporaries as well as subsequent historians gained the impression that the 17th century was a century of crisis. The crisis phenomena occurred regionally and temporally with very different intensity. Power political disputes were strongly charged by denominational and religious differences and intensified them. Of these, the Thirty Years War , which devastated large parts of Central Europe and significantly reduced its population, was one of the most violent clashes. Domestic disputes, often along denominational lines, resulted in high numbers of victims in England, Poland and France. In many empires the monarchs, who wanted to centralize and bureaucratize political power more and more, fought against the estates . This fight ended very differently from region to region. While France developed into the model for European absolutism , in England the parliament gained great power over the monarchs.

After a failed attempt to conquer Vienna , the Ottoman Empire became increasingly weaker, while the Austrian Habsburgs began their expansion in the Balkans and their empire became a multi-ethnic state. Russia and the Indian Mughal Empire continued the expansion of their empires into Eurasian empires that had begun in the previous century. China also began its expansion process after it had previously experienced a process of upheaval with numerous war casualties and economic decline when the Manchurian Qing dynasty came to power. The previously unified Japan limited itself to the territorial status quo and greatly reduced its external contacts .

The labor demand of the plantation economy of the Caribbean and Latin America was satisfied by an increasing number of African slaves . When the Dutch expanded their colonial empire, particularly in Southeast Asia, England and France began to colonize North America.


The Europe of the 17th century is assigned to the epoch of the early modern period. The continent was divided into numerous Christian territorial empires. At the end of the century, the Catholic Spanish Habsburgs still ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula , southern Italy, and the Spanish Netherlands. But they lost Portugal and the evangelical northern Netherlands for good. Catholic France had expanded its territory to include significant areas to the east, while the English crown ruled Ireland, Scotland, and Anglican England. In the middle lay the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , which was split up into many small principalities and whose emperors extended their home territory Austria to include the territories of Hungary and the northern Balkans. In doing so, they pushed back the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. Evangelical Sweden expanded its territory into the Baltic States, while Poland lost eastern Ukraine to Russia.

Central Europe and Southeast Europe

Around 20,000 citizens were murdered during the siege and conquest of Magdeburg . A beacon of horror in the Thirty Years War.

Most of Central Europe was part of the Holy Roman Empire . This was divided into numerous larger and smaller dominions and imperial-free cities. Since the Reformation in the previous century, the denominational orientation divided the empire into Protestant and Catholic dominions. The north tended to be Protestant and the southeast, including Bavaria and the Austrian hereditary lands, Catholic. The equalizing religious peace in Augsburg began to crack at the beginning of the century. Confessional tensions escalated, so that two alliances, the Protestant Union and the Catholic League, faced each other. In 1618, escalating differences of opinion between the Protestant Bohemian estates and the Catholic emperor triggered a civil war, which subsequently spread to the entire empire as the Thirty Years' War . It was not only about the religious contrast between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League, but also about the expansion of imperial power over the imperial estates . In the course of the war, foreign powers, especially Sweden, France and Spain, increasingly interfered in the conflict. Acts of war combined with famines due to the destruction of the harvest, waves of plague and the Little Ice Age led to a population decline in the empire of 20 to 45 percent. Typical of the war was the feeding of the troops by sacking the conquered territories. The Peace of Westphalia put an end to the war in 1648 and formed the basis for the future basic consensus in the empire until its end in 1806, granting the empire territories extensive domestic and foreign political sovereignty. The Catholic, Lutheran-Evangelical and Calvinist denominations had equal rights at the national level. The European treaty also stipulated the departure of the Netherlands and Switzerland from the Reich. In return, important imperial areas went to France and Sweden.

The Balkans, including large parts of Hungary, to whose crown the Habsburgs laid a claim by succession in 1526, was under Ottoman rule until the mid-1980s. The border with the Austro-Habsburg hereditary lands was stable until 1683. In that year the Ottomans attempted to conquer Vienna , which the Habsburgs in alliance with Poland, some imperial territories and other European allies were able to repel. By the end of the century, Prince Eugene of Savoy and other generals conquered the northern Balkans as far as Belgrade for the Habsburgs. These conquests mark the rise of the Habsburg multi-ethnic empire. At the same time, the wars triggered significant migratory movements in the Balkans.

After the devastation of the Thirty Years' War, many German princes tried to promote the economy with the means of cameralism in order to improve their tax revenues. In addition to the promotion of trade and the creation of an export surplus, the resettlement and fertility of desolate areas was a primary goal. The German territories were involved in world trade as suppliers to the major European trading powers, who transported their textiles and iron goods overseas. Against the background of a changing economy, the ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck were able to secure basic trading rights in the Peace of Westphalia. On the other hand, the southern German trading companies in Augsburg and Nuremberg ceased their activities over the course of the century due to the poor economic conditions and the reorientation of their leading shareholders.

Western Europe


At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667) , the Dutch burned English ships on the Medway .

The 17th century is known as the golden age of the northern Netherlands. The Republic of the United Netherlands achieved de facto independence from Spain in the previous century, which it repeatedly defended against the Iberians until it was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. However, this did not prevent them from taking advantage of the European power vacuum of the beginning of the century and becoming a major European power and a world trading power. The basis of the rise was the political and economic structure, which was fundamentally different from the other European empires. The state association from various provinces was led by an assembly of estates, the States General . There was also the office of governor , which was hereditary occupied by members of the House of Orange-Nassau . The power of the governors, whose job it was to deal with justice, religious affairs and the military, fluctuated over the course of the century.

In contrast to its European neighbors, the vast majority of whose population worked in agriculture, the production and later the service sector was more important in the Netherlands. All three sectors focused on business areas that could generate high returns with little labor. Many raw materials, such as grain from the Baltic Sea region, could be imported cheaply by the Dutch. A successful interplay of the most modern shipbuilding technology and innovative financial services resulted in the cheapest freight rates by far . In this way, the north-western Europeans achieved a position of supremacy in world trade, which they secured militarily. The Amsterdam stock exchange was the most important in Europe and the guilder , a stable currency, found worldwide recognition.

In the second half of the century, the English challenged the Dutch for supremacy in world trade with several wars . In the Peace of Breda of 1667, which was negotiated in the lead by Johan de Witt , both agreed on a delimitation of their colonial and commercial interests. In the subsequent Dutch War , a sea and land war, England and France fought together to weaken the Netherlands territorially. Only by flooding part of their land could the Dutch save themselves at great expense. The increasingly mercantilist isolationist policies of the major European powers, particularly England, weakened the Dutch economy, which was heavily dependent on European trade despite its global presence. So England replaced the Netherlands in their position as a world trading power.


The beheading of Charles I.

After the death of Elizabeth I , the kings of the Stuart dynasty ruled England and Ireland, but were also the monarchs of the independent Scotland. With their absolute claim to power they came into conflict with the English parliament , which they needed to grant financial resources, especially for wars. This split into two factions in the long parliament , which had different views on the distribution of power between parliament and king. The dispute escalated into a civil war , which the king's opponents won. The subsequent condemnation and beheading of King Charles I in 1649 set a lasting signal against the inviolability of kingship. The winners of the civil war continued to quarrel over, among other things, the implementation of a radical evangelical- puritanical interpretation of religion, which resulted in the tyranny of the lord protector Oliver Cromwell . After his death in 1660, the short phase of the English Republic ended and the Stuarts were brought back to the English throne. In the 1680s the dispute between James II and Parliament escalated over power issues and the equality of the Catholic faith in England. After his Dutch son-in-law William of Orange invaded England in 1688, which was supported by large parts of the population, Jacob II fled. William bought his enthronement in the course of the Glorious Revolution with far-reaching concessions to Parliament. Contrary to the European trend, the lower house of parliament, which now met regularly, secured a considerable part of the power of government. In a temporary alliance with the Netherlands, England competed with France and became a major power factor in Europe. The following two hundred year long conflict between the two nations played an important role in both European and world politics.

From the middle of the century England pursued a mercantilist economic policy that was directed against the Dutch and systematically expanded its own trading position. The trade in cloth, cotton and sugar from Caribbean sugar cane played a central role. In the course of the naval wars with the Netherlands , England built a supremacy in the field of merchant and war shipping.


Louis XIV embodied the image of the absolute monarch .

Over the course of the century, France became the leading power in Europe, both politically and culturally. In the centuries-long conflict with the Habsburgs , the French crown first tried to prevent their supremacy in Europe through diplomacy and financial support from warring parties. From the 1930s onwards, France increasingly intervened in the conflicts with its own armies. With its armed forces, which under Louis XIV swelled into the largest army in Europe, the French crown enlarged its territory in the course of the reunion policy , especially at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire. With the Peace of Rijswijk , which followed the War of the Palatinate Succession , French expansion was stopped in 1697. The generic alliance of European great powers forced France to return conquered territories for the first time.

After the two First Ministers, Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin, had increasingly strengthened the royal power, Louis XIV became an icon of absolutist royalty as the Sun King . In several steps, the cardinals curtailed the political power of the estates. In 1614 their assembly, the Estates General , was convened for the last time and the aristocratic opposition, such as the Huguenots and the leaders of the Fronde , was politically disempowered or killed. The Sun King succeeded in binding the nobility to his court locally by letting them vie for his favor in a strictly organized courtly ceremony . The courtly splendor not only increased the royal prestige among the French aristocrats, but also many European princes and aristocrats vied for the French model. France's strong position in the fashion world was established in this century.

After the Concordat of the 16th century, France's monarchs had great organizational and political influence over the country's Catholic Church. However , Louis XIV did not succeed in expanding this in the spirit of Gallicanism . In an effort to establish a uniform faith in his empire, the monarch suppressed Jansenism and repealed the Edict of Tolerance of Nantes , which guaranteed the 5% Huguenots freedom of belief. In doing so, he initiated their exodus from France.

The absolute royal power was limited in practice. On the one hand, long traffic routes, poor communication and passive resistance made it difficult to enforce royal orders. On the other hand, the monarch had to take into account local legal concepts and class privileges. Since the often wealthy nobility and clergy were largely able to free themselves from contributions to state income due to privileges, the third estate had to bear the growing tax burden. The reindeer bourgeoisie, a small class of landowners and merchants, stood out because of their material prosperity. They bought the offices that the crown sold to generate income and were thus able to increase their standing. In contrast, the urban underclass and the rural population of 95% of the population remained relatively poor. The Fronde uprising and higher military spending led to famine and a weakening economy in the second half of the century. The departure of Huguenot merchants and skilled workers also reduced economic output. In the second half of the century, Jean-Baptiste Colbert tried, on behalf of the crown, to revive the economy through mercantilist measures. He pursued a customs policy geared towards export surpluses, established factories and improved the infrastructure.


At the beginning of the century, the rule of the Spanish Habsburg monarchy consisted of many different territories. These included the entire Iberian Peninsula , southern Italy, the Spanish Netherlands and the Iberian colonial empire. In order to hold their empire together and to maintain their initially strong political position of power, the kings waged numerous wars. Although they managed to prevent the secession of some territories, they had to accept the separation of Portugal and the final separation of the northern Netherlands . Political hegemony within Europe also waned over the course of the century.

The numerous sub-kingdoms under the Spanish crown were organized very heterogeneously. The efforts of the crown to unify the partial kingdoms politically and economically failed and the local aristocrats were even able to expand their power. They invested insufficiently in their agricultural goods. Due to this lack of investment and high inflation, among other things, the competitiveness of the Spanish economy compared to the western and central European economies declined sharply. This resulted in a large trade deficit . In addition, there was a sharp decline in population due to epidemics and famine as well as the expulsion of the baptized Muslims, moriscos , which had a negative impact on the economy. Efforts to reform the economy initially failed because of the lavish court rulings and high military costs. It was not until the end of the century that Charles II was able to strengthen the Spanish economy through a mercantilist policy and thus lay the foundations for the economic boom in the following century.

In contrast to the economic decline, the court and aristocrats increased their representation costs sharply. This encouraged a flowering of great creativity in art and literature, so that the Spanish speak of a " golden age " despite the economic decline . The literature by Calderón de la Barca and the pictures by Velázquez are examples of this splendor.

Northern and Eastern Europe

The conflict over the Baltic States between Sweden, Russia and Poland, which began in the 16th century, continued in north-eastern Europe. At the beginning of the century Sweden was able to assert itself under King Gustav II Adolf and win Ingermanland from Russia and Livonia from Poland and some economically lucrative Baltic ports. At the same time Poland intervened in the conflict over the Russian tsarist throne and conquered large areas of Russia. Although it was unable to influence the occupation of the tsar's throne, it gained Russian territories in the Deulino armistice and thus achieved its greatest expansion.

In the second half of the century Poland fell heavily on the defensive. A Cossack uprising, the Khmelnytskyi Uprising , escalated in Ukraine, resulting in Russian intervention and the loss of the areas east of the Dnieper River to Russia. At the same time, Sweden and the Electorate of Brandenburg took advantage of Poland's weakness and occupied large areas of Poland. The Treaty of Oliva in 1660 secured much of Poland's territory and Sweden secured its supremacy in the Baltic States . The Electors of Brandenburg, who had previously received the Duchy of Prussia through dynastic succession, received full sovereignty for this area from Poland. With this sovereignty, not only did their rise in the Holy Roman Empire begin , but they also became a power factor in Central Europe. In the south, Poland was besieged by the Ottoman Empire . The parts of Ukraine occupied by him were returned to Poland in 1699 after the Ottomans were defeated at Vienna under Johann III. Sobieski had made a decisive contribution.

The wars of the second half of the century claimed great victims among the multiethnic civilian population of Poland-Lithuania. The Swedes in particular destroyed up to a third of the villages and towns. As a result, grain production fell by more than half. During the Cossack uprising there were major pogroms against Jews and Catholics. The Polish nobility, who legitimized themselves ethnically with Sarmatism , had a very strong position due to the obligation of the peasants to clod and the institution of the elective monarchy . Especially in the second half of the century, the king was dependent on his financial and military support and could only mobilize limited resources for warfare. The increase in the influence of the Catholic Church that had begun in the previous century continued into this century and faith tolerance decreased.

Territorial expansion of Sweden 1560–1660

Sweden expanded to become a major European power in this century. With the help of royal regalia and foreign, especially French, support payments, the Scandinavian country was able to build a large, powerful army. After the expansion in the Baltic Sea area, Sweden intervened in the Thirty Years' War , which brought it rich territories in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In order to conquer new areas and to defend the territories conquered so far as well as the supremacy in the Baltic Sea area , Sweden waged wars with Poland , Denmark and Brandenburg . Sweden was largely able to avert negative consequences of military defeats through diplomatic successes in the subsequent peace negotiations. Many of his wars were allied with other European wars.

In domestic political disputes, the Swedish kings managed to convince the Swedish estates of their wars. Citizens and petty aristocrats shared in the profits from the conquered territories by assigning administrative posts. The orders to equip the army increasingly benefited owners of the newly founded or expanding factories of metal processing, arms production and the textile industry. Propaganda portraying Sweden as the savior of the Protestants from the supposed Catholic expansion was intended to arouse further enthusiasm for the war. The Swedish armies mainly supplied themselves on their campaigns by plundering the resources of the enemy country. The financing of the army in peacetime, but also the expanding court of Queen Christina , brought the crown into financial difficulties. The keen interest of the lower classes in the Swedish expansion led to the transfer of many resources to the crown. Thus the Swedish kings had great absolutist power at the end of the century, with which Charles XII. went to the Great Northern War in 1700 .

The Russian Empire around 1700

The 17th century began for Russia with a social, economic and political crisis called the " Time of Troubles ". Numerous usurpers fought for the throne of the tsar, while many Russians died at the same time in a famine. Only Michael Romanow , who became tsar in 1613 and founded a tsar dynasty over 300 years old , was able to stabilize the country. Over the course of the century, the tsars built a militarily powerful, autocratic empire with a focus on Moscow headquarters. Although there were numerous autonomous groups in Russia, they were not strong enough to counterbalance the headquarters. This also applied to the Orthodox Church . It got into a crisis after some of the believers refused a ritual reform in 1667 and were expelled. The expelled part of the church survived persecution and discrimination and still exists today. On the other hand, the increasingly differentiated economy recovered and grew in the second half of the century, with the number of craftsmen increasing. The serfs and peasants were bound to the aristocratic property or their village by the plaice obligation , but due to the vastness of the land often had the opportunity to flee.

Throughout the century, Russia continued its largely Cossack- driven expansion to the east through Siberia , which found its temporary stop on the Pacific coast. Hunting and trading in fur were an important driving force. Due to the lucrative profits, this was operated so extensively that some animals were on the verge of extinction.

Rule and society

Overall, the population of Europe increased slightly in the 17th century, with considerable regional differences. In Central and Eastern Europe in particular, wars, famines and epidemics led to a population decline. Average life expectancy was less than 30 years because only 60% of newborns reached adulthood due to hunger, disease and epidemics, poor hygiene and medical care.

Marquise de Maintenon was the last titular mistress of Louis XIV.

European society in the 17th century was a class society . Their class, which, except for the Catholic clergy, was determined by birth, only a few people were able to escape through advancement. The state determined both personal rights and, to a large extent, access to resources. The class system divided people into nobility , citizens and peasants. In addition, there was the clergy in Catholic countries. There were great differences not only within the leading aristocratic class, to which less than 10% of the population belonged, but also within the other classes, so that the members of the lower classes could often be richer than some representatives of the higher classes. Overall, the class system was accepted as God-given.

During the century there was a struggle between the sovereigns and their estates for rights, power and influence, which varied from region to region. In France, the crown took away many of the sovereign rights of the noble landlords and strengthened central legislation. This also succeeded some princes of larger territories in the empire, while in other territories the pluralism of rulership rights remained. East of the Elbe, the lordship increased , which gave the landlords far-reaching economic but also legal power over their subjects. In England, at the end of the century, parliament, dominated by the nobles and gentry , took over much of the government from the monarchy.

In the power struggle against the nobility, favoritism played an important role for many princes. Not only men could rise quickly through princely favor. If women like the Marquise de Maintenon were chosen to be titular mistresses of a prince, they could not only rise in social class, but also gain wealth and political influence. The rise was somewhat slower through the purchase of offices, with the help of which some citizens, especially in England and France, rose to the lower nobility.

War was considered a legitimate political tool in the 17th century. The dominant type of war entrepreneur in the Thirty Years' War , who financed his army from the booty of the conquered territories and essentially fought for himself, had become obsolete in the second half of the century. Large mercenary armies, which devoured ever increasing sums of money over the course of the century, could only be afforded by the princes of larger territories. The resulting large need for money was an impetus for the mercantilist promotion of the local economy.

Church, Religion and Belief

In the European countries, the confessionalization that had begun in the previous century continued. The authorities introduced various measures to encourage the population to believe in the respective creed and the resulting behavior. In the course of the first half of the century, majority beliefs had become so solidified in the countries that the monarchs, as in England, no longer succeeded in enforcing their beliefs against the majority of the population. Religious minorities have often faced severe reprisals. That is why many, like the Huguenots and Puritans , emigrated to other European countries or to America.

Witch burning

The witch hunts of the 16th century continued and reached their peak in the first half of the century. They were based on a centuries-old belief in witches . After natural disasters and misfortunes, the population looked for scapegoats, and there were also strong propagandists of the witch hunt among the educated. Princes in small territories, in particular, were influenced and encouraged or tolerated the witch trials, which were carried out almost exclusively through secular courts. Influential lawyers declared sorcery and related links with the devil to be exceptional crimes, justifying trials in which almost every defendant could not avoid being sentenced to death. Promoting denunciation , the use of torture and the sentencing of the accused to death by burning were characteristic of these trials. The contradiction in church and academic circles was directed against these procedural rules and less against the belief in witches as such. In large territories, the princes listened to these voices, so that half of the witch trials took place in the small principalities of the Holy Roman Empire . There were also large waves of state-run witch trials in Scotland and Switzerland. In England, France and southern Europe, the burnings for alleged witchcraft were limited to a few individual cases due to the high demands placed on evidence and intervention by the sovereigns. The convicts, mostly women, came not only from marginalized groups, but also significantly from the village and urban elites, including the clergy.

Economy and nutrition

In Europe, the vast majority of people worked in agriculture, although the proportion was higher or lower depending on the urbanization of the region. Even if subsistence farming was still widespread, the proportion of market-oriented production and specialization became increasingly greater. The relatively high market orientation in Western Europe was due to the fact that many fields were leased for money. In some rural areas of Western and Central Europe, there were many textile DIY enthusiasts who were integrated into a publishing system. Nevertheless, the cities were predominantly home to handicrafts and trade. Many industries were regulated by guilds that watched over production quantities, prices and qualities and limited technical progress. Innovations, driven by the military, took place primarily in shipbuilding and military technology, as well as metal processing and mining technology. Despite the boom in overseas trade, it only made a relatively small contribution to overall economic performance and was well below intra-European trade.

Inner courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange

New forms of organization and transactions in the economy were groundbreaking. Large private trading companies like the Dutch East India Company enabled large amounts of capital to be raised quickly. Their efficiency pushed back the Iberian colonial powers overseas. Stock exchanges, on which both goods and shares were traded, were used to collect capital. Of them, up until the last decades of the century, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange , which owned a permanent stock exchange building, was the leader. Cashless payments and various financial instruments boosted trade. The financial markets also generated speculative bubbles for the first time , which burst like the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s.

In Western and Central Europe, the upswing from the last century came to a halt in the 20s and 30s. A phase of economic crises followed. a. in Spain, France, England and the German territories. The economy and population development suffered particularly from the worsening climate of the Little Ice Age . The following crop failures as well as wars and regular waves of plague, which however remained regionally limited, reduced the population and economic output. England in particular emerged stronger from this crisis and experienced an upswing in agriculture, textile production and coal mining in the second half of the century.

The diet of Europeans has changed dramatically in this century. In the course of the worsening climate, meat consumption fell sharply, particularly in Central and Northern Europe. Meat was a luxury for a small, privileged upper class there. On the other hand, the consumption of pastries rose sharply, which were mostly baked or boiled with bread, spaetzle or dumplings . Only the people of poorer rural regions lived mainly on cereal porridge. In southern Europe, corn was the main source of calories. Only the rich European upper class could afford the imported colonial goods coffee, tea and sugar. She enjoyed these status foods in Chinese china , adhered to table manners and used cutlery. The tripartite division of meals into breakfast, lunch and dinner spread to all sections of the population.


Science in the 17th century was in a period of upheaval. At the beginning of the century, the universities, the number of which was increased in the course of the century through the establishment of new ones, were its most important sponsors. Her knowledge has been expanded and corrected by numerous new scientific discoveries. However, the innovations developed essentially independent researchers who were sponsored by patrons or scientific societies such as the Royal Society . The widespread scholarly language of Latin facilitated the intra-European exchange among a small learned elite.

Scientific methods have also changed fundamentally. At the beginning of the century, scientists often explained the world by deductive reduction from the statements of the Bible and ancient philosophers. Even if traditional science, inspired by humanism , incorporated empirical findings into its theories in the previous century, more and more discoveries were made over the course of the century that contradicted the established scientific explanatory models. Scientific approaches that tested hypotheses about the world through experiments are becoming increasingly popular. In the time of the scientific paradigm shift, even for many innovative scientists, scientific approaches stood next to natural philosophical approaches, astronomy stood next to astrology . The rapid reproduction of scientific writings through printing ensured a rapid exchange of information in Europe.

The fundamentally new findings in the natural sciences included the laws of classical mechanics discovered by Newton . This also supports the heliocentric view of the world, which Kepler's mathematical clarification gained increasingly in supporters. The astronomical discoveries were supported by the development of optical devices such as the telescope . On the other hand, findings from optics, such as the speed of light , were linked to astronomy.

The small class of doctors distinguished itself from the majority of lay physicians , such as bathers , medicine merchants and midwives, through their university studies. Even if contradictions to Galen's four-juices teaching were proven as early as the 16th century , it remained popular as a subject matter at universities. William Harvey discovered the existence of the bloodstream which contradicted the teachings of Galen. Harvey belonged to a group of people who gained a lot of new knowledge about the functions of the human body through dissection of human corpses, animal experiments, examinations with the microscope, and other scientific investigations. However, the knowledge gained had little effect on medical practice, which still practiced medieval methods such as the excessive use of bloodletting .

Art, culture and media

The ceiling of the church of
Sant'Ignazio di Loyola in Campo Marzio , designed by Andrea Pozzo , shows the fusion of architecture and painting into a total work of art.

The most popular style in 17th century European art was the baroque . It developed in Italy from the art of the Renaissance and spread in various forms throughout Europe. The works of art were supposed to represent the client's prestige and legitimize his power with display of magnificence and lavish display. On the one hand, the client was the Catholic Church of the Counter-Reformation . By juxtaposing glorious churches with sober Protestant churches, she tried to retain and win back believers. On the other hand, kings, princes and nobles represented their claim to power with baroque works of art. But citizens also wanted to emphasize their wealth and success through works of art.

Baroque painting and sculpture addressed the viewer's senses in order to appeal directly to him. In addition, they created the illusion of penetrating into the reality of the viewer. Lush forms and the sometimes exaggerated representation of human feelings were typical of the baroque. The illustration of the lighting conditions, curved lines and allegories were important stylistic devices. The range of topics presented expanded significantly. Still lifes and genre paintings were new motifs, landscape paintings were in great demand.

Often architecture, pictures and sculptures merged into a total work of art. The Palace of Versailles and its parks became the model for the residences of Europe. This also applied to French fashion, which prescribed allong wigs and justau corps . With fashion, the courtly manners, Galante Conduite , became popular at European courts.

Baroque musician painted by François Puget.

Italy was also the cradle of baroque music . Ornaments and playing with affects were characteristic here too. On the one hand, new forms emerged, such as the fugue , on the other hand, the keys were reduced to major and minor . In the course of the emphasis on melody and harmony, the figured bass was introduced. The new genres of sacred oratorio and secular opera mixed narrative, drama and stage design with music. They opened up musical performances for a larger audience. The theme of the opera was human emotions, such as love, happiness and pain, which were expressed independently by the music.

In addition to the opera, the theater was also very well received, so that for the first time large numbers of separate houses for theater and opera were built. After the invention of the scenery stage , its stage technology was continuously improved over the course of the century to achieve spectacular effects. In addition to the courtly theater organized by princes, theater plays were increasingly performed in front of a bourgeois audience. Traveling troops ensured a cultural exchange within Europe. The representatives of the different denominations, especially the Jesuits , also used the theater to promote their own denomination. This century saw women appear on public stages for the first time.

The pieces played, which were increasingly performed in the local language, were varied. Great empires like Italy, France, and England each developed their own specific forms that arose through mutual exchange and stimulation. The theatrical landscape was essentially concentrated on the capitals. Due to the fragmentation of the German land, a wide variety developed there, characterized by diverse foreign influences.

After the invention of printing and its rapid spread during the Reformation, European literature became even more numerous and varied in this century. It dealt with an increasing range of topics that are difficult to summarize in a few categories. In addition to the baroque literature, there were also classic forms, such as the French classic . In addition to various forms of lyric poetry, the novel gained popularity as its content became more bourgeois. In addition, encyclopedias and numerous non-fiction books were created. a. Theology, philosophy and scientific content were on the subject. With literature, the professional book market also expanded, as the founding of the Leipzig Book Fair underscores. At the same time, more and more Europeans learned to read and write.

In addition to the well-known printed leaflets and books, printed weekly newspapers increasingly appeared in the big cities in this century . These reported uncommented global, but not regional and local events. In the second half of the century, the bourgeois newspaper readers were able to purchase their paper several times a week and in increasingly higher quality.


Except for Morocco, all African countries bordering the Mediterranean were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire . With the death of the last strong Saadian ruler Ahmad al-Mansur, Morocco plunged into a civil war and split into numerous domains. In the 1660s, the Alawid dynasty, which is still the country’s heads today, reunited Morocco. For the first time in Moroccan history, it did not rely on a Berber tribe, but on military slaves.

The provinces in the Ottoman Maghreb achieved an ever higher degree of independence. Local janissaries , corsairs and Berber tribes took over de facto power under their own Beys and Deys . This went so far that they only recognized treaties concluded by the Sultan with other states for their domain if they had consented. As in the whole of the Maghreb, piracy in the Mediterranean, which included the enslavement of ship's crews and European coastal residents, was an important industry. In the province of Egypt, too, the local elites gained increasing influence over the viceroy . The writing of literature in the local Arabic dialect was a further step towards independence. On the one hand, the strategic importance of this province for the Ottoman Empire decreased due to the loss of Yemen , on the other hand, numerous residents of other imperial provinces migrated to Egypt.

While sub-Saharan Africa was closely linked to the north by the Trans- Saharan trade in the previous centuries , these relations weakened in this century in favor of an orientation towards the European-dominated coastal trade. The big empires like Songhai and Congo fell apart and many small rulers shaped the continent. The Europeans were mainly present on the islands and with a few forts and trading posts on the west and east coast of Africa. They had no knowledge of the interior of Africa until the 19th century. The strong increase in the Asian trade of the Dutch East India Company prompted them to set up a supply base for their ships on the South African Cape. Dutch settlers settled around this in the middle of the century and supplied the base.

Goods such as gold and ivory continued to be exported, but the slave trade not only influenced the African economy, but also intra-African relations. Europeans and Arabs had already carried off numerous people as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa in the previous centuries, but the number of enslaved people has multiplied in this century. The number of slaves that Europeans and, to a lesser extent, Arabs traded with local middlemen in exchange for firearms and consumer goods, significantly exceeded the number of people they themselves enslaved on slave hunts. The increasing demand from overseas encouraged Africans to engage in more and more slave hunts and wars in which they could enslave prisoners of war. The African military rulers kept a smaller part of the slaves for themselves. As the century progressed, the areas from which slaves were shipped expanded to some regions of East Africa. In East Africa, which were Oman -Araber during the century of the largest slave traders. Most of the European slave trade was the privilege of privileged English, French and Dutch trading companies . In the 17th century around 1.3 million Africans were deported to America, with many slaves already dying on the transport ships. These companies established the Atlantic triangular trade . The slave ships loaded colonial goods in America , shipped them to Europe, and loaded weapons and consumer goods there for sale in Africa. The ports of departure for the slave transports were in West Africa and, in the 17th century, increasingly in Luanda . The target areas of the slave transports were mainly Brazil and increasingly the Caribbean, but also Asia. The South African settlers not only enslaved the local population, but also imported slaves from Asia and other parts of Africa to South Africa.


Ottoman Empire

Sultan Murad IV at the feast

The Ottoman Empire was a regional power with territories in the Balkans , northern Africa and the Middle East. Until 1672, the year of its greatest expansion, it expanded its European territory. If it lost territories to its enemies, it was able to recapture them as far as Yemen . The failed attempt to conquer Vienna in 1683 was followed by permanent territorial losses in the Balkans to the Habsburgs . Underpayment of former military and civil servants was a major cause that led to numerous Celali uprisings over the century , which were, however, crushed.

In the 17th century, the political and economic structures of the empire changed fundamentally. In contrast to their predecessors, most of the sultans interfered little in politics in this century. Politics were shaped by grand viziers , high military officials, religious scholars and members of the administration. But influential people such as eunuchs and harem ladies also exercised their political influence. Up until the middle of the 17th century, the sultan's mothers played a decisive role in government, especially for underage sultans. After that, the grand viziers from the Köprülüs family were able to strengthen their office significantly. A system of patronage flourished throughout the empire . The favorites who benefited from this were often brought into high state offices without the necessary qualifications.

Due to the frequent wars and innovations in military technology, the state needed constantly increasing funds for steadily growing mercenary troops. A growing number of tax leases were given to raise funds. In addition, Tımare , land use rights for which mostly military support was required in return, were converted into tax leases. This started a strong trend towards monetization of the economy. The short-term nature of tax leases resulted in a high burden for the rural population. Although the farm benefited from the high rental income for a short time, it lost direct influence in the provinces. As compensation for the lost current income, the sultan's palace introduced tariffs on exports to and imports from Europe, which, however, created new dependencies. The economic policy was aimed at a good supply of the Reich with goods, which accepted a foreign trade deficit and included state price regulation for important goods. A further economic regulation took place through craft guilds. Crafts and trade were increasingly faced with competition from Janissaries , who supplemented their often moderate wages by doing business. On the other hand, more and more craftsmen joined untrained military units in order to get their tax breaks. This led, on the one hand, to an intertwining of the military and business and, on the other hand, to a reduction in military performance.

A wide range of cultural life developed in the Ottoman capital. A large bibliography of Islamic works was written and geographical knowledge of the world was presented. For the first time travel stories reached a larger audience and the Ottoman music was notated. The criticism of Islamic puritans was directed against the widespread consumption of coffee, tobacco products, the magnificence of the court, the evasion of the prohibition of interest and the religious dances of the dervish orders. The viziers tried to use their influence by integrating their leaders into the state apparatus. A climate arose that was skeptical of innovations outside the military, primarily because of religious reservations. The religiously justified prevention of book printing by Muslims also prevented the dissemination of knowledge.

West and Central Asia

Persia has been ruled by the Safavid dynasty since the previous century . From that time on, Shiite Islam had been the country's dominant denomination, distinguishing the country from its large Sunni neighbors and rivals, the Ottoman and Mughal empires . At the beginning of the century, Shah Abbas I conquered large areas from his neighbors, such as the area around Baghdad, which, however, were largely lost again under the Shahs who followed him. As political and religious opponents of the Ottomans, the Shahs maintained active diplomatic relations with the European opponents of the Ottomans. The peace of Qasr-e Shirin in 1639 established an eighty-year peace with the Ottomans after decades of conflict. His successors, with the exception of Abbas II (r. 1642–1666), lost power and influence domestically due to their weak politics. At the end of the century, the previously centralized military, whose social position the court had neglected, allied itself with local groups. This led to a regionalization of the empire without dissolving the unity of the empire.

The Safavid Empire was sustained by several rival groups. The Turkmen Kizilbash, who initially supported the empire and administered its fiefs, were pushed back further at the beginning of the century in favor of centralization. In contrast, the new, predominantly Caucasian royal troops, which were directly subordinate to the Shah and were paid directly from the crown domains, increasingly gained in influence. Their high need for money led to a less sustainable exploitation of the crown domains. Another powerful group was the Shiite clergy. Their economic power base was the extensive lands that the Shiite sanctuaries owned. The persecution of Sunnis and Sufies they carried out towards the end of the century further contributed to the destabilization of the empire. The Persian-influenced administration and some merchant groups were also among the power factors.

At the beginning of the century, Persia experienced an economic boom. Abas I promoted the economy through a uniform coin system, reforms of the leasing and tax system and the promotion of handicrafts. With the expansion of the road network, more and more areas of the country were linked with the regional economic centers, especially Isfahan, and a nationwide market was created. In Isfahan , the Shah increasingly gained control over silk production. Along with textiles, raw silk was one of the most important export goods. The leading exporters were the Dutch and English trading companies, VOC and EIC . These almost exclusively supplied the Persian market with the necessary coin metal. When in the course of the second half of the century the Persian export goods lost their attractiveness due to market shifts, this also had negative effects on the Persian domestic trade due to the lack of money supply and caused economic problems.

The Persian court displayed great splendor in this century, with the Shahs openly presenting themselves to a wider audience. Persian arts, some of which enjoyed the sponsorship of the court, inspired the culture of the neighbors Ottoman Empire and Mughal Empire.

Several empires stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mongolian plateaus that had both nomadic regions and urban and agricultural areas. In the Khanate of Bukhara the Astarkhaniden dynasty took power after the death of Abdallah. Their rule was concentrated around the two centers of rulership Bukhara and Balkh . Bukhara flourished as a hub of international trade and was a center of miniature painting .

North of the Tarim Basin of Oriaten alliance was formed after the decline in the 1620s, the Dsungarenreich . From the 1640s it expanded into the Seven Rivers Land in the west and into the Tarim Basin. The ruler Galdan in particular enjoyed the support of the Buddhist Dalai Lama . During his expansion into northern Mongolia, he also acted against competing Buddhist currents. His Mongolian opponents called on the Chinese for help, who defeated Galdan's army. In the centuries that followed, Mongolia was under Chinese rule.

Indian subcontinent

Expansion of the Mughal Empire

At the beginning of the century, the Muslim mogul Akbar I left an empire that comprised the north of the Indian subcontinent . During the century, his successors expanded the Mughal Empire to its greatest extent. In the 1680s, the Mughal Empire was the first power after the Maurya Empire of the third century BC, which again ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Only in the extreme south could some Hindu empires survive.

Under the Mughal Mughal Jahangir , the court developed a great splendor at the relatively peaceful beginning of the century. The ruler had numerous buildings built in a style that was influenced by both Islamic-Persian and Indian-Hindu influences. He and his successor built, among other things, magnificent tombs, of which the Taj Mahal is the most famous. Spreading symmetrical gardens were also a feature of the Mughal architecture. A realistic style of painting was particularly encouraged under Jahangir, while his son encouraged miniature painting . Jahangir established the tradition of a very pompous court ceremony , which strengthened the bond between the Mughals and the dignitaries of the empire through rites. In Europe, stories about the splendor at court shaped the impression of the legendary wealth of the Mughals.

In the reign of Shah Jahan (1628-1658) there was an increase in armed conflicts. On the one hand he was able to defeat his opponents in northern India, on the other hand his campaign to Transoxania failed . With his son, Mughal Mughal Aurangzeb (reign 1658–1707), the military activities increased even further. He conquered the Deccan and the southern sultanates of Bijapur and Golkonda .

Aurangzeb turned much more strongly than his father to a strict Sunni Islam and from the religious tolerance of his predecessors. By prohibiting the court from leading an exemplary life according to Islam. He promoted the spread of Islam by organizing religious festivals and building mosques. On the other hand, he severely restricted other religions and denominations. Non-Muslims again had to pay a poll tax that his great-grandfather had abolished. He also confiscated tax-free land from non-Islamic denominations and private individuals and banned the construction of new temples. Nevertheless, India remained a predominantly Hindu country.

The backbone of the Indian economy was agriculture. In the north in particular, the agricultural area was doubled and cultivation made more effective thanks to new infrastructure. First attempts to commercialize the fruit industry made the numerous new foundations and the growth of Indian cities possible. They were the engine for the expansion of internal Indian trade structures. In addition to the very small upper class and the very large lower class, a small middle class emerged in the urban milieu. The increasingly specialized industry satisfied both Indian and foreign demand, with the textile industry having the greatest importance for the export economy. The increasing commercialization and the strong economic growth required a strong expansion of the money supply, which was satisfied by the import of large quantities of silver. This was the most important barter item, mainly from European, but also from Arab and Persian traders.

During this century, the Urdu language, originally developed in the military camps, spread rapidly into the secular area. Urdu is one of the most widely spoken languages ​​in South Asia today . Persian, which was popular at court, played a major role in the flourishing literature.

Although the Mughals ruled over their entire territory, the intensity of the rule varied. Only in the core provinces from Kabul to Allahabad were they able to exercise strong direct control, while the Rajas in the peripheral areas had a relatively high degree of autonomy. Several port cities through which international trade was conducted were under the control of European empires or trade organizations. In the second half of the century, the Mughal Empire had several regional uprisings, including a. of the marathas that it struggled to control.

In their heterogeneous empire, the Mughals tried to build central power structures. The administration was based on a large number of officials who were assigned a rank ( Mansab ) in a differentiated ranking system. All were solely responsible to the Mughal, who assigned them the income of a designated area, a jagir . They could manage this independently, owed the Mughal taxes and the provision of cavalry in return . The owners changed jobs regularly so that they could not build up a local power base. Under Aurangzeb, the number of officials rose sharply and could not keep up with the number of profitable jagirs. The high military expenditures caused Aurangzeb to increase the taxes more and more. In addition, the court was unable to control tax revenue very poorly, so that provincial officials and noblemen collected far more taxes for themselves than they passed on to the court, mainly from customs duties. Last but not least, the boom in trade contributed to strengthening the provinces and also opened up considerably more resources for insurgents. Furthermore, tax pressure motivated peasants and landlords to revolt. The most important uprising was that of the Marathas , a group of long-established petty nobles and their soldiers in the western Deccan. These were formerly vassals of Bijapur and after its conquest spread fear and perplexity in the Deccan and at court with a mixture of road robbery and guerrilla warfare with the claim to reestablish real Hindu rule. In 1664 they plundered the Mughal capital city of Surat with impunity .


Qing Emperor Kangxi

At the beginning of the century, China got caught up in an increasingly escalating vortex of structural problems. The emperors of the Ming dynasty were weak in making decisions, so that rival cliques took power at court. The incompetence of the emperors as well as the arguments and corruption of the cliques paralyzed the government. Furthermore, the state assets were used up by the Imjin War . Structural deficits in tax collection meant that tax revenues remained low, with tax rates for ordinary people high. The situation was made worse by the effects of the Little Ice Age . At its peak, there were famines and epidemics in China, so that the farmers could no longer pay taxes. Many Ming subjects rebelled. The rebellions escalated and insurgents under the peasant leader Li Zicheng sacked Beijing and drove the Ming emperor to suicide in 1644.

At the gates of the Great Wall of China the Manchu army waited , who now took power and founded the Qing Dynasty . At the beginning of the century, Nurhaci had united the tribes northeast of China, who had become wealthy through trade. He had a uniform Manchurian script developed and organized the army into fixed groups, so-called banners. The newly established empire expanded its power to include all of Manchuria and the Chinese areas north of the Great Wall . After the conquest of Beijing and the proclamation of the Qing dynasty in 1644, the Manchus fought until 1683 to take control of the entire country. In the south in particular, numerous cities and regional rulers loyal to the Ming offered considerable resistance, which the Manchu broke with great cruelty and numerous massacres of the population.

By the 1690s, the Djungars had conquered a large empire in Central Asia, which China saw as a competitor in Central Asia. To secure their power, the Chinese attacked and defeated the Djungarian army that was invading Mongolia, and expanded their power in the region by conquering all of Mongolia. With their new neighbor, Russia, the Chinese in 1689 regulated contractually border demarcation.

The political events changed the society of China. With the Qing, China became a multi- ethnic , multi- ethnic empire in which the Manchus assumed a supremacy. In northern China, large areas of land were confiscated and enclaves were created to which the Chinese were not allowed. In general, the emperors made it a point to keep the ethnic groups of their multinational empire separate from one another. They forced the Chinese to adopt the Manchu hairstyle and, like this, to shave their front hair and wear a long braid . Many Chinese perceived this as humiliation, which contributed to the rejection of the Manchu among Chinese people. The Chinese rites and the administrative system were adopted by the Manchus with minor modifications. They, too, selected the officers through a multi-level examination system .

While subsistence farming and barter were predominant in many regions, the coastal areas of southern China in particular were involved in international trade. Except for the Portuguese Macao , there were no foreign-controlled trading empires on China's mainland coasts. The Dutch established a base on the island of Taiwan for several decades , but were driven out by Chinese troops. Chinese local rulers, who monopolized exports with the help of traders' guilds, were decisive for trade. In the 1680s, the Qing Dynasty gained control of foreign trade, from which it benefited through a system of customs posts. First, trade suffered in the second half of the century due to the forced relocation of the coastal inhabitants and a depression caused by the Qing. At the end of the century, Emperor Kangxi created an economic upswing through measures to promote the economy, such as his tax policy. The import of American, but above all Japanese, silver, which served as currency , was of great importance for the Chinese economy . It was only with the economic upswing that copper money regained greater importance.

As early as the Ming period, China opened up to European knowledge imparted by some Jesuit missionaries who rose to the highest offices at court under the Qing. To do this, they had to adapt strongly to Chinese culture. Other missionaries who got into a dispute with the Jesuits about the degree of adaptation of the religious rituals to the respective culture, the rites dispute , also contributed to the missionary work of a very small minority of Chinese to the Christian faith .

On the one hand, the emperors of the Qing dynasty were open to new knowledge; on the other hand, they not only continued the rationalist branch of neoconfucianism of the Ming period, but promoted it. They had a great deal of history made about the Ming period. In contrast to the majority of scholars who cooperated with the Qing, many Ming loyalists were hostile to the Qing. Both to differentiate themselves from the Manchurian Qing and to develop a counter-model to an increasingly diversified society, some propagated a Chinese nationalism and asserted a superiority of the Chinese ethnic group. They were also critical of the emperor's absolutist power.

In analyzing the causes of the Ming's downfall, which they perceived as defeat, the opposition slowly moved away from traditional Confucian methods. Gu Yanwu , for example, made use of text analysis in his attempt to capture the original Confucian truths . He was at the beginning of a development in which the proof and inductive derivation of knowledge replaced the traditional deductive approaches. At the end of the century this led to doubts as to whether the traditional Confucian teachings matched the reality of the 17th century. With the sharp rise in the production of printed works, the accusatory reports of some intellectuals found a large audience.

Korea and Japan

High population losses and the destruction of part of the means of production, infrastructure and cultural assets by the Imjin War of the 1590s left Korea weakened into the new century. When the Koreans did not comply with the request of the Manchurians , who had strengthened beyond the Korean northern border, to break their traditional alliance with Ming China, the latter forced them to become dependent on tribute through several bloody campaigns in Korea in the 1620s and 30s. Some Koreans use the turmoil and destruction of bureaucratic records to ascend in the rigid class system and acquire land ownership. By and large, however, the system remained, in which different clans of the privileged nobility struggled for power under one king. By the end of the century, these clans had split into four groups. After the Manchurian Qing held the Chinese imperial throne, Korea was largely closed off from the world. Within this world, a slow economic upswing developed through increased trade.

Burg-Edo before it was destroyed by a major fire

After winning the Battle of Sekigahara , Tokugawa Ieyasu was the undisputed military leader in Japan. He founded the Tokugawa Shogunate , a ruling dynasty that ruled Japan until 1868. With Edo , today's Tokyo, he founded a new capital, after which the epoch, the Edo period , was named. From Edo, the shoguns took numerous measures to concentrate power within themselves and to bring calm and stability to the country after a century of fragmentation and military conflict.

The shoguns achieved their formal recognition by the Tennō , the Japanese emperor. However, the de facto power was with them, so that they could greatly curtail the power of the Tennō. The rights of the daimyos , Japan's local rulers, were restricted according to their degree of loyalty. In addition, they tied them to themselves through residence obligations and obligations to wait in the capital. Furthermore, a hierarchical administrative system geared towards the Shogun was set aside. Within this framework, the daimyos had extensive rights of self-government in their domains. The Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were also placed under state supervision. The Christianity, a minority religion in Japan , was covered with ever stronger bans until in the 30s a systematic persecution of Christians marked the end of this religion in Japan. The strong Portuguese and Spanish influence on Japan through Christian missionaries and numerous Christians among the opponents of the shoguns influenced their decision to persecute this religion.

The politics of concentrating power in the person of the Shogun also included the politics of isolation from abroad. No Japanese were allowed to leave the country. The few trading partners who were still allowed to do business with Japan at the end of the century included the Chinese, Koreans, and the Dutch. Diplomacy and foreign trade were controlled by the state through a few ports such as Nagasaki .

In the 17th century, the proportion of city dwellers in Japan rose sharply, with the cities of Edo, Osaka and Kyōto dominating. Edo, the new capital, grew extremely quickly into one of the largest cities in the world in the 17th century. The demand from city dwellers and trade between cities led to a strong economic boom at the end of the century. Despite urbanization, Japan remained an agricultural country with an urban population of 4%, and rice was its staple food. The farmers then formed by far the largest group. They were tied to their village communities and collectively liable for taxes. The expansion of the agricultural areas and better cultivation methods let the population grow strongly.

Japan's culture was shaped by the urban craftsmen and merchants. With the increase in the production of printed matter and the establishment of new schools, the reading skills of the population rose sharply. The Neo-Confucianism found more and more fans, the discourse with the followers of Buddhism and Shinto encouraged, traditional Japanese rituals.

The Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia

Replica of an East Indiaman

While Portugal was temporarily the dominant power in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian trade in the 16th century , commercial companies organized under private law from several European empires began their triumphal march in this century . The Dutch East India Company (VOC) in particular gained a leading position in the spice trade of the Southeast Asian islands. Through the issue of shares, the VOC came to a large capital stock, with which it invested in ships called East Indiaman. These were superior to the Portuguese ships, so that the VOC managed to take over a large part of the Portuguese emporia in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka . In contrast to the Portuguese, the VOC not only controlled some crucial trade routes, but also forced the spice producers, especially on the Moluccas , to deliver exclusively to them under threat of violence. On the Banda Islands , she killed and enslaved the local population and had the spices produced by Dutch settlers. Ships stationed on site secured the monopoly in the spice trade. The operations were directed from the main base in Batavia . With a few exceptions, the VOC exercised its power from a few trading posts while signing treaties with local rulers, sometimes forcing them to be signed by force of arms. While the VOC initially focused on the spice trade, at the end of the century it shifted its freight to luxury textiles and other finished goods from Asia. Trade with China became increasingly important. Inspired by Chinese products, the fashion of chinoiserie emerged in Europe and reached its heyday in the 18th century. In the course of the century, intra-Asian trade in VOCs also increased.

The Dutch trading company was primarily commercially oriented, so that, in contrast to the Iberian powers, it did not engage in any active Christian missionary work . Parallel to the Europeans, Arabs, Persians and Southeast Asians engaged in maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. Compared to the Europeans, they traded more in coarse textiles and mass-produced goods and traveled with smaller ships. In contrast to the anonymity of the trading companies, their trade was based on personal ties, individual entrepreneurship or smaller groups of people. The expansion of this commercial sector over the course of the century resulted in a crisis caused by oversupply from the 1670s.

The empires shaped by Buddhism were consolidated on the Southeast Asian mainland . In the first half of the century, the rulers Anaukpetlun and Thalun reunited Burma, which had previously been split into several empires, and extended their influence to northern Thailand. Its western neighbor, the coastal kingdom of Arakan , was exposed on the one hand to the pressure of the Mughal empire and on the other hand to that of the Portuguese and Dutch. The Burmese kings stabilized their empire through land and administrative reforms. The capital's change from the coastal town of Pegu to the inland Ava was a measure to reduce Burma's outward orientation. Nevertheless, the recurring invasions of China hit Burma heavily in the second half of the century. Burma's eastern neighbor, the Thai Ayutthaya , opened up to foreign influences and tried to gain the greatest political and economic advantage with a swing policy between the individual European trading companies and the various Asian trading networks. Succession battles for the royal throne weakened the country at times and from 1688 onwards led to a departure from liberal trade policy. Since neither Burma nor Ayutthaya were able to gain the upper hand in the region in the long term, the smaller empires like Laos and Cambodia had room for their development. In Vietnam, the Nguyen clan gained more and more the upper hand. He conquered the southern Cham empire and incorporated it into Vietnam.


North America

At the beginning of the 17th century, Central America, including the Caribbean, was under Spanish colonial rule, while what is now the United States of America and Canada was populated by numerous independent indigenous peoples. Over the century the English, French, Dutch and Spanish fought for the islands of the Caribbean, with the Spanish losing some islands to their European competitors. In the fight against the other European empires, the English in particular gave pirates letters of piracy, while the Dutch West India Company (WIC) increasingly organized the robbery itself. The second half of the century is considered to be the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean. The islands were interesting for the European empires because they could make high profits with the plantation economy . As labor, they used African slaves on a large scale.

View of the Nieuw Amsterdam (now New York ) in the Netherlands

For many European rulers and the Dutch WIC, the Caribbean was economically much more lucrative than America to the north, which was reflected in their priorities. The English pursued an effective immigration strategy there. Thus the number of people settled in small English colonies became far greater than that of the French, Dutch and Swedes. The European settlers took land from the indigenous indigenous tribes both through armed violence and through exchange for goods. As the number of Europeans in North America grew, many local people died from diseases brought by immigrants to which they had little resistance.

European migrants had very heterogeneous religious beliefs as well as different economic resources. They also included numerous people from German countries. The English were able to settle most of the colonists. Of these, a significant number came to America to live by their religious beliefs, which were not tolerated in Europe. The English crown very often issued permits, mostly charters , to consortia of private, non-noble donors. This allowed them to organize their territories themselves within the framework of royal privileges. Very often narrow villages emerged around a church. In the colonies south of the Delaware River , larger plantations predominated, where tobacco was grown in particular. Contract workers worked on them who, as payment for the crossing, undertook to work for the contract partner over several years. Only when these did not materialize at the end of the century did the plantation owners start buying African slaves.

In North America, there was essentially a social separation of indigenous peoples and immigrants. In contrast to Latin America, efforts to evangelize indigenous people to the Christian faith were few and not sustainable. The French and Dutch colonists in particular, however, engaged in intensive trade with the indigenous peoples who, in search of furs, continued to advance into uninhabited areas. An exchange, trade and smuggling that could hardly be controlled by the mother countries also developed between the North American colonies of all states.

In the Peace of Westminster of 1674, the English obtained all of the Dutch colonies on the American east coast. North of Florida, England was the colonial power with the vast majority of colonists. The only European competitor was the French, who in addition to their Canadian colonies founded numerous trading bases and forts on the Saint Lawrence River , the Great Lakes , the Ohio and Mississippi .

Latin America

South America in 1650

The mainland of Central America and large parts of western South America belonged to the Spanish colonies. In contrast, the Portuguese colonies stretched a wide stretch of coast along the South American Atlantic coast. In large areas of South America, such as Patagonia and the Amazon rainforest , the colonial powers and colonists had no influence. To protect indigenous tribes, Jesuit missionaries declared some areas to be protected areas for the indigenous tribes living there. Since the non-colonized areas were not easily accessible and not as productive as the previous colonies, the colonial expansion was slow.

The Spanish crown tried to exercise the greatest possible direct control over their colony, which was administratively divided into the viceroyalty of New Spain and the southern viceroyalty of Peru . But their power to crack down on the colonies diminished in this century. The reasons lay on the one hand in the increasingly differentiated colonial society, which developed its own social and economic structures that differed from the mother country. On the other hand, the distance to the mother country and the ignorance of the local conditions prevented a stronger exercise of power. The Spanish crown sold offices and impunity for money. In addition, it left the incumbents large rooms for corruption , but this made it difficult to control them. In all positions of state and church, the proportion of Creoles , the descendants of Spanish immigrants, increased sharply.

Until the middle of the century, the sharp decline in the indigenous population that began in the previous century continued due to diseases brought by Europeans. Nevertheless, the indigenous population remained the largest group with 80%. The population only grew again in the second half of the century. In the colonies, a hierarchical stratification of society developed, which was based on the ethnic origin of the people. The range ranged from the elite, direct immigrants from Spain, to (former) African slaves. By unfair rules, the Europeans and Creoles reduced the willingness of indigenous people to participate in the economy on a supraregional scale. The indigenous peoples culturally adapted to the conditions of the colonial society. The church, which had a very strong position in the Iberian colonies, massively promoted missionary work towards the Christian faith . Many Indians who adopted Christianity transformed it according to their own religious and cultural ideas.

The economy of the Spanish colonies had focused heavily on exporting silver to Europe since the previous century. Silver mining around the city of Potosí continued to play a major role. In addition, a colonial plantation economy established itself. A supplier economy developed around these economic centers. Simple craft businesses and manufactories emerged. The intra-American trade expanded. A significant part of American exports was based on extensive smuggling. The export to Europe organized by the Spaniards was exposed to considerable risks from piracy in the Caribbean. Imports from the Iberian Peninsula suffered from the smuggling of other European nations, who preferred to sell their goods directly to the colonies rather than through Iberian merchants.

The central industry of the Portuguese colonies was the cultivation and export of sugar cane. The plantations generate their profits through the heavy use of African slaves.


Web links

Commons : 17th century  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Andreas Weigl : Population history of Europe: from the beginnings to the present . Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-8252-3756-1 , p. 40 .
  2. a b c d e f g h i Christian Kleinschmidt: Economic history of the modern age . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-70800-8 , p. 24-25, 36-37, 45, 53, 60, 79, 108-110 .
  3. a b Bernd Hausberger : A Century Between Belcanto, Piracy and Inflation . In: Bernd Hausberger (Ed.): The world in the 17th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85476-267-6 , p. 11-33 .
  4. a b c d e f g Robert von Friedeburg : Europe in the early modern times (=  New Fischer World History . Volume 5 ). S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-10-010623-0 , p. 219, 246, 254, 294-297 .
  5. ^ A b Michael North : History of the Netherlands . 4th edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-65339-1 , p. 37-65 .
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Michael Limberger: "Golden Age" or "Iron Century"? - Western Europe . In: Bernd Hausberger (Ed.): The world in the 17th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85476-267-6 , p. 39-66 .
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