1600 CE

World About A. D. 1600.—Spain is the chief power at this time. Besides vast continental dominions in the New World, its European possessions comprised the whole of the Spanish Peninsula, the Netherlands and other lands of the House of Austria, the Sicilies, Sardinia, and Milan. But, by the revolt of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, Spain loses a considerable portion of her territory before the end of the century.

ABOUT A.D. 1600


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The German Empire continues, but more as a dignity than as an independent power. The emperors are uniformly chosen from the princes of the House of Austria, which now by its hereditary possession becomes one of the chief powers of Europe. In the person of the Emperor Charles V., who united the crown of Spain with the sovereignty of Austria, the imperial power reached its greatest extent.

France is engaged in wars civil and religious and foreign, but without much change of territory, except in America, where some colonies were established. England makes some attempts at colonization in America during this century, but the real settlements begin in the next.

Italy, during this period, is a battle-field of contention among the rival princes of Europe. The peninsula was made up of principalities and commonwealths, some of which were independent, but the most of which, during the greater part of this century, were under the dominant influence of Austria and of Spain. The northern provinces of the Netherlands throw off the yoke of Spain, and are united in a federal commonwealth. The union of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden ceases in the early part of this century, by the independence of Sweden, which now plays an important part in European history. Poland is an important state in this century, with extensive possessions.

The Turkish or Ottoman Empire is largely extended in this century by the annexation of Syria, Egypt, a great part of the northern coast of Africa, and the conquest of a large part of Hungary.

In Asia the Chinese Empire remained unshaken; Persia had again become an independent empire; the Mohammedan Moguls had begun to reign in northern India; the once great Tartar empire had been reduced to the states east of the Caspian. In the north, Russia was spreading eastward over Asia, and had come in contact with the Ottoman Empire, now expanding to its greatest extent in the South, and with Sweden in the northwest. The great Reformation had passed over Europe, separating its Catholic states of the south from the Protestants of the north, and giving rise to fierce wars and many political changes. Maritime discovery and adventure and commerce were being eagerly extended by the nations of western Europe. Four times the world had been circumnavigated—by the Portuguese Magellan, by the English Drake and Cavendish, and lastly by the Dutchman Van Noort. Spain had extended her conquests to Mexico, Peru, and Chile, which were now ruled by Spanish viceroys. The Portuguese had established themselves firmly on the African shores; their possessions and settlements in the East Indies included the Malabar coast of India, Ceylon and Malacca; and their traffic reached to all the islands of the Asiatic archipelago, to China and Japan.

The English and Dutch, after vainly seeking an independent highway to the northeast or northwest through the ice-fields of the Arctic region, had become formidable rivals of the Spaniards and Portuguese in their own lines, both in the West Indies and round the Cape of Good Hope to the eastward.