The Seventeenth Century - Part one - Events (ESS19)|
A brief overview covering some highlights
"History without context is like skydiving without a parachute."
In our last piece we dove headlong into the 18th century and the enlightenment. This time we're going to back up a little to the 17th. A lot of stuff happened in the 17th Century and much of it had a direct impact on the world we live in today. Let's take a closer look both at the events and some of the people that made it a fascinating time. First the events.
Early in the century in 1603, England is cast into mourning. On March 24 the "virgin queen" Elizabeth I, died after a reign of nearly 45 years. She was the daughter of the infamous Henry VIII and his ill-fated second wife Anne Boleyn. During her reign, England's influence on the world stage grew dramatically. It was the time of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare, and the beginning of England's global expansion and colonization.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was the culmination of England's war with Spain which began in 1585. This war was caused in part by Elizabeth's support for the largely Protestant Dutch rebellion against her former half-brother-in law, Philip of Spain. The ultimate Dutch victory over Spanish rule marks the beginning of the modern state of the Netherlands and the Dutch Golden Age.
The story of Guy Fawkes
may be one of the first recorded cases of using explosives to enforce a contrary political point of view. In 1605 he and a group of co-conspirators attempted to blow up England's Houses of Parliament. The event is still celebrated in England today.
During this time a number of European countries began a major colonization of the rest of the world. The Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, led to Dutch rule of what is now Indonesia. In 1603 the French navigator, Samuel de Champlain, on orders of Aymar de Chaste, the governor of Dieppe, explores and maps the Saint Lawrence River, with a view to founding a French colony there. Because of the death of de Chaste, the project was dropped and the following year, he accompanied Du Guay, Sieur de Monts to found the ill-fated colony on St. Croix Island instead.
In 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, a group of 104 English men and boys began a settlement on the banks of Virginia's James River. They were sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, whose stockholders hoped to make a profit from the resources of the New World. The community suffered terrible hardships in its early years, but managed to endure, earning it the distinction of being America's first permanent English colony.
In 1608 after the slightly more successful creation of Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal) in present-day Nova Scotia, Samuel de Champlain established a French settlement in what is now Quebec City. This area had been explored and claimed for France by another adventurer, Jacques Cartier, some seventy years earlier. In addition to all the other hardships of disease and hunger, common among early settlers in the New World, the Quebec colonists had to endure the severe cold that none of them were used to. Of the original twenty-eight people, only nine survived.
1618 marks the beginning of the so-called Thirty Years' War in Europe. This war which finally ended in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia, had all the trappings of the kind of conflicts we have subsequently seen in Europe during the last century. It was all about power, territory, and especially religion and before it was over it became a regular free-for-all with just about everybody joining in. Much of the current political landscape of Europe can be traced to this period.
Not only had the Dutch, which by now were well on their way to becoming an independent economic and seafaring power to be reckoned with, established colonial rule in present-day Indonesia, in 1625 the Dutch West India Company, begun in 1621, set up shop in what is now New York. Initially this new company, looking to exploit the riches of the New World, had been busy stealing colonies and treasure from the Spanish. Now with the establishment of New Amsterdam, the West India Company began to systematically develop a fur trade in what is now New York state.
Meanwhile, settlement of the New World by the English carried on apace. The way in which the crown arbitrarily handed out land grants in North America clearly showed that they didn't have a clue. With the stroke of a pen they "gave" away vast stretches of territory without really knowing what that entailed. In addition the rights and welfare of the indigenous populations was totally ignored.
To the north of New Amsterdam, what is now Boston, Massachusetts was settled in 1620 by the Massachusetts Bay Company, one of the many companies chartered by the English government. Meanwhile, the "Mayflower" crowd decided to abandon Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod and re-settled on the mainland, a little to the south. (To get a sense of the chaos that reigned in this part of "New England" at this time, have a look at this Wikipedia entry.) Shortly thereafter in 1636, the first institution of higher learning in the future United States, Harvard University was founded.
Back on the home front in Europe things were happening. Keep in mind that during all this time, war was raging on much of the continent. Not everybody noticed. In the Netherlands there was a brisk trade in (pardon the pun) tea, spices and many other commodities including an import from Turkey, tulips. At first these were cultivated in Holland for their beauty and their reputed medicinal properties but soon the enterprising Dutch managed to create a huge economic interest in this humble flower.
Tulip bulbs began to be sold for unbelievably high prices. By early 1637, it was “Tulipmania” with some varieties costing more than a house in Amsterdam. Then in a scenario reminiscent of the American stock market crash of 1929, the bubble burst leading to the ruin of thousands of investors. I guess the folks that lost their shirts in 1929 would have done well to study a little 17th Century Dutch history.
The Taj Mahal
which has become the most recognized symbol of India was completed in 1653. It was constructed by Shah Jahan
in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is located in Agra India.
In France in 1643 a new king ascended the throne. Well not actually. You see, this new "king", Louis XIV, was only four years old at the time. In time, however, he became the famous "Sun King" of France and during his reign France blossomed as she had never done before. In 1648 the Thirty Years' War in Europe finally came to an end. In 1652 Governor Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company founded what later became Capetown, South Africa to supply ships sailing to and from the far east.
Although Queen Elizabeth I had been instrumental in the Dutch gaining their independence from Spain, relations between the two countries were often far from peaceful. A number of wars between the two led to the loss of many lives and ships and for the Dutch, the loss in 1664 of New Amsterdam which the English promptly renamed New York in honor of James, Duke of York. Sadly, much of the rancor between the two countries had to do with who could outdo who in the slave trade.
Having the newly captured colony named in his honor was for James II a bit of a pyrrhic victory since in 1688 he was forced to give up the English throne after only three years to none other than Holland's William of Orange and his English wife, Mary. William ruled both England and the Netherlands until his death in 1702. You can read more about this novel situation in this posting.
As the century began to wind down a number of noteworthy events took place. In 1670 the Hudson's Bay Company was formed to exploit the riches of British North America. Meanwhile René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle travelling under orders from France's Louis XIV, explored the length of the Mississippi River and claimed Louisiana Territory for France. In the far east China annexes an independent Taiwan which still has repercussions to this day.
And finally in 1692 begins a very sorry chapter in the history of the future United States, the witch trials of Salem Massachusetts. And so the century began with the death of a queen and ends with the death of 24 innocent women and men. This part of the story was meant to convey a sense of the times in which men like Galileo, Thomas Hobbes and Isaac Newton lived and worked. In the next piece we'll take a closer look as these and others made their contribution to science and philosophy.
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