Historical reference point for the Western World that defines the period of time following the Renaissance. The exact dates aren't really a concern, but a good rough guideline is the late fifteenth century to the mid eighteenth century.

The Early Modern Period is typically described as beginning with the discovery of The New World and/or the outbreak of the Reformation and the Counter-reformation. These two events provoked a dramatic and profound change in human consciousness, awakening entire new modes of thought - particularly in the realms of economics, theology, art and philosophy.

Some of the key thinkers of the Early Modern Period include:

Of course this can't even begin to list the number of influential individuals during this period, but it it a stepping off point.
The Early Modern period saw monarchical powers reach their peak and then decline as the beginnings of democratic states emerged all over Europe. There was the Glorious Revolution, the Dutch Revolt and the French revolution and by the end of the 17th century no monarch could count themselves secure.

The great surge in monarchical powers had come about thanks to increasing centralisation of government and the improvement in communication infrastructure that had made this possible. Spain emerged as a world super power only 100 years after being a disjointed collection of Kingdoms (7 of them) one of which wasn't even Christian. The collapse of Spain was as spectacular as its emergence and this was triggered by the Dutch Revolt. In turn the Dutch Revolt was influenced by the growing merchant classes. It was this new emerging class that greatly affected revolutions throughout Europe. Their influence and wealth brought an end to the age of monarchy of the Early Modern Period.

Every school history student knows that the monarchs were famous for their inbreeding and the deformities and mental problems that arose from it. Joanna the Mad kept her husband's open casket at court for over 10 years after his death and she was meant to be Queen of Spain! The famous Habsburg chin can be seen rearing its head (or chin, ho ho) all over Europe.

The following is a family tree that contains most of the monarchs of the Early Modern Period except the French. The French monarchs seemed more keen to marry either more French men or Italians so they need a whole different tree. One thing to notice is the Habsburg influence increasing as they basically take over Europe by the 16th century. This was mostly down to Maximillian I's territorial expansion and his clever political marriage of his son to Joanna the Mad.

I apologise for its confusing nature and the fact that for some of you it may not fit horizontally on the page. I worked for hours trying to strike a decent compromise so this is what your getting, if you don't like change your resolution.

I've now added the French family tree as well and spent even more hours trying to sort it out. It should be smaller now and this is a small as I can get it while being readable, I think. Hope it's OK. - 26/10/2001

Habsburg and Spanish Family Tree


                Ferdinand II  = (1) Isabella I = (2) Germainede      Maximillian I (HRE) = Mary
                of Aragon     |     of Castille      of Narbonne     of Habsburg         | of Burgundy
                (1452-1451)   |     (1451-1504)      (d.1506)        (1453-1519)         | (1457-1482)
        ______________________|_____________________________________________             |_________
       |         |                                |                         |            |         |
       |       John = Margaret                Isabella = Manuel I     Joanna the Mad = Philip I    |
       |(1478-1497)   (1480-1530)          (1470-1498) | of Portugal  (Juana)        | of Castille |
       |                                               | (1469-1521)  (1480-1555)    | (1478-1506) |
       |                                               |                             |             |
(1) Catherine = Henry VIII  = (2) Anne    = (3) Jane   |                             |      Margaret   
    of Aragon | of England  |     Boleyn  |     Seymour|                             |      of Austria
  (1485-1536) | (1491-1547) | (1501-1536) | (1505-1537)|                             |      (1480-1530)      
         _____|_____________|             |      ______|___________            ______|____ ____French Tree   
        |     |     ______________________|     |                  |          |           |           
        |     |    |                            |                  |          |           |             
        |     |    |         Katherina   = John III       Isabella = Charles V (HRE)      |
        |     |    |         of Habsburg | of Portugal  (1503-1539)| of Habsburg          |
        |     |    |         (1507-1578) | (1502-1557)             | (1500-1558)    Ferdinand I (HRE)
        |     |____|_____________________|_________________________|__              of Habsburg
        |          |                     |                         |  |             (1503-1564)
        |          |             ________|___          ____________|  |            French Tree  
        |          |            |            |        |               |                  |
    Elizabeth I  Edward VI    John    (1) Maria = Philip II  = (2) Mary Tudor = (3) Elizabeth = (4) Anne
    of England   of England         (1527-1545) | of Spain     of England       of Valois     | of Austria
    (1533-1603)  (1537-1553)                    | (1522-1598)  (1516-1558)      (1545-1568)   | (1549-1580)
                                                |                                             |
                                            Don Carlos                                    Philip III
                                                                                          of Spain
                                                                                          (1578-1621)

French Family Tree

 
       Duke 
Philip II of Savoy = Louise of Savoy = John Count Angouleme (d.1497) | | Valois | ____| Anne = Louis XII of France | | Brittany | Valois | | (1476-1514) | (1462-1515) Louise of Savoy = Charles Count Angouleme | (1476-1531) | D'Orleans | | (1459-1496) | | | _______________|_____________ | Habsburg Tree | | | | Henry II of Navarre = Margaret Queen of Navarre Francis I = (1) Claudia = (2) Eleanor D'Albret | Valois Valois | (1499-1524) (1503-1555) | (1492-1549) (1494-1547) | |___ ____________|____________ | | | Anthony Duke Vendome = Jean Queen of Navarre Henry II = Catherine Madeleine = James V Bourbon | D'Albret Valois | de Medici Valois | Scotland (1518-1562) | (1528-1572) (1518-1559) | (1519-1589) (1520-1537) | (1512-1542) ________________| _____________|__________________________| | ____________________________|_____________|____________ | | | | | | | Henry IV = Margaret | Francis II = Mary Queen of Scots | Henry III Bourbon Valois | Valois Habsburg | Valois (1553-1610) (1553-1574) | (1545-1560) (1527-1598) | (1551-1589) | | | Habsburg Tree Charles IX | | Valois Elizabeth = Philip II (1550-1574) Valois Habsburg (1545-1560) (1527-1598)

Sixteenth Century Rulers

This is taken from the excellent "Years of Renewal: European History 1470-1600" edited by John Lotheringten.

        Spanish     Holy Roman     French        Popes         Ottoman
        Kings       Emperors       Kings                       Sultans
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Isabella                   Charles VIII                Bayezid II
        1474-1504                  1483-98                     1481-1512
        Ferdinand
        1479-1516
1490---------------------------------------------------------------------
                    Maximillian I                Alexander VI
                    1493-1519                    1492-1503

                                   Louis XII
1500-------------------------------1498-1515-----------------------------
                                                 Julius II
                                                 1503-1513

1510---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Leo X         Selim I
                                   Francis I     1513-21       1512-20
        Charles I                  1515-47
        1516-56     Charles V
1520----------------1519-56----------------------Adrian VI-----Suleiman--
                                                 1522-23       1520-66
                                                 Clement VII
                                                 1523-34
1530---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Paul III
                                                 1534-49
1540---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Henry II
                                   1547-59
1550---------------------------------------------Julius III--------------
                                                 1550-55
                                                 Paul IV
        Philip II   Ferdinand I                  1555-59
        1556-98     1556-64        Francis II    Pius IV
                                   1559-60       1559-65

1560-------------------------------Charles IX----------------------------
                    Maximilian II  1560-74
                    1564-76                      Pius V        Selim II
                                                 1566-72       1566-74
1570---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Gregory XIII
                                   Henry III     1572-85       Murad III
                    Rudolph II     1574-89                     1574-95
                    1576-1612
1580---------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                 Sixtus V
                                                 1585-90
                                   Henry IV
1590-------------------------------1589-1610-----Gregory XIV-------------
                                                 1590-91
                                                 Clement VIII
                                                 1592-1605     Mohamed III
                                                               1595-1603
        Philip III
1600----1598-1621--------------------------------------------------------

This is one of the most significant periods in European Philosophy. It always starts with Rene Descartes, the first major philosopher to use "modern methods", ie: low reliance on:

  1. The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle (see it's all footnotes to Plato)
  2. Arguments from authority of the Bible (see Medieval Philosophy)

The early modern period is characterised by the battle between Rationalists and Empricists such as:

Issac Newton's theories and a general focus on the scientific method coloured this period. Despite this, most philosophers' arguments relied on introspection which lead to such atrocities (as far as modern philosophers are concerned) as Descartes' homunculi.

Immanuel Kant is usually said to end this period by determining the final limit of skepticism and turning philosophy from metaphysics to language (analytic) and existentialism (continental). It has been said1 that all modern philosophy (or at least all coming out of Germany) is "footnotes to Kant".


1: I am unable to determine the source of this, although it may well be Alfred North Whitehead (see it's all footnotes to Plato). Please msg me with leads!

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