Early modern period

The early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages of the post-classical era. Although the chronological limits of this period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late post-classical or Middle Ages (c. 1400–1500) through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions (c. 1800). It is variously demarcated by historians as beginning with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Renaissance period in Europe and Timurid Central Asia, the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, the end of the Crusades, the Age of Discovery (especially the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492 but also Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India in 1498), and ending around the French Revolution in 1789, or Napoleon's rise to power.

A Japanese depiction of a Portuguese trading carrack. Advances in shipbuilding technology during the Late Middle Ages would pave the way for the global European presence characteristic of the early modern period.

Historians in recent decades have argued that from a worldwide standpoint, the most important feature of the early modern period was its spreading globalizing character.[1] New economies and institutions emerged, becoming more sophisticated and globally articulated over the course of the period. This process began in the medieval North Italian city-states, particularly Genoa, Venice, and Milan in the west, and in India's Bengal in the east. The early modern period also included the rise of the dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism.

In the Americas, pre-Columbian peoples had built a large and varied civilization, including the Aztec Empire, the Inca civilization, the Maya civilization and its cities, and the Muisca. The European colonization of the Americas began during the early modern period, as did the establishment of European trading hubs in Asia and Africa, which contributed to the spread of Christianity around the world. The rise of sustained contacts between previously isolated parts of the globe, in particular the Columbian Exchange that linked the Old World and the New World, greatly altered the human environment. Notably, the Atlantic slave trade and colonization of Native Americans began during this period.[2] The Ottoman Empire conquered Southeastern Europe, and parts of the West Asia and North Africa.[3] Russia reached the Pacific coast in 1647 and consolidated its control over the Russian Far East in the 19th century. The Great Divergence took place as Western Europe greatly surpassed China in technology and per capita wealth.[4]

In the Islamic world, after the fall of the Timurid Renaissance, powers such as the Ottoman, Suri, Safavid, and Mughal empires grew in strength (three of which are known as gunpowder empires for the military technology that enabled them). Particularly in the Indian subcontinent, Mughal architecture, culture, and art reached their zenith, while the empire itself is believed to have had the world's largest economy, bigger than the entirety of Western Europe and worth 25% of global GDP,[5] signalling the period of proto-industrialization.[6]

Various Chinese dynasties and Japanese shogunates controlled the Asian sphere. In Japan, the Edo period from 1600 to 1868 is also referred to as the early modern period. In Korea, the early modern period is considered to have lasted from the rise of the Joseon Dynasty to the enthronement of King Gojong. By the 16th century, Asian economies under the Ming dynasty and Mughal Bengal were stimulated by trade with the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the Dutch, while Japan engaged in the Nanban trade after the arrival of the first European Portuguese during the Azuchi–Momoyama period.

Early modern trends in various regions of the world represented a shift away from medieval modes of organization, politically and economically. Feudalism declined in Europe, and Christians and Christendom saw the end of the Crusades and of religious unity under the Roman Catholic Church. The old order was destabilized by the Protestant Reformation, which caused a backlash that expanded the Inquisition and sparked the disastrous European Wars of Religion, which included the especially bloody Thirty Years' War and ended with the establishment of the modern international system in the Peace of Westphalia. Along with the European colonization of the Americas, this period also contained the Commercial Revolution and the Golden Age of Piracy.

Other notable trends of the early modern period include the development of experimental science, increasingly rapid technological progress, secularized civic politics, accelerated travel due to improvements in mapping and ship design, and the emergence of nation states. Historians typically date the end of the early modern period when the French Revolution of the 1790s began the "late modern" period.[7]