What happened in the 17th century characteristics and events

17TH century

Period of history that extends from January 1, 1601 to December 31, 1700 AD. C. What happened in the 17th century?

The 17th century, also known as the Baroque century, is the period of history that runs from January 1, 1601 to December 31, 1700 AD. C., according to the Gregorian calendar. Thus, in traditional periodization it is part of the Modern Age .

In Europe it  was a period characterized by the rise of absolute monarchy , religious intolerance, class society, economic stagnation, and the development of rationality and experimentation as methods of knowledge. It was also a violent century, marked by religious and political wars in much of the continent.

During the seventeenth century in America , the domination exercised by Spain and Portugal began to be questioned by the irruption of new colonial powers (England, France and the United Provinces), which tried to take away wealth and large portions of territories.

In Asia , the most important civilization was created by the Mongol Empire , which came to dominate much of India. In China, the Manchu defeated the Ming dynasty while Japan closed itself off from the outside world, prohibiting the exit of Japanese and the entry of foreigners to its territory.

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The most important characteristics of the seventeenth century were the following:

  • The major European powers of the 16th century, Spain and the Ottoman Empire , began to decline. Its hegemony began to be questioned by new rising powers: France, England, the United Provinces (now the Netherlands), Sweden and the Russian Empire.
  • The absolute monarchy was the predominant form of government on the European continent. It was characterized by the concentration of all the powers of the State in the hands of a king or monarch who acceded to the throne through his family inheritance. The France of Louis XIV (1643-1715) is the most complete example of absolute monarchy.
  • The ideological underpinning of absolutism was the theory of divine right , according to which the origin of the king’s authority was God. According to this postulate, the monarch could exercise unlimited power and was not obliged to render accounts of his actions before his subjects.
  • Absolutism failed to consolidate in England, where after a period of civil wars between the Crown and Parliament, during the so-called English Revolution , a parliamentary monarchy was established in 1688 . In this system, the king shares power with Parliament. In addition, a prime minister is elected to act as the head of government.
  • A form of government different from the monarchical one was the parliamentary republic, which was established in the United Provinces in 1648. The representatives of the 7 provinces that made up the State met in the General States, which elaborated the common laws. Every 5 years they appointed the Grand Pensioner, who directed the public administration, and the Grand Statute, who was in command of the militias. What happened in the 17th century?
  • The societies European of the time were estamentales . This means that they were legally divided into privileged and underprivileged. The place that each person occupied in these two large groups was determined by their birth. Among the privileged were the king, the nobles, and the clergy. The underprivileged were the bourgeois, artisans and peasants, who in France made up the so-called third state. The bourgeoisie experienced a vertiginous social and economic rise in England and the United Provinces, due to the increase in income that came from trade and finance.
  • In seventeenth-century Europe there was no religious tolerance . The subjects were obliged to profess the same religion as their king. If he changed his religion, people had to do it too or they were exposed to prison, exile, confiscation of property, or death. In this context there were numerous wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants , which caused hundreds of thousands of victims, both in combats and in looting and burning of towns and villages. What happened in the 17th century?
  • The predominant economic doctrine was mercantilism , which claimed that the richest nation was the one with the most gold and silver. The ways to get precious metals were piracy, war and a favorable balance of payments, in which exports were greater than imports.
  • There was an economic, demographic and social crisis, which many authors call a “crisis of the seventeenth century.” It was a period of stagnation characterized by a decline in agricultural production, famines, plagues, urban and rural riots, and an increase in the mortality rate.
  • In southern Europe, artisanal production continued to be controlled by the guilds, which made technological innovations difficult. In England and the Netherlands, instead, the home production system was extended, in which a merchant gave raw materials to peasants to make cheap and competitive textiles in their homes.
  • The search for knowledge through human reason , characteristic of the Modern Age, reached all areas of knowledge. As a consequence, there was a strong development of astronomy, biology and physics, which was reflected in the invention of the telescope and the microscope; in the discovery of the cell and in the formulation of the theory of universal gravitation. This movement is called the Scientific Revolution and it continued throughout the 18th century .
  • The artistic movement of the seventeenth century was the Baroque . Within this style, literature, theater, music and the plastic arts had a great development. In literature, the French Molière, the Spanish Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the English William Shakespeare stood out. Cervantes’ literary career is part of the so-called Golden Age , named for the quality achieved by Spanish cultural and artistic production. In painting, Diego Velázquez and Rembrandt stood out, among others; and in sculpture Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini.

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Most important events of the 17th century

Among the most important events of the century, we can mention:

  • The rise to power of the Romanov dynasty , whose tsars ruled the Russian Empire between 1613 and 1917.
  • The 30 Years’ War (1618-1648) , in which almost all the European powers of the time intervened. The war initially involved states in and out of the Protestant Reformation within the Holy Roman Empire . However, it became a struggle for European hegemony as the great powers, especially France and Spain, joined. It ended with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia .
  • The Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659), which was a continuation of the confrontation that began in the 30 Years’ War. This ended with the signing of the Peace of the Pyrenees , which enshrined the Spanish defeat and the triumph of France, a country that positioned itself as the leading European power. What happened in the 17th century?
  • The Portuguese restoration war (1640-1668), which ended with the recognition of the Independence of Portugal. Since 1580 this country was ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs.
  • The English Civil War (1642-1649) between the Crown and Parliament, which ended with the execution by beheading of the English King Charles I (1649) and the establishment of the dictatorship of Oliverio Cromwell (1653-1658).
  • The end of the 80 Years’ War (1648), started in 1568, after which Spain recognized the Independence of the United Provinces.
  • La Fronde (1648-53), a set of insurrectionary movements against the increasingly centralized French monarchy. This was a civil war that ended with the defeat of the nobles and the triumph of the monarchy.
  • The Glorious Revolution (1688-89), after which a Bill of Rights was approved  that William of Orange had to accept to gain access to the throne. By limiting the power of the king, this document established the parliamentary monarchy in England. What happened in the 17th century?

17th century in America

During the 16th century, Spain and Portugal conquered large tracts of American territories and transformed them into overseas colonies of their colonial empires.

During the seventeenth century, other European powers seized American territories:

  • The English settled on the Atlantic coast of North America , between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains. There they created 13 colonies. The first of these was Virginia, created in 1607 with the founding of Jamestown. The English also settled in Hudson Bay, in the north of present-day Canada, and on the island of Jamaica, in the Caribbean.
  • The French occupied the island of Newfoundland, the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, and the Great Lakes region in present-day Canada. They also settled in Haiti and on both banks of the Mississippi River, in the region they called Louisiana.
  • The Dutch settled on various islands in the Caribbean . In 1625 they founded New Amsterdam (now New York) in the Hudson River Valley, from where they were evicted by the English in 1664. They also dominated northeastern Portuguese Brazil between 1630 and 1654. What happened in the 17th century?

Parallel to its territorial expansion, England and the United Provinces came to control a large part of the international trade routes and introduced their merchandise in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. For Spain, this meant a significant contraction in Atlantic trade and a decrease in the amount of precious metals arriving from America, which accentuated its economic crisis .

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