History Chronologies: The 15th Century


Figure 1.--Botticelli's work in the late 15th and early 16th century shows the continuing influence of the Church, but includes wonderfully detailed depiction of the fashion of the day, both clothing and hair styles.

The 15th century in many ways is when Europe began to make the transition from the Medieval to the modern world. The Renaissance was more pronounced and established outside of Italy by the 15th century. The Renaissance had a profound affect on Europe. It affected philosophy, science and art, but even more it affected the way man thought and his outlook on life. Individuals other tha royals and Churhmen begin to play promient roles. Filippo Brunelleschi invents one-point perspective, leading to major innovations in Italian art and architecture. Leonardo da Vinci's inventive mind and spectacular art fuels the Rennaisance. The vernacular languages become increasingly important and the modern forms of European languages begin to appear. Perhaps most important, modern English appears out of Middle English. This trend is so pronounced that by the 16th century we can read English authors with considerable ease. The Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Church becomes permanent in 1417. In part because of the twin impacts of the Schism with the Eastern Church and the Renaissance, there is increased Church concern with heresy. The Church supresses Lollardy in England. John Badby becomes the first individual burnt at the stake for heresy in England. John Huss is burned at the stake in Germany. Henry V decimates the French nobility at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. A peasant girl, Jeanne d'Arc appears in France and in 1429 leads French forces to a victory against the English. She is burned at the stake, but she sets in motion th expulsion of the English from France and a French victory in the he Hundred Years' War. The modern states of France and England develop. Henry VII in England founds the Tudor dynasty. The Byzatine Empire had been reduced to Constantinople which fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The Ottomans begin to turn their attention west to Europe. At the same time, it was in the 15th century that Europe exploded outward accross the globe. First it was the Portuguese voyages of discovery around Africa and on to Asia. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reaches India in 1498. Then Columbus in 1492 discovered the Americas in his efforts to reach the East. While it is the European voyages that are most heavily reported during the 15th century, a much larger operation at the time was Chinese eunuch Admiral Zheng He's voyage with an emense fleet to South-East Asia, India, and East Africa. Also in 1492 Granada fell and the Moors were finally expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Isabela and Ferdinand in an effort to "purify" Spain even futher also in 1492 expell the Jews, who had been tolerated by the Moors. To accomplish this the Spanish Inquisition begins its work. In many ways it will succeed, but one impact of the Inquisition is to initiate a decline in the Spanish economy and culture that even the flow of riches from the Americas will be unable to reverse. Just as the Renaissance sets mens' minds on radical new intellectal quests, a German Johann Gutenberg invents movable print making possible printing and bringing books into the reach of vastly more people in Europe. One of the most important books of the century is Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. Douublet and hose were worn by men during the Renaissance. Boys after breeching would generally wear the styles worn by their fathers. A doublet was close-fitting jacket, both sleeved and sleeveless, sometimes with a short attached skirt. One report indicates that doublet and hose were initially undergarments and only the well to do could afford them. As a result, they became a status symbol and people began wearing them as outer garments. Belts in the 15th century become a symbol of manhood. Boys often did not wear them and they became seen as a transition to adult manhood. It became disgrace for a man to have his belt taken from him. Both men and women began wearing formal high-necked gowns called houppelande. These gowns might have trailing sleeves. Many great universities were founded are became established in the 15th century. The influence of 15th century garments can be seen in the academic gowns that teachers at English public (exclusive private) schools still wore in the early 20th century and are still worn by university dons for ceremonial purposes. People in the 15th century also wore gowns with a more casual low-necked cotehardie. Women and girls wore their hair in padded head-rolls (chaplets). [Crush]

Historical Background

The 15th century in many ways is when Europe began to make the transition from the Medieval to the modern world.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance was more pronounced and established outside of Italy by the 15th century. The Renaissance had a profound affect on Europe. It affected philosophy, science and art, but even more it affected the way man thought and his outlook on life. Individuals other tha royals and Churhmen begin to play promient roles. Filippo Brunelleschi invents one-point perspective, leading to major innovations in Italian art and architecture. Leonardo da Vinci's inventive mind and spectacular art fuels the Rennaisance.

Vernacular languages

The vernacular languages become increasingly important and the modern forms of European languages begin to appear. Perhaps most important, modern English appears out of Middle English. This trend is so pronounced that by the 16th century we can read English authors with considerable ease.

The Church

The Schism between the Eastern and Western Church becomes permanent in 1417. In part because of the twin impacts of the Schism with the Eastern Church and the Renaissance, there is increased Church concern with heresy. The Church supresses Lollardy in England. John Badby becomes the first individual burnt at the stake for heresy in England. John Huss is burned at the stake in Germany. The power of the Roman Catholic church declined as Europeans increasingly came to identified with their nations and the new humanistic ideas of the Renaissance eroded religious faith and Chuch authority.

Political developments

The Feudal System by the 15th century had diven way to the increasingly assertive power of absolute monarchy. Here the appearance of gun gunpowder changed the power ballance in Europe. Nobels could no longer could no longer resist royal armies behind castle walls. European monarchs increasingly surrounded themselves with a new class of more sophisticated advisors. The national monarchies were also emerging victorious in struggles with the Papacy. Education gained in stature as middle classes benefitting from the expanding economies expanded their influence.

Dynastic wars

Henry V decimates the French nobility at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). A peasant girl, Jeanne d'Arc appears in France and leads French forces to a victory against the English (1429). She is burned at the stake, but she sets in motion th expulsion of the English from France and a French victory in the he Hundred Years' War. Burgundy was annexed by Louis XI after Battle of Nancy and the death of Duke Charles the Bold (1477). The modern states of France and England develop. Henry VII in England founded the Tudor dynasty.

Byzantium falls

Constantine Palaeologus, the last Byzantine emperor as Constantinre XI was born (1404). Constantinople had declined by the 15th century to a shadow of its former imperial glory. The city was a tempting target, but the city's massive walls held the Turks at bay. Emperor John VIII dies and the sucessioin is disputed betweem his brothers Demetrius and Constantine (1448). The arrival of gunpowder from China, as in Western Europe, changed the military calculations of beseiging Medieval fortifications. Cannons devestated the walls that had protected the city for 1000 years. Mahammed II became Sultan on the death of his father (1441). Mehmed II conducts a 2 year siege. Finnaly Turkish cannons achieve a break in the wall and Turkish soldiers pour through. Byzantium was finally overwealmed by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet???? II (1453). The few remaining cities, such as Trebizond and Mistra, also fell to the Turks before the end of the century. The fall of Constantinople was a shock to Western Christendom. It was a great victory to the Ottomons who benefitted in many ways from possession of the great city. The city's fall also fueled the already increasing interest in Greek and classical studies, especially in Italy. This was a major factor in the appearance of the European Renaissance.

Voyages of discovery

At the same time, it was in the 15th century that Europe exploded outward accross the globe. First it was the Portuguese voyages of discovery around Africa and on to Asia. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reaches India in 1498. Then Columbus in 1492 discovered the Americas in his efforts to reach the East. While it is the European voyages that are most heavily reported during the 15th century, a much larger operation at the time was Chinese eunuch Admiral Zheng He's voyage with an emense fleet to South-East Asia, India, and East Africa.

The Reconquista

Also in 1492 Granada fell and the Moors were finally expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Isabela and Ferdinand in an effort to "purify" Spain even futher also in 1492 expell the Jews, who had been tolerated by the Moors. To accomplish this the Spanish Inquisition begins its work. In many ways it will succeed, but one impact of the Inquisition is to initiate a decline in the Spanish economy and culture that even the flow of riches from the Americas will be unable to reverse.

Technology

Just as the Renaissance sets mens' minds on radical new intellectal quests, a German Johann Gutenberg invents movable print making possible printing and bringing books into the reach of vastly more people in Europe. One of the most important books of the century is Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince.

Clothing

Douublet and hose were worn by men during the Renaissance. Boys after breeching would generally wear the styles worn by their fathers. A doublet was close-fitting jacket, both sleeved and sleeveless, sometimes with a short attached skirt. One report indicates that doublet and hose were initially undergarments and only the well to do could afford them. As a result, they became a status symbol and people began wearing them as outer garments. Belts in the 15th century become a symbol of manhood. Boys often did not wear them and they became seen as a transition to adult manhood. It became disgrace for a man to have his belt taken from him. Both men and women were wearing formal high-necked gowns called houppelande in the early 1400s. These gowns might have trailing sleeves. Many great universities were founded are became established in the 15th century. The influence of 15th century garments can be seen in the academic gowns that teachers at English public (exclusive private) schools still wore in the early 20th century and are still worn by university dons for ceremonial purposes. People in the 15th century also wore gowns with a more casual low-necked cotehardie. [Crush] By the mid-1450s the gownspeople wore has lost their trailing sleeves. Gowns were commonly worn doubletsand hose. The doublet originated with the gipon of the 14th century. Casual hoods evolved into a kind of turban, called a chaperon, became widely worn and had no connotation with the non-Christian East. The liripipe began to be used as a scarf. Women's headdresses increased considerably in size, but girls more commonly wore just simple hoods. [Crush] By the 1480s France began to be seen as a center of fashion. High-waisted gowns with trailing skirts became popular with fashionable ladies. Women wore various fetching but often highly impractical headdresses. Often they would shave their foreheads to accomodate these headdresses. Younger men began wearing shorter jerkins, often pleated and trimmed with fur. Shoes grew extrodinarily long. Some were even chained to their knees. [Crush]

Hair Styles

Some Italian Renaissance artists shows boys with long shoulder length hair (figure 1). Women and girls wore their hair in padded head-rolls (chaplets). [Crush]

Sources

Crush, Margaret. Piccolo Book of Costume (Pan Books: London, 1973). The book has vert nicely done illustrations by Faith Jaques.







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Created: July 21, 2003
Last updated: September 3, 2003