16th century

The 16th century begins with the Julian year 1501 and ends with either the Julian or the Gregorian year 1600 (depending on the reckoning used; the Gregorian calendar introduced a lapse of 10 days in October 1582).[1] The term is often used to refer to the 1500s, the century between January 1, 1500 and December 31, 1599.

Millennium: 2nd millennium
State leaders:
Categories: Births – Deaths
Establishments – Disestablishments
The world map by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci (from whose name the word America is derived) and Belgian Gerardus Mercator shows (besides the classical continents Europe, Africa, and Asia) the Americas as America sive India Nova, New Guinea, and other islands of Southeast Asia, as well as a hypothetical Arctic continent and a yet undetermined Terra Australis.
Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–06, one of the world's most well-known paintings

The 16th century is regarded by historians as the century in which the rise of Western civilization and the Age of the Islamic Gunpowders occurred. During the 16th century, Mauritius was introduced on maps, while Spain and Portugal explorations led by Vasco da Gama opened a route in the Indian Ocean and opened worldwide oceanic trade routes, and Vasco da Gama Large parts of the New World became Spanish and Portuguese colonies, and while the Portuguese became the masters of Asia's and Africa's Indian Ocean trade, the Spanish opened trade across the Pacific Ocean, linking the Americas with India.

This era of colonialism established mercantilism as the leading school of economic thought, where the economic system was viewed as a zero-sum game in which any gain by one party required a loss by another. The mercantilist doctrine encouraged the many intra-European wars of the period and arguably fueled European expansion and imperialism throughout the world until the 19th century or early 20th century.

The Protestant Reformation gave a major blow to the authority of the papacy and the Catholic Church. European politics became dominated by religious conflicts, with the groundwork for the epochal Thirty Years' War being laid towards the end of the century. In Italy, various contributions made by renaissance leading figures led to the foundation of important subjects which include accounting and political science. Galileo Galilei invented the first thermometer and made substantial contributions in the fields of physics and astronomy, becoming a major figure in the Scientific Revolution. In England, the British-Italian Alberico Gentili wrote the first book on public international law and divided secularism from canon law and Catholic theology.

In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire continued to expand, with the Sultan taking the title of Caliph, while dealing with a resurgent Persia. Iran and Iraq were caught by a major popularity of the Shiite sect of Islam under the rule of the Safavid dynasty of warrior-mystics, providing grounds for a Persia independent of the majority-Sunni Muslim world.

In the Indian subcontinent, following the defeat of the Delhi Sultanate empire, new powers emerged, the Suri Empire founded by Sher Shah Suri and the Mughal Empire[2] by Emperor Babur of Mughal Dynasty, a direct descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan.[3] His successors Humayun and Akbar, enlarged the empire to include most of South Asia. The empire developed a strong and stable economy in the world, leading to commercial expansion and greater patronage of culture, which significantly influenced the course of Indian history.

China evacuated the coastal areas, because of Japanese piracy. Japan was suffering a severe civil war at the time, known as the Sengoku period.

Copernicus proposed the heliocentric universe, which was met with strong resistance, and Tycho Brahe refuted the theory of celestial spheres through observational measurement of the 1572 appearance of a Milky Way supernova. These events directly challenged the long-held notion of an immutable universe supported by Ptolemy and Aristotle, and led to major revolutions in astronomy and science.

Significant Events



Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, Galileo Galilei, father of modern science, and the Pope.
Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak presenting Akbarnama to Mughal Azam Akbar, Mughal miniature
Dr Alberico Gentili, The Father of international law.
Vasily III, Grand Duke of Moscow by André Thévet.
Spanish conquistadors with their Tlaxcallan allies fighting against the Otomies of Metztitlan in present-day Mexico, a 16th-century codex


Martin Luther initiated the Reformation with his Ninety-five Theses in 1517.
Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition that circumnavigated the globe in 1519–1522.


Gun-wielding Ottoman Janissaries and defending Knights of Saint John at the Siege of Rhodes in 1522, from an Ottoman manuscript
Sack of Rome by Charles V forces.


Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1536 – 1537, Henry VIII, King of England and Ireland.
Portrait of Ivan the Terrible


Scenes of everyday life in Ming China, by Qiu Ying



The Mughal Emperor Akbar shoots the Rajput warrior Jaimal during the Siege of Chittorgarh in 1567
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of French Protestants



The Irish Gaelic chieftain's feast, from The Image of Ireland.
Portuguese fusta in India from a book by Jan Huygen van Linschoten
  • 1584: Ki Ageng Pemanahan died. Sultan Pajang raised Sutawijaya, son of Ki Ageng Pemanahan as the new ruler in Mataram, titled "Loring Ngabehi Market" (because of his home in the north of the market).
  • 1585: Colony at Roanoke founded in North America.
  • 15851604: The Anglo-Spanish War is fought on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • 1587: Mary, Queen of Scots is executed by Elizabeth I.
  • 1587: The reign of Abbas I marks the zenith of the Safavid dynasty.
  • 1587: Troops that would invade Pajang Mataram Sultanate storm ravaged the eruption of Mount Merapi. Sutawijaya and his men survived.
  • 1588: Mataram into the kingdom with Sutawijaya as Sultan, titled "Senapati Ingalaga Sayidin Panatagama" means the warlord and cleric Manager Religious Life.
  • 1588: England repulses the Spanish Armada.
The fall of Spanish Armada


Significant people


Consorts of rulers



  • Alberico Gentili, the "Father of international law", considered to be one of the greatest lawyers of all time (15521608).




Visual artists

Musicians and composers


Science and philosophy

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Related article: List of 16th century inventions.

See also


  1. Modern reference works on the period tend to follow the introduction of the Gregorian calendar for the sake of clarity; thus NASA's lunar eclipse catalogue states "The Gregorian calendar is used for all dates from 1582 Oct 15 onwards. Before that date, the Julian calendar is used." For dates after 15 October 1582, care must be taken to avoid confusion of the two styles.
  2. Singh, Sarina; Lindsay Brown; Paul Clammer; Rodney Cocks; John Mock (2008). Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway. 7, illustrated. Lonely Planet. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-74104-542-0. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  3. Babur (2006). Babur Nama. Penguin Books. p. vii. ISBN 978-0-14-400149-1.
  4. Polybius: "The Rise Of The Roman Empire", Page 36, Penguin, 1979.
  5. "16th Century Timeline (1501 to 1600)". fsmitha.com. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009.
  6. "History of Smallpox – Smallpox Through the Ages". Texas Department of State Health Services.
  7. Ricklefs (1991), p.23
  8. "A LIST OF NATIONAL EPIDEMICS OF PLAGUE IN ENGLAND 1348–1665". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  9. Ricklefs (1991), page 24
  10. The Sweating Sickness. Story of London.. Accessed 2009-04-25. Archived 2009-05-03.
  11. Sandra Arlinghaus. "Life Span of Suleiman the Magnificent 1494–1566". Personal.umich.edu. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
  12. Ricklefs (1991), page 25
  13. "La Terra De Hochelaga – Jaques Cartier a Hochelaga". jacquescarter.org. Archived from the original on December 23, 2008.
  14. "The Lusiads". World Digital Library. 1800–1882. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  15. Schwieger, Peter (2014). The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: a political history of the Tibetan institution of reincarnation. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231538602. OCLC 905914446.
  16. Miller, George, ed. (1996). To The Spice Islands and Beyond: Travels in Eastern Indonesia. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. xv. ISBN 967-65-3099-9.
  17. Luc-Normand Tellier (2009). "Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective". PUQ. p.308. ISBN 2-7605-1588-5
  18. Ricklefs (1991), page 27
  19. Ricklefs (1991), page 28
  20. Stoica, Vasile (1919). The Roumanian Question: The Roumanians and their Lands. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Printing Company. p. 18.
  21. Drake (1978, p.1). The date of Galileo's birth is given according to the Julian calendar, which was then in force throughout the whole of Christendom. In 1582 it was replaced in Italy and several other Catholic countries with the Gregorian calendar. Unless otherwise indicated, dates in this article are given according to the Gregorian calendar.
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