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The 15 th century is considered a period of transition from the Middle Ages

to the Moden Age. This was accompanied by a period of economic and
demographic growth which led the following changes:

Increased artisanal production. His was the result of reduced control

on part of the guilds and a rise in demand due to population growth.
Agricultural growth. Due to the rising demand for food, farming
techniques improved and new lands were used for farming.
Urban growth. Although they rarely exceeded 30,000 inhabitants,
cities became industrial and commercial centres. Some of the most
important cities in Europe were Venice, Sevilla, Lyon, and Antwerp.
Expanded trade. Medieval trading routes were revived and new
longdistance routes were opened that were linked to luxury goods like
silk, pecious metals, and spices.
Development of commercial capitalism. Exchange agents, bankers,
and moneylenders arose, introducing financial practises that reduced
the amount of physical cash required for transactions. This led to
more commercial security and different methods of payment.



Population growth
There was an intensive population growth in Europe throughout the
15 th century due to an increase in agricultural production. The
quality of food improved nd there were fewer epidemics. As the
population increased, cities became bigger.

Economic and demographic growth produced significant social
changes, although the divisions of society into estates was

Clergy and nobility were still the most privileged social groups
since they did not pay taxes.They held the most important
administrative posts and they owned most of the land.
However, they had to give up part of their political power to the
Many bankers and merchants became very wealthy through
their commercial activities. They formed a powerful bourgeoisie
that played a key role in many parts of Europe. Important
families, like the Medicis in Italy and the Fuggers in Germany,
acquired great social and econmica influence.

Peasants in some European regions were liberated from the

feudal lords and became free, but the feudal system was still
used in many other regions.

At the beginning of theModern Age, kingdoms in Europe used eitherwar or
marriage alliances to increase their political strength. In these alliances,
political enemies promised he marriage of their children as a way to
guarantee future peace between their countries.Naturally, a marriage of
state was a way to achieve territorial expansion at a much lower price than

After the Hundred Years War against England, the French monarchy began
a process to strengthen royal power, especially under the reigns of kings
Louis XI and Franois I.

During the 15 th century, there was a civil war for the English throne
between the families of York and Lancaster. The nobility became weak and
the monarchy grew stronger, especially during the reign of Henry VIII.

Ivan III the Great conquered vast territories and carried out intense
expansionism, adopting the title of Gtand Prince of all Russia.

John II established his authority over the aristocracy and launched overseas

The Catholic Monarchs unified all the Iberian Peninsula except for Portugal.

Holy Roman Empire

This empire covered a large number of territories, including Germany and
Northern Italy. These kingdoms had considerable autonomy and were led by
an elected emperor.

Italian Peninsula
Trade and banking made territories economically prosperous. The Papal
States and he Republic of Venice were the most important.

The main political transformation of the Modern Age was a stronger

authoritarian monarchy over the urban nobility and aristocracy. A new
organisational model was created in which the king had more direct power.

National territory. The monarchs considered the kingdom to be patrimony of

the roal familiy that needed to be preserved and defended against posible
Bureaucracy. It was created and managed by civil servants paid directl by
the king to serve in his name. This permitted a more effective control over
the territory.
Permanent court. A permanent court was established that governed the
kingdom, ending the travelling courts of the Middle Ages.
Permanent army. This profesional army was funded by the monarch and
worked only under his orders. Prvate armies organized by the nobility lost
their importance.
Diplomatic service. It was made up of ambassadors who represented the
monarchs in other countries in order to ensure foreign relations.
Taxation system. It was designed to collect taxes to help pay for the
increased costs of the new state system.

1469 Marriage of Isabel of Castilla and Fernando of Aragn.

1474 Isabel becomes Queen Isabel I of Castilla.
1479 Fernando becomes King Fernando II of Aragn.
1492 Conquest of Granada. Discovery of America.
1504 Isabel I of Castilla diez. Her daughter Juana is still young so Fernando II
of Aragn becomes regent of Castilla.
1506 Juana of Castilla, Juana the Mad, suffers from mental illness. His
father rules as regent until his death.
1516 After Fernandos death, Cardinal Cisneros becomes regent before
Juanas son Carlos V became king of Spain.
Under the reign of Isabel I of Castilla and Fernando II of Aragn, Spains
kingdoms joined the Modern Ages as one of the most powerful monarchies.
Their marriage was not just a nion of kingdoms, but a dynastic one. Both
crowns kept their own law, institutions, borders, and currency. However, both
monarchs governed their territories together and introduced common
policies at an international level.
The Catholic Monarchs hoped to unite all the kingdoms in he Iberian
Peninsula under their crown. They adopted policies in:

Granada. The Nasrid Kingdom was in the middle of a civil war and the
Catholic Monarchs took advantage by conquering Muslim lands. After ten
years of war, king Boabdil surrended in 1492. This marked the end of the

Navarra. In 1512, king Fernando used his Alliance with France as an excuse
to invade the kingdom of Navarra and annex it to Castilla, although he
maintained its laws and institutions.

Portugal. The Catholic Monarchs created links with the Portuguese monarchy
through royal marriages, but Portugal only became part of the monarchy
later on, during the reign of Felipe II.

The foreign policies of the Catholic Monarchs looked after the interests of
both crowns in two ways.
Marriage policy. The Catholic Monarchs had the goal of isolating France. They
carried out a marriage policy with their sons and daughters:
o Isabel and Mara to Manuel I of Portugal.
o Juan to Margaret of Habsburg.
o Juana to Philip of Austria The Fair, the heir to the Duchy of
Burgundy and the Earldom of Flanders.
o Catalina to king Henry VIII of England.
International expansion. This served the interests of both crowns, which
considerably increased their domains.
o Atlantic expansion: the priority in Castilla was to control trade routes
and to conclude the occupation of the Canary Islands, which was
crucial to exploring the route to the West Indies.
o Mediterranean expansion: Aragn was mainly concerned with its
Mediterranean interests, especially in Italy. Gonzalo Fernndez de
Crdoba, he Great Captain, successfully defeated the French in Italy.
This helped them regain the counties of Roussillon and Cerdagne.
o North Africa expansion: his territorial expansion reached several
coastal areas such as Melilla.


The Catholic Monarchs introduced a new authoritarian monarchy model,
especially in Castilla which had a greater tradition of centralised power. They
imposed their authority over the nobility, clergy and municipalities.

The Councils consisted of lawyers and officials that advised the monarchs.
The most important were the Council of Castilla, the Council of Aragn, and
the Council of War. the royal secretaries were close advisers to the
monarchs, serving as liaisons between the different councils.
The Corte was the body of representation for the nobility, and also the
church and the bourgeoisie; Castilian, Aragonese, Catalan, and Valencian
Cortes retained significant power in their respective regions. It ws one of the
political goals of the Catholic Monarchs to get the support of the Cortes and,
at the same time, to diminish their power of vetoing the monarchs
In the cities , the figure of corregidor presided the town hall on behalf of the
monarchs, and conrolled the power.
The Court of Justice, also named Real Audiencia or Chancillera, was created
to ensure justice and to make it more effective. The monarchy guaranteed a
regular income by creating new taxes and establishing a central tax office
called the Countadura Real de Hacienda.
The figure of viceroy was created to represent the king and queen in each of
the kingdoms of the Crown.

The permanent army were profesional soldiers in service to the monarchs.

The Catholic Monarchs also created the Santa Hermandad, which maintain
social order in rural areas. They were an armed corps in charge of
prosecuting criminals.

The main objectives of the Catholic Monarchs was religious unity which inspired
policis such as:

The Inquisition
It was created in 1478 with the aim to end heresy and prosecute those who
turned away from Catholicism.

Capitulaciones de Granada
This treaty was signed by the Monarchs after the conquest of the Nasrid
Kingdom of Granada. It allowed the Muslims to practise their religion in
Granada. However, in 1499, Cardinal Cisneros forced imposed Christianity on
the Muslims. Although some left the pennsula, most Muslims chose baptism,
and were called Moriscos afterwards.

Expulsion of the Jews

In 1492, the Monarchy decreed the forced conversin of the Jews. Those who
chose Christianity were called conversos, but those that did not were persecuted
and forced to leave the country that same year.

Spain and Potugal led many great expeditions. In the second half of the 15 th
century, different events permitted an expansion overseas.

Trade routes. In 1453 the Turks conquered Constantinople and traditional

routes to the Orient were blocked. It was necessary to find alternative routes
for the luxury goods, such as silk or spices, that were i great demand.

Expansion policies
After the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal and Spain competed
to expand their territories. Their only means of conquest were by crossing
the Atlantic Ocean.

Technical advances
The scientific revolution brought on by Humanism provided crucial nautical

A compass has a magnetised needle, used to locate North, South,

East and West.
A rudder is a piece of Wood fixed to the back of a boat used for
controlling its direction.

An astrolabe determines the distance of a celestial body, and

calclate time and latitude.

Prince Henry the Navigator promoted explorations. The objective was to
reach India, so they did successive explorations of fricas Atlantic coast.
First they discovered Madeira and Azores, then they explored the Gukf of
In 1488, Bartolom Daz sailed around the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama successfully reached India and settled in Calicut, he
city of spices.
Christopher Columbus (Cristbal Coln) believed he could reach Asia by
sailing west. He knew that the Earth was round, but h thought it was much
smaller, so he wasnt ever aware that he had discovered America. The
Catholic Monarchs supported his project and signed the Capitulaciones de
Santa Fe, granting him privileges if he were successful.
1st voyage
The three caravels, the Pinta, the Nia, and the Santa Mara, departed from
Palos de la Frontera (Huelva) on the 3rd of August 1492. They landed on the
island of Guanahani (Bahamas) on the 12 th of October and named it San
Salvador. Columbus visited more islands and founded the first settlements.
2nd, 3rd and 4th voyages
Columbus exploed the West Indies and Central America. Spain and Portugal
competed over the control of the new route, until they signed the Treaty of
Tordesillas in 1494. It established an imaginary line 370 leagues west of the
Cape Verde. 4


The Mayans inhabited the Yucatan eninsula. Their civilisation established
cities like Tikal or Palenke. It had reached its peak between the 3rd and 8 th
centuries. By the time the Spanish arrived, Mayan cultura was clearly in

Society. They were organised in city-states, such as Mayapn. Mayan

civilisation was hierarchical. It was based in important cities.
Economy. It was base on corn, tomatoes, cocoa, beans or pumpkin,
which they grew in the jungle by felling and burning tres.
Religion. It was organised around its primary sources of sustenance,
such as corn. They offered sacrifices to their gods to protect their
crops and ensure rain for their growth.
Culture. It was very advanced. They use the number zero, had
knowledge of astronomy, and a very complex calendar. They used

The Aztecs inhabited central Mexico. Their capital was Tenochtitlan. When
the Spanish arrived, the Aztecs were the most powerful in the region. They
had a great army, with which they had suppressedother Central American
nations, forcing them top ay taxes.

Society. It was very hierarchical. Their main ruler was an emperor

(tlatoani). Next was the nobility, the priests, and finally the common
people. They also had slaves. was base don growing corn, on trade, and on taxes
revenues they received from their conquered territories.
Religion. They believed in many gods and even offered human
sacrifices in their honour. Huitzilopochtli and Quetzalcoatl were their
main gods.
Culture. They used pictograms to represent political, religious or
administrative matters. They also had a complex calendar. Aztec
artists could produce fine sculptures or build temples and palaces.

The Incas dominated the Andes and had created a great empire that
included present-day Ecuador, Per, Bolivia, northern Chile, and Argentina.
They built an extensive network of roads connecting all the territories in the

Society. The Incas had a hierarchical society. The emperor was both a
leader and a god. Under him were the nobles and priests, and then
the common people who had to work the land and pay taxes to the
emperor. A certain number of days out of the year, men were required
to work for the state. This system was known as mita.
Economy. The economy was base don agricultura and mainly on corn
and potatoes. They also domesticated animals for their meat ans
skin. They created elaborate potterry, textiles, and metal objects of
gold and copper.
Religion. It was polytheistic. Besides Inti, the Sun god, their main
deity was Viracocha.
Culture. They had large stone cities, beautiful temples, an advanced
government, a detailed tax system, and an intrncate road system.