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A Political and Social History of Modern Europe V.1. by Carlton J. H. Hayes

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went on treasuring its traditions, keeping its old customs, century
after century. The country instinctively distrusted all novelties; it
always preferred old ways to new; it was heartily conservative.
Country-folk did not discover America. It was the enterprise of the
cities, with their growing industries and commerce, which brought about
the Commercial Revolution; and to the development of commerce,
industry, and the towns, we now must turn our attention.


[Sidenote: Trade and the Towns ]

Except for the wealthy Italian city-states and a few other cities which
traced their history back to Roman times, most European towns, it must
be remembered, dated only from the later middle ages. At first there
was little excuse for their existence except to sell to farmers salt,
fish, iron, and a few plows. But with the increase of commerce, which,
as we shall see, especially marked the thirteenth, fourteenth, and
fifteenth centuries, more merchants traveled through the country, ways
of spending money multiplied, and the little agricultural villages
learned to look on the town as the place to buy not only luxuries but
such tools, clothing, and shoes as could be manufactured more
conveniently by skillful town artisans than by clumsy rustics. The
towns, moreover, became exchanges where surplus farm products could be
marketed, where wine could be bartered for wool, or wheat for flax. And
as the towns grew in size, the prosperous citizens proved to be the
best customers for foreign luxuries, and foreign trade grew apace.
Town, trade, and industry thus worked together: trade stimulated
industry, industry assisted trade, and the town profited by both. By
the sixteenth century the towns had grown out of their infancy and were
maintaining a great measure of political and economic freedom.

[Sidenote: Freedom of the Towns.]
[Sidenote: Town Charters]

Originally many a town had belonged to some nobleman's extensive manor
and its inhabitants had been under much the same servile obligations to
the lord as were the strictly rural serfs. But with the lapse of time
and the growth of the towns, the townsmen or burghers had begun a
struggle for freedom from their feudal lords. They did not want to pay
servile dues to a baron, but preferred to substitute a fixed annual
payment for individual obligations; they besought the right to manage
their market; they wished to have cases at law tried in a court of
their own rather than in the feudal court over which the nobleman
presided; and they demanded the right to pay all taxes in a lump sum
for the town, themselves assessing and collecting the share of each
citizen. These concessions they eventually had won, and each city had
its charter, in which its privileges were enumerated and recognized by
the authority of the nobleman, or of the king, to whom the city owed
allegiance. In England these charters had been acquired generally by
merchant gilds, upon payment of a substantial sum to the nobleman; in
France frequently the townsmen had formed associations, called
_communes_, and had rebelled successfully against their feudal
lords; in Germany the cities had leagued together for mutual protection
and for the acquisition of common privileges. Other towns, formerly
founded by bishops, abbots, or counts, had received charters at the
very outset.

[Sidenote: Merchant Gilds]

A peculiar outgrowth of the need for protection against oppressive
feudal lords, as well as against thieves, swindlers, and dishonest
workmen, had been the typically urban organization known as the
merchant gild or the merchants' company. In the year 1500 the merchant
gilds were everywhere on the decline, but they still preserved many of
their earlier and more glorious traditions. At the time of their
greatest importance they had embraced merchants, butchers, bakers, and
candlestick-makers: in fact, all who bought or sold in the town were
included in the gild. And the merchant gild had then possessed the
widest functions.

[Sidenote: Earlier Functions of the Merchant Gild.]
[Sidenote: Social]

Its social and religious functions, inherited from much earlier bodies,
consisted in paying some special honor to a patron saint, in giving aid
to members in sickness or misfortune, attending funerals, and also in
the more enjoyable meetings when the freely flowing bowl enlivened the
transaction of gild business.

[Sidenote: Protective]

As a protective organization, the gild had been particularly effective.
Backed by the combined forces of all the gildsmen, it was able to
assert itself against the lord who claimed manorial rights over the
town, and to insist that a runaway serf who had lived in the town for a
year and a day should not be dragged back to perform his servile labor
on the manor, but should be recognized as a freeman. The protection of
the gild was accorded also to townsmen on their travels. In those days
all strangers were regarded as suspicious persons, and not infrequently
when a merchant of the gild traveled to another town he would be set
upon and robbed or cast into prison. In such cases it was necessary for
the gild to ransom the imprisoned "brother" and, if possible, to punish
the persons who had done the injury, so that thereafter the liberties
of the gild members would be respected. That the business of the gild
might be increased, it was often desirable to enter into special
arrangements with neighboring cities whereby the rights, lives, and
properties of gildsmen were guaranteed; and the gild as a whole was
responsible for the debts of any of its members.

[Sidenote: Regulative]

The most important duty of the gild had been the regulation of the home
market. Burdensome restrictions were laid upon the stranger who
attempted to utilize the advantages of the market without sharing the
expense of maintenance. No goods were allowed to be carried away from
the city if the townsmen wished to buy; and a tax, called in France the
_octroi_, was levied on goods brought into the town. [Footnote:
The _octroi_ is still collected in Paris.] Moreover, a conviction
prevailed that the gild was morally bound to enforce honest
straightforward methods of business; and the "wardens" appointed by the
gild to supervise the market endeavored to prevent, as dishonest
practices, "forestalling" (buying outside of the regular market),
"engrossing" (cornering the market), [Footnote: The idea that
"combinations in restraint of trade" are wrong quite possibly goes back
to this abhorrence of engrossing.] and "regrating" (retailing at higher
than market price). The dishonest green grocer was not allowed to use a
peck-measure with false bottom, for weighing and measuring were done by
officials. Cheats were fined heavily and, if they persisted in their
evil ways, they might be expelled from the gild.

These merchant gilds, with their social, protective, and regulative
functions, had first begun to be important in the eleventh century. In
England, where their growth was most rapid, 82 out of the total of 102
towns had merchant gilds by the end of the thirteenth century.
[Footnote: Several important places, such as London, Colchester, and
Norwich, belonged to the small minority without merchant gilds.] On the
Continent many towns, especially in Germany, had quite different
arrangements, and where merchant gilds existed, they were often
exclusive and selfish groups of merchants in a single branch of

[Sidenote: Decline of Merchant Guilds]

With the expansion of trade and industry in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries the rule of the old merchant gilds, instead of
keeping pace with the times, became oppressive, limited, or merely
nominal. Where the merchant gilds became oppressive oligarchical
associations, as they did in Germany and elsewhere on the Continent,
they lost their power by the revolt of the more democratic "craft
gilds." In England specialized control of industry and trade by craft
gilds, journeymen's gilds, and dealers' associations gradually took the
place of the general supervision of the older merchant gild. After
suffering the loss of its vital functions, the merchant gild by the
sixteenth century either quietly succumbed or lived on with power in a
limited branch of trade, or continued as an honorary organization with
occasional feasts, or, and this was especially true in England, it
became practically identical with the town corporation, from which
originally it had been distinct.

[Sidenote: Industry: the Craft Guilds]

Alongside of the merchant gilds, which had been associated with the
growth of commerce and the rise of towns, were other guilds connected
with the growth of industry, which retained their importance long after
1500. These were the craft gilds. [Footnote: The craft gild was also
called a company, or a mistery, or _métier_ (French), or _Zunft_
(German).] Springing into prominence in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries, the craft gild sometimes, as in Germany, voiced a popular
revolt against corrupt and oligarchical merchant gilds, and
sometimes most frequently so in England--worked quite harmoniously with
the merchant gild, to which its own members belonged. In common with
the merchant gild, the craft gild had religious and social aspects, and
like the merchant gild it insisted on righteous dealings; but unlike
the merchant gild it was composed of men in a single industry, and it
controlled in detail the manufacture as well as the marketing of
commodities. There were bakers' gilds, brewers' gilds, smiths' gilds,
saddlers' gilds, shoemakers' gilds, weavers' gilds, tailors' gilds,
tanners' gilds, even gilds of masters of arts who constituted the
teaching staff of colleges and universities.

When to-day we speak of a boy "serving his apprenticeship" in a trade,
we seldom reflect that the expression is derived from a practice of the
medieval craft gilds, a practice which survived after the gilds were
extinct. Apprenticeship was designed to make sure that recruits to the
trade were properly trained. The apprentice was usually selected as a
boy by a master-workman and indentured--that is, bound to work several
years without wages, while living at the master's house. After the
expiration of this period of apprenticeship, during which he had
learned his trade thoroughly, the youth became a "journeyman," and
worked for wages, until he should finally receive admission to the gild
as a master, with the right to set up his own little shop, with
apprentices and journeymen of his own, and to sell his wares directly
to those who used them.

This restriction of membership was not the only way in which the trade
was supervised. The gild had rules specifying the quality of materials
to be used and often, likewise, the methods of manufacture; it might
prohibit night-work, and it usually fixed a "fair price" at which goods
were to be sold. By means of such provisions, enforced by wardens or
inspectors, the gild not only perpetuated the "good old way" of doing
things, but guaranteed to the purchaser a thoroughly good article at a
fair price.

[Sidenote: Partial Decay of Craft Gilds]

By the opening of the sixteenth century the craft gilds, though not so
weakened as the merchant gilds, were suffering from various internal
diseases which sapped their vitality. They tended to become exclusive
and to direct their power and affluence in hereditary grooves. They
steadily raised their entrance fees and qualifications. Struggles
between gilds in allied trades, such as spinning, weaving, fulling, and
dyeing, often resulted in the reduction of several gilds to a dependent
position. The regulation of the processes of manufacture, once designed
to keep up the standard of skill, came in time to be a powerful
hindrance to technical improvements; and in the method as well as in
the amount of his work, the enterprising master found himself
handicapped. Even the old conscientiousness often gave way to greed,
until in many places inferior workmanship received the approval of the

Many craft gilds exhibited in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a
tendency to split somewhat along the present lines of capital and
labor. On the one hand the old gild organization would be usurped and
controlled by the wealthier master-workmen, called "livery men,"
because they wore rich uniforms, or a class of dealers would arise and
organize a "merchants' company" to conduct a wholesale business in the
products of a particular industry. Thus the rich drapers sold all the
cloth, but did not help to make it. On the other hand it became
increasingly difficult for journeymen and apprentices to rise to the
station of masters; oftentimes they remained wage-earners for life. In
order to better their condition they formed new associations, which in
England were called journeymen's or yeomen's companies. These new
organizations were symptomatic of injustice but otherwise unimportant.
The craft gilds, with all their imperfections, were to continue in
power awhile longer, slowly giving away as new trades arose outside of
their control, gradually succumbing in competition with capitalists who
refused to be bound by gild rules and who were to evolve a new
"domestic system," [Footnote: See Vol. II, ch xviii.] and slowly
suffering diminution of prestige through royal interference.

[Sidenote: Life in the Towns]

In the year 1500 the European towns displayed little uniformity in
government or in the amount of liberty they possessed. Some were petty
republics subject only in a very vague way to an extraneous potentate;
some merely paid annual tribute to a lord; some were administered by
officers of a king or feudal magnate; others were controlled by
oligarchical commercial associations. But of the general appearance and
life of sixteenth-century towns, it is possible to secure a more
uniform notion.

It must be borne in mind that the towns were comparatively small, for
the great bulk of people still lived in the country. A town of 5000
inhabitants was then accounted large; and even the largest places, like
Nuremberg, Strassburg, London, Paris, and Bruges, would have been only
small cities in our eyes. The approach to an ordinary city of the time
lay through suburbs, farms, and garden-plots, for the townsman still
supplemented industry with small-scale agriculture. Usually the town
itself was inclosed by strong walls, and admission was to be gained
only by passing through the gates, where one might be accosted by
soldiers and forced to pay toll. Inside the walls were clustered houses
of every description. Rising from the midst of tumble-down dwellings
might stand a magnificent cathedral, town-hall, or gild building. Here
and there a prosperous merchant would have his luxurious home, built in
what we now call the Gothic style, with pointed windows and gables,
and, to save space in a walled town, with the second story projecting
out over the street.

The streets were usually in deplorable condition. There might be one or
two broad highways, but the rest were mere alleys, devious, dark, and
dirty. Often their narrowness made them impassable for wagons. In
places the pedestrian waded gallantly through mud and garbage; pigs
grunted ponderously as he pushed them aside; chickens ran under his
feet; and occasionally a dead dog obstructed the way. There were no
sidewalks, and only the main thoroughfares were paved. Dirt and filth
and refuse were ordinarily disposed of only when a heaven-sent rain
washed them down the open gutters constructed along the middle, or on
each side, of a street. Not only was there no general sewerage for the
town, but there was likewise no public water supply. In many of the
garden plots at the rear of the low-roofed dwellings were dug wells
which provided water for the family; and the visitor, before he left
the town, would be likely to meet with water-sellers calling out their
ware. To guard against the danger of fires, each municipality
encouraged its citizens to build their houses of stone and to keep a
tub full of water before every building; and in each district a special
official was equipped with a proper hook and cord for pulling down
houses on fire. At night respectable town-life was practically at a
standstill: the gates were shut; the curfew sounded; no street-lamps
dispelled the darkness, except possibly an occasional lantern which an
altruistic or festive townsman might hang in his front-window; and no
efficient police-force existed--merely a handful of townsmen were
drafted from time to time as "watchmen" to preserve order, and the
"night watch" was famed rather for its ability to sleep or to roister
than to protect life or purse. Under these circumstances the citizen
who would escape an assault by ruffians or thieves remained prudently
indoors at night and retired early to bed. Picturesque and quaint the
sixteenth-century town may have been; but it was also an uncomfortable
and an unhealthful place in which to live.


Just as agriculture is the ultimate basis of human society, so town-
life has always been an index of culture and civilization. And the
fortunes of town-life have ever depended upon the vicissitudes of trade
and commerce. So the reviving commerce of the later middle ages between
Europe and the East meant the growth of cities and betokened an advance
in civilization.

[Sidenote: Revival of Trade with the East]

Trade between Europe and Asia, which had been a feature of the antique
world of Greeks and Romans, had been very nearly destroyed by the
barbarian invasions of the fifth century and by subsequent conflicts
between Mohammedans and Christians, so that during several centuries
the old trade-routes were traveled only by a few Jews and with the
Syrians. In the tenth century, however, a group of towns in southern
Italy--Brindisi, Bari, Taranto, and Amalfi--began to send ships to the
eastern Mediterranean and were soon imitated by Venice and later by
Genoa and Pisa.

This revival of intercourse between the East and the West was well
under way before the first Crusade, but the Crusades (1095-1270)
hastened the process. Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, on account of their
convenient location, were called upon to furnish the crusaders with
transportation and provisions, and their shrewd Italian citizens made
certain that such services were well rewarded. Italian ships, plying to
and from the Holy Land, gradually enriched their owners. Many Italian
cities profited, but Venice secured the major share. It was during the
Crusades that Venice gained numerous coastal districts and islands in
the Ægean besides immunities and privileges in Constantinople, and
thereby laid the foundation of her maritime empire.

The Crusades not only enabled Italian merchants to bring Eastern
commodities to the West; they increased the demand for such
commodities. Crusaders--pilgrims and adventurers--returned from the
Holy Land with astonishing tales of the luxury and opulence of the
East. Not infrequently they had acquired a taste for Eastern silks or
spices during their stay in Asia Minor or Palestine; or they brought
curious jewels stripped from fallen infidels to awaken the envy of the
stay-at-homes. Wealth was rapidly increasing in Europe at this time,
and the many well-to-do people who were eager to affect magnificence
provided a ready market for the wares imported by Italian merchants.

[Sidenote: Commodities of Eastern Trade]

It is desirable to note just what were these wares and why they were
demanded so insistently. First were spices, far more important then
than now. The diet of those times was simple and monotonous without our
variety of vegetables and sauces and sweets, and the meat, if fresh,
was likely to be tough in fiber and strong in flavor. Spices were the
very thing to add zest to such a diet, and without them the epicure of
the sixteenth century would have been truly miserable. Ale and wine, as
well as meats, were spiced, and pepper was eaten separately as a
delicacy. No wonder that, although the rich alone could buy it, the
Venetians were able annually to dispose of 420,000 pounds of pepper,
which they purchased from the sultan of Egypt, to whom it was brought,
after a hazardous journey, from the pepper vines of Ceylon, Sumatra, or
western India. From the same regions came cinnamon-bark; ginger was a
product of Arabia, India, and China; and nutmegs, cloves, and allspice
grew only in the far-off Spice Islands of the Malay Archipelago.

Precious stones were then, as always, in demand for personal adornment
as well as for the decoration of shrines and ecclesiastical vestments;
and in the middle ages they were thought by many to possess magical
qualities which rendered them doubly valuable. [Footnote: Medieval
literature is full of this idea. Thus we read in the book of travel
which has borne the name of Sir John Maundeville:
"And if you wish to know the virtues of the diamond, I shall tell you,
as they that are beyond the seas say and affirm, from whom all science
and philosophy comes. He who carries the diamond upon him, it gives him
hardiness and manhood, and it keeps the limbs of his body whole. It
gives him victory over his enemies, in court and in war, if his cause
be just; and it keeps him that bears it in good wit; and it keeps him
from strife and riot, from sorrows and enchantments, and from fantasies
and illusions of wicked spirits. ... [It] heals him that is lunatic,
and those whom the fiend torments or pursues."] The supply of diamonds,
rubies, pearls, and other precious stones was then almost exclusively
from Persia, India, and Ceylon.

Other miscellaneous products of the East were in great demand for
various purposes: camphor and cubebs from Sumatra and Borneo; musk from
China; cane-sugar from Arabia and Persia; indigo, sandal-wood, and
aloes-wood from India; and alum from Asia Minor.

The East was not only a treasure-house of spices, jewels, valuable
goods, and medicaments, but a factory of marvelously delicate goods and
wares which the West could not rival--glass, porcelain, silks, satins,
rugs, tapestries, and metal-work. The tradition of Asiatic supremacy in
these manufactures has been preserved to our own day in such familiar
names as damask linen, china-ware, japanned ware, Persian rugs, and
cashmere shawls.

In exchange for the manifold products of the East, Europe had only
rough woolen cloth, arsenic, antimony, quicksilver, tin, copper, lead,
and coral to give; and a balance, therefore, always existed for the
European merchant to pay in gold and silver, with the result that gold
and silver coins grew scarce in the West. It is hard to say what would
have happened had not a new supply of the precious metals been
discovered in America. But we are anticipating our story.

[Sidenote: Oriental Trade-Routes]

Nature has rendered intercourse between Europe and Asia exceedingly
difficult by reason of a vast stretch of almost impassable waste,
extending from the bleak plains on either side of the Ural hills down
across the steppes of Turkestan and the desert of Arabia to the great
sandy Sahara. Through the few gaps in this desert barrier have led from
early times the avenues of trade. In the fifteenth century three main
trade-routes--a central, a southern, and a northern--precariously
linked the two continents.

(1) The central trade-route utilized the valley of the Tigris River.
Goods from China, from the Spice Islands, and from India were brought
by odd native craft from point to point along the coast to Ormuz, an
important city at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, thence to the mouth of
the Tigris, and up the valley to Bagdad. From Bagdad caravans journeyed
either to Aleppo and Antioch on the northeastern corner of the
Mediterranean, or across the desert to Damascus and the ports on the
Syrian coast. Occasionally caravans detoured southward to Cairo and
Alexandria in Egypt. Whether at Antioch, Jaffa, or Alexandria, the
caravans met the masters of Venetian ships ready to carry the cargo to

(2) The southern route was by the Red Sea. Arabs sailed their ships
from India and the Far East across the Indian Ocean and into the Red
Sea, whence they transferred their cargoes to caravans which completed
the trip to Cairo and Alexandria. By taking advantage of monsoons,--the
favorable winds which blew steadily in certain seasons,--the skipper of
a merchant vessel could make the voyage from India to Egypt in somewhat
less than three months. It was often possible to shorten the time by
landing the cargoes at Ormuz and thence dispatching them by caravan
across the desert of Arabia to Mecca, and so to the Red Sea, but
caravan travel was sometimes slower and always more hazardous than

(3) The so-called "northern route" was rather a system of routes
leading in general from the "back doors" of India and China to the
Black Sea. Caravans from India and China met at Samarkand and Bokhara,
two famous cities on the western slope of the Tian-Shan Mountains. West
of Bokhara the route branched out. Some caravans went north of the
Caspian, through Russia to Novgorod and the Baltic. Other caravans
passed through Astrakhan, at the mouth of the Volga River, and
terminated in ports on the Sea of Azov. Still others skirted the shore
of the Caspian Sea, passing through Tabriz and Armenia to Trebizond on
the Black Sea.

The transportation of goods from the Black Sea and eastern
Mediterranean was largely in the hands of the Italian cities,[Footnote:
In general, the journey from the Far East to the ports on the Black Sea
and the eastern Mediterranean was performed by Arabs, although some of
the more enterprising Italians pushed on from the European settlements,
or _fondachi_, in ports like Cairo and Trebizond, and established
_fondachi_ in the inland cities of Asia Minor, Persia, and Russia.]
especially Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Florence, although Marseilles
and Barcelona had a small share. From Italy trade-routes led
through the passes of the Alps to all parts of Europe. German merchants
from Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Regensburg, and Constance purchased
Eastern commodities in the markets of Venice, and sent them back to the
Germanies, to England, and to the Scandinavian countries. After the
lapse of many months, and even years, since the time when spices had
been packed first in the distant Moluccas, they would be exposed
finally for sale at the European fairs or markets to which thousands of
countryfolk resorted. There a nobleman's steward could lay in a year's
supply of condiments, or a peddler could fill his pack with silks and
ornaments to delight the eyes of the ladies in many a lonesome castle.

[Sidenote: Difficulties of European Commerce]

Within Europe commerce gradually extended its scope in spite of the
almost insuperable difficulties. The roads were still so miserable that
wares had to be carried on pack-horses instead of in wagons. Frequently
the merchant had to risk spoiling his bales of silk in fording a
stream, for bridges were few and usually in urgent need of repair.
Travel not only was fraught with hardship; it was expensive. Feudal
lords exacted heavy tolls from travelers on road, bridge, or river.
Between Mainz and Cologne, on the Rhine, toll was levied in thirteen
different places. The construction of shorter and better highways was
blocked often by nobles who feared to lose their toll-rights on the old
roads. So heavy was the burden of tolls on commerce that transportation
from Nantes to Orleans, a short distance up the River Loire, doubled
the price of goods. Besides the tolls, one had to pay for local market
privileges; towns exacted taxes on imports; and the merchant in a
strange city or village often found himself seriously handicapped by
regulations against "foreigners," and by unfamiliar weights, measures,
and coinage.

Most dreaded of all, however, and most injurious to trade were the
robbers who infested the roads. Needy knights did not scruple to turn
highwaymen. Cautious travelers carried arms and journeyed in bands, but
even they were not wholly safe from the dashing "gentlemen of the
road." On the seas there was still greater danger from pirates. Fleets
of merchantmen, despite the fact that they were accompanied usually by
a vessel of war, often were assailed by corsairs, defeated, robbed, and
sold as prizes to the Mohammedans. The black flag of piracy flew over
whole fleets in the Baltic and in the Mediterranean. The amateur
pirate, if less formidable, was no less common, for many a vessel
carrying brass cannon, ostensibly for protection, found it convenient
to use them to attack foreign craft and more frequently "took" a cargo
than purchased one.

[Sidenote: Venice]

These dangers and difficulties of commercial intercourse were due
chiefly to the lack of any strong power to punish pirates or
highwaymen, to maintain roads, or to check the exactions of toll-
collectors. Each city attempted to protect its own commerce. A great
city-state like Venice was well able to send out her galleys against
Mediterranean pirates, to wage war against the rival city of Genoa, to
make treaties with Oriental potentates, and to build up a maritime
empire. Smaller towns were helpless. But what, as in the case of the
German towns, they could not do alone, was partially achieved by

[Sidenote: The Hanseatic League. Towns in the Netherlands: Bruges]

The Hanse or the Hanseatic League, as the confederation of Cologne,
Brunswick, Hamburg, Lübeck, Dantzig, Königsberg, and other German
cities was called, waged war against the Baltic pirates, maintained its
trade-routes, and negotiated with monarchs and municipalities in order
to obtain exceptional privileges. From their Baltic stations,--
Novgorod, Stockholm, Königsberg, etc.,--the Hanseatic merchants brought
amber, wax, fish, furs, timber, and tar to sell in the markets of
Bruges, London, and Venice; they returned with wheat, wine, salt,
metals, cloth, and beer for their Scandinavian and Russian customers.
The German trading post at Venice received metals, furs, leather goods,
and woolen cloth from the North, and sent back spices, silks, and other
commodities of the East, together with glassware, fine textiles,
weapons, and paper of Venetian manufacture. Baltic and Venetian trade-
routes crossed in the Netherlands, and during the fourteenth century
Bruges became the trade-metropolis of western Europe, where met the raw
wool from England and Spain, the manufactured woolen cloth of Flanders,
clarets from France, sherry and port wines from the Iberian peninsula,
pitch from Sweden, tallow from Norway, grain from France and Germany,
and English tin, not to mention Eastern luxuries, Venetian
manufactures, and the cunning carved-work of south-German artificers.


[Sidenote: Desire of Spaniards and Portuguese for New Trade-Routes]

In the unprecedented commercial prosperity which marked the fifteenth
century, two European peoples--the Portuguese and the Spanish--had
little part. For purposes of general Continental trade they were not so
conveniently situated as the peoples of Germany and the Netherlands;
and the Venetians and other Italians had shut them off from direct
trade with Asia. Yet Spanish and Portuguese had developed much the same
taste for Oriental spices and wares as had the inhabitants of central
Europe, and they begrudged the exorbitant prices which they were
compelled to pay to Italian merchants. Moreover, their centuries-long
crusades against Mohammedans in the Iberian peninsula and in northern
Africa had bred in them a stern and zealous Christianity which urged
them on to undertake missionary enterprises in distant pagan lands.
This missionary spirit reënforced the desire they already entertained
of finding new trade-routes to Asia untrammeled by rival and selfish
Italians. In view of these circumstances it is not surprising that
Spaniards and Portuguese sought eagerly in the fifteenth century to
find new trade-routes to "the Indies."

[Sidenote: Geographical Knowledge]

In their search for new trade-routes to the lands of silk and spice,
these peoples of southwestern Europe were not as much in the dark as
sometimes we are inclined to believe. Geographical knowledge, almost
non-existent in the earlier middle ages, had been enriched by the
Franciscan friars who had traversed central Asia to the court of the
Mongol emperor as early as 1245, and by such merchants and travelers as
Marco Polo, who had been attached to the court of Kublai Khan and who
subsequently had described that potentate's realms and the wealth of
"Cipangu" (Japan). These travels afforded at once information about
Asia and enormous incentive to later explorers.

Popular notions that the waters of the tropics boiled, that demons and
monsters awaited explorers to the westward, and that the earth was a
great flat disk, did not pass current among well-informed geographers.
Especially since the revival of Ptolemy's works in the fifteenth
century, learned men asserted that the earth was spherical in shape,
and they even calculated its circumference, erring only by two or three
thousand miles. It was maintained repeatedly that the Indies formed the
western boundary of the Atlantic Ocean, and that consequently they
might be reached by sailing due west, as well as by traveling eastward;
but at the same time it was believed that shorter routes might be found
northeast of Europe, or southward around Africa.

[Sidenote: Navigation]

Along with this general knowledge of the situation of continents, the
sailors of the fifteenth century had learned a good deal about
navigation. The compass had been used first by Italian navigators in
the thirteenth century, mounted on the compass card in the fourteenth.
Latitude was determined with the aid of the astrolabe, a device for
measuring the elevation of the pole star above the horizon. With maps
and accurate sailing directions (_portolani_), seamen could lose
sight of land and still feel confident of their whereabouts. Yet it
undoubtedly took courage for the explorers of the fifteenth century to
steer their frail sailing vessels either down the unexplored African
coast or across the uncharted Atlantic Ocean.

[Sidenote: The Portuguese Explorers]

In the series of world-discoveries which brought about the Commercial
Revolution and which are often taken as the beginning of "modern
history," there is no name more illustrious than that of a Portuguese
prince of the blood,--Prince Henry, the Navigator (1394-1460), who,
with the support of two successive Portuguese kings, made the first
systematic attempts to convert the theories of geographers into proved
fact. A variety of motives were his: the stern zeal of the crusader
against the infidel; the ardent proselyting spirit which already had
sent Franciscan monks into the heart of Asia; the hope of
reëstablishing intercourse with "Prester John's" fabled Christian
empire of the East; the love of exploration; and a desire to gain for
Portugal a share of the Eastern trade.

To his naval training-station at Sagres and the neighboring port of
Lagos, Prince Henry attracted the most skillful Italian navigators and
the most learned geographers of the day. The expeditions which he sent
out year after year rediscovered and colonized the Madeira and Azores
Islands, and crept further and further down the unknown coast of the
Dark Continent. When in the year 1445, a quarter of a century after the
initial efforts of Prince Henry, Denis Diaz reached Cape Verde, he
thought that the turning point was at hand; but four more weary decades
were to elapse before Bartholomew Diaz, in 1488, attained the
southernmost point of the African coast. What he then called the Cape
of Storms, King John II of Portugal in a more optimistic vein
rechristened the Cape of Good Hope. Following in the wake of Diaz,
Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497, and then, continuing on his own
way, he sailed up the east coast to Malindi, where he found a pilot
able to guide his course eastward through the Indian Ocean to India. At
Calicut Vasco da Gama landed in May, 1498, and there he erected a
marble pillar as a monument of his discovery of a new route to the

[Sidenote: Occupation of Old Trade-Routes by the Turks]

While the Portuguese were discovering this new and all-water route to
the Indies, the more ancient Mediterranean and overland routes, which
had been of inestimable value to the Italians, were in process of
occupation by the Routes by Ottoman Turks. [Footnote: Professor A. H.
Lybyer has recently and ably contended that, contrary to a view which
has often prevailed, the occupation of the medieval trade-routes by the
Ottoman Turks was not the cause of the Portuguese and Spanish
explorations which ushered in the Commercial Revolution. He has pointed
out that prior to 1500 the prices of spices were not generally raised
throughout western Europe, and that apparently before that date the
Turks had not seriously increased the difficulties of Oriental trade.
In confirmation of this opinion, it should be remembered that the
Portuguese had begun their epochal explorations long before 1500 and
that Christopher Columbus had already returned from "the Indies."]
These Turks, as we have seen, were a nomadic and warlike nation of the
Mohammedan faith who "added to the Moslem contempt for the Christian,
the warrior's contempt for the mere merchant." Realizing that
advantageous trade relations with such a people were next to
impossible, the Italian merchants viewed with consternation the advance
of the Turkish armies, as Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, and
the islands of the Ægean were rapidly overrun. Constantinople, the
heart of the Eastern Empire, repeatedly repelled the Moslems, but in
1453 Emperor Constantine XI was defeated by Sultan Mohammed II, and the
crescent replaced the Greek cross above the Church of Saint Sophia.
Eight years later Trebizond, the terminal of the trade-route from
Tabriz, was taken. In vain Venice attempted to defend her possessions
in the Black Sea and in the Ægean; by the year 1500 most of her empire
in the Levant was lost. The Turks, now in complete control of the
northern route, proceeded to impose crushing burdens on the trade of
the defeated Venetians. Florentines and other Italians who fared less
hardly continued to frequent the Black Sea, but the entire trade
suffered from Turkish exactions and from disturbing wars between the
Turks and another Asiatic people--the Mongols.

[Sidenote: Loss to the Italians]

For some time the central and southern routes, terminating respectively
in Syria and Egypt, exhibited increased activity, and by rich profits
in Alexandria the Venetians were able to retrieve their losses in the
Black Sea. But it was only a matter of time before the Turks,
conquering Damascus in 1516 and Cairo in 1517, extended their
burdensome restrictions and taxes over those regions likewise. Eastern
luxuries, transported by caravan and caravel over thousands of miles,
had been expensive and rare enough before; now the added peril of
travel and the exactions of the Turks bade fair to deprive the Italians
of the greater part of their Oriental trade. It was at this very moment
that the Portuguese opened up independent routes to the East, lowered
the prices of Asiatic commodities, and grasped the scepter of maritime
and commercial power which was gradually slipping from the hands of the
Venetians. The misfortune of Venice was the real opportunity of

[Sidenote: Columbus]

Meanwhile Spain had entered the field, and was meeting with cruel
disappointment. A decade before Vasco da Gama's famous voyage, an
Italian navigator, Christopher Columbus, had presented himself at the
Spanish court with a scheme for sailing westward to the Indies. The
Portuguese king, by whom Columbus formerly had been employed, already
had refused to support the project, but after several vexatious rebuffs
Columbus finally secured the aid of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish
monarchs who were at the time jubilant over their capture of Granada
from the Mohammedans (January, 1492). In August, 1492, he sailed from
Palos with 100 men in three small ships, the largest of which weighed
only a hundred tons. After a tiresome voyage he landed (12 October,
1492) on "San Salvador," one of the Bahama Islands. In that bold voyage
across the trackless Atlantic lay the greatness of Columbus. He was not
attempting to prove a theory that the earth was spherical--that was
accepted generally by the well informed. Nor was he in search of a new
continent. The realization that he had discovered not Asia, but a new
world, would have been his bitterest disappointment. He was seeking
merely another route to the spices and treasures of the East; and he
bore with him a royal letter of introduction to the great Khan of
Cathay (China). In his quest he failed, even though he returned in
1493, in 1498, and finally in 1502 and explored successively the
Caribbean Sea, the coast of Venezuela, and Central America in a vain
search for the island "Cipangu" and the realms of the "Great Khan." He
found only "lands of vanity and delusion as the miserable graves of
Castilian gentlemen," and he died ignorant of the magnitude of his real

[Sidenote: America]

Had Columbus perished in mid ocean, it is doubtful whether America
would have remained long undiscovered. In 1497 John Cabot, an Italian
in the service of Henry VII of England, reached the Canadian coast
probably near Cape Breton Island. In 1500 Cabral with a Portuguese
expedition bound for India was so far driven out of his course by
equatorial currents that he came upon Brazil, which he claimed for the
king of Portugal. Yet America was named for neither Columbus, Cabot,
nor Cabral, but for another Italian, the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci,
who, returning from voyages to Brazil (1499-1500), published a letter
concerning what he called "the new world." It was thought that he had
discovered this new world, and so it was called after him,--America.

[Sidenote: First Circumnavigation of the Earth]

Very slowly the truth about America was borne in upon the people of
Europe. They persisted in calling the newly discovered lands the
"Indies," and even after Balboa had discovered (1513) that another
ocean lay beyond the Isthmus of Panama, it was thought that a few days'
sail would bring one to the outlying possessions of the Great Khan. Not
until Magellan, leaving Spain in 1519, passed through the straits that
still bear his name and crossed the Pacific was this vain hope
relinquished. Magellan was killed by the natives of the Philippine
Islands, but one of his ships reached Seville in 1522 with the tale of
the marvelous voyage.

Even after the circumnavigation of the world explorers looked for
channels leading through or around the Americas. Such were the attempts
of Verrazano (1524), Cartier (1534), Frobisher (1576-1578), Davis
(1585-1587), and Henry Hudson in 1609.


[Sidenote: Portugal]

When Vasco da Gama returned to Lisbon in 1499 with a cargo worth sixty
times the cost of his expedition, the Portuguese knew that the wealth
of the Indies was theirs. Cabral in 1500, and Albuquerque in 1503,
followed the route of Da Gama, and thereafter Portuguese fleets rounded
the Cape year by year to gain control of Goa (India), Ormuz, Diu
(India), Ceylon, Malacca, and the Spice Islands, and to bring back from
these places and from Sumatra, Java, Celebes, and Nanking (China) rich
cargoes of "spicery." After the Turkish conquest of Egypt in 1517 the
bulk of commerce was carried on by way of the Cape of Good Hope, for it
was cheaper to transport goods by sea than to pay taxes to the Turks in
addition to caravan cartage. Lisbon rapidly gained prominence as a
market for Eastern wares.

The Portuguese triumph was short-lived. Dominion over half the world--
for Portugal claimed all Africa, southern Asia, and Brazil as hers by
right of discovery--had been acquired by the wise policy of the
Portuguese royal house, but Portugal had neither products of her own to
ship to Asia, nor the might to defend her exclusive right to the
carrying trade with the Indies. The annexation of Portugal to Spain
(1580) by Philip II precipitated disaster. The port of Lisbon was
closed to the French, English, and Dutch, with whom Philip was at war,
and much of the colonial empire of Portugal was conquered speedily by
the Dutch.

[Sidenote: Spain]

On the first voyage of Columbus Spain based her claim to share the
world with Portugal. In order that there might be perfect harmony
between the rival explorers of the unknown seas, Pope Alexander VI
issued on 4 May, 1493, the famous bull [Footnote: A bull was a solemn
letter or edict issued by the pope.] attempting to divide the
uncivilized parts of the world between Spain and Portugal by the "papal
line of demarcation," drawn from pole to pole, 100 leagues west of the
Azores. A year later the line was shifted to about 360 leagues west of
the Cape Verde Islands. Portugal had the eastern half of modern Brazil,
Africa, and all other heathen lands in that hemisphere; the rest
comprised the share of Spain.

For a time the Spanish adventurers were disappointed tremendously to
find neither spices nor silks and but little gold in the "Indies," and
Columbus was derisively dubbed the "Admiral of the Mosquitos." In spite
of failures the search for wealth was prosecuted with vigor. During the
next half century Haiti, called Hispaniola ("Spanish Isle"), served as
a starting point for the occupation of Puerto Rico, Cuba (1508), and
other islands. An aged adventurer, Ponce de Leon, in search of a
fountain of youth, explored the coast of Florida in 1513, and
subsequent expeditions pushed on to the Mississippi, across the plain
of Texas, and even to California.

Montezuma, ruler of the ancient Aztec [Footnote: The Aztec Indians of
Mexico, like various other tribes in Central America and in Peru, had
reached in many respects a high degree of civilization before the
arrival of Europeans.] confederacy of Mexico, was overthrown in 1519 by
the reckless Hernando Cortez with a small band of soldiers. Here at
last the Spaniards found treasures of gold and silver, and more
abundant yet were the stores of precious metal found by Pizarro in Peru
(1531). Those were the days when a few score of brave men could capture
kingdoms and carry away untold wealth.

In the next chapter we shall see how the Spanish monarchy, backed by
the power of American riches, dazzled the eyes of Europe in the
sixteenth century. Not content to see his standard waving over almost
half of Europe, and all America (except Brazil), Philip II of Spain by
conquering Portugal in 1580 added to his possessions the Portuguese
empire in the Orient and in Brazil. The gold mines of America, the
spices of Asia, and the busiest market of Europe--Antwerp--all paid
tribute to his Catholic Majesty, Philip II of Spain.

By an unwise administration of this vast empire, Spain, in the course
of time, killed the goose that laid the golden egg. The native Indians,
enslaved and lashed to their work in Peruvian and Mexican silver mines,
rapidly lost even their primitive civilization and died in alarming
numbers. This in itself would not have weakened the monarchy greatly,
but it appeared more serious when we remember that the high-handed and
harassing regulations imposed by short-sighted or selfish officials had
checked the growth of a healthy agricultural and industrial population
in the colonies, and that the bulk of the silver was going to support
the pride of grandees and to swell the fortunes of German speculators,
rather than to fill the royal coffers. The taxes levied on trade with
the colonies were so exorbitant that the commerce with America fell
largely into the hands of English and Dutch smugglers. Under wise
government the monopoly of the African trade-route might have proved
extremely valuable, but Philip II, absorbed in other matters, allowed
this, too, to slip from his fingers.

While the Spanish monarchy was thus reaping little benefit from its
world-wide colonial possessions, it was neglecting to encourage
prosperity at home. Trade and manufacture had expanded enormously in
the sixteenth century in the hands of the Jews and Moors. Woolen
manufactures supported nearly a third of the population. The silk
manufacture had become important. It is recorded that salt-works of the
region about Santa Maria often sent out fifty shiploads at a time.

These signs of growth soon gave way to signs of decay and depopulation.
Chief among the causes of ruin were the taxes, increased enormously
during the sixteenth century. Property taxes, said to have increased 30
per cent, ruined farmers, and the "alcabala," or tax on commodities
bought and sold, was increased until merchants went out of business,
and many an industrial establishment closed its doors rather than pay
the taxes. Industry and commerce, already diseased, were almost
completely killed by the expulsion of the Jews (1492) and of the Moors
(1609), who had been respectively the bankers and the manufacturers of
Spain. Spanish gold now went to the English and Dutch smugglers who
supplied the peninsula with manufactures, and German bankers became the
financiers of the realm.

The crowning misfortune was the revolt of the Netherlands, the richest
provinces of the whole empire. Some of the wealthiest cities of Europe
were situated in the Netherlands. Bruges had once been a great city,
and in 1566 was still able to buy nearly $2,000,000 worth of wool to
feed its looms; but as a commercial and financial center, the Flemish
city of Antwerp had taken first place. In 1566 it was said that 300
ships and as many wagons arrived daily with rich cargoes to be bought
and sold by the thousand commercial houses of Antwerp. Antwerp was the
heart through which the money of Europe flowed. Through the bankers of
Antwerp a French king might borrow money of a Turkish pasha. Yet
Antwerp was only the greatest among the many cities of the Netherlands.

Charles V, king of Spain during the first half of the sixteenth
century, had found in the Netherlands his richest source of income, and
had wisely done all in his power to preserve their prosperity. As we
shall see in Chapter III, the governors appointed by King Philip II in
the second half of the sixteenth century lost the love of the people by
the harsh measures against the Protestants, and ruined commerce and
industry by imposing taxes of 5 and 10 per cent on every sale of land
or goods. In 1566 the Netherlands rose in revolt, and after many bloody
battles, the northern or Dutch provinces succeeded in breaking away
from Spanish rule.

Spain had not only lost the little Dutch provinces; Flanders was
ruined: its fields lay waste, its weavers had emigrated to England, its
commerce to Amsterdam. Commercial supremacy never returned to Antwerp
after the "Spanish Fury" of 1576. Moreover, during the war Dutch
sailors had captured most of the former possessions of Portugal, and
English sea-power, beginning in mere piratical attacks on Spanish
treasure-fleets, had become firmly established. The finest part of
North America was claimed by the English and French. Of her world
empire, Spain retained only Central and South America (except Brazil),
Mexico, California, Florida, most of the West Indies, and in the East
the Philippine Islands and part of Borneo.

[Sidenote: Dutch Sea Power]

The Dutch, driven to sea by the limited resources of their narrow strip
of coastland, had begun their maritime career as fishermen "exchanging
tons of herring for tons of gold." In the sixteenth century they had
built up a considerable carrying trade, bringing cloth, tar, timber,
and grain to Spain and France, and distributing to the Baltic countries
the wines and liquors and other products of southwestern Europe, in
addition to wares from the Portuguese East Indies.

The Dutch traders had purchased their Eastern wares largely from
Portuguese merchants in the port of Lisbon. Two circumstances--the
union of Spain with Portugal in 1580 and the revolt of the Netherlands
from Spain--combined to give the Dutch their great opportunity. In 1594
the port of Lisbon was closed to Dutch merchants. The following year
the Dutch made their first voyage to India, and, long jealous of the
Portuguese colonial possessions, they began systematically to make the
trade with the Spice Islands their own. By 1602, 65 Dutch ships had
been to India. In the thirteen years--1602 to 1615--they captured 545
Portuguese and Spanish ships, seized ports on the coasts of Africa and
India, and established themselves in the Spice Islands. In addition to
most of the old Portuguese empire,--ports in Africa and India, Malacca,
Oceanica, and Brazil, [Footnote: Brazil was more or less under Dutch
control from 1624 until 1654, when, through an uprising of Portuguese
colonists, the country was fully recovered by Portugal. Holland
recognized the Portuguese ownership of Brazil by treaty of 1662, and
thenceforth the Dutch retained in South America only a portion of
Guiana (Surinam).]--the Dutch had acquired a foothold in North America
by the discoveries of Henry Hudson in 1609 and by settlement in 1621.
Their colonists along the Hudson River called the new territory New
Netherland and the town on Manhattan island New Amsterdam, but when
Charles II of England seized the land in 1664, he renamed it New York.

Thus the Dutch had succeeded to the colonial empire of the Portuguese.
With their increased power they were able entirely to usurp the Baltic
trade from the hands of the Hanseatic (German) merchants, who had
incurred heavy losses by the injury to their interests in Antwerp
during the sixteenth century. Throughout the seventeenth century the
Dutch almost monopolized the carrying-trade from Asia and between
southwestern Europe and the Baltic. The prosperity of the Dutch was the
envy of all Europe.

[Sidenote: Beginnings of English and French Explorations]

It took the whole sixteenth century for the English and French to get
thoroughly into the colonial contest. During that period the activities
of the English were confined to exploration and piracy, with the
exception of the ill-starred attempts of Gilbert and Raleigh to
colonize Newfoundland and North Carolina. The voyages of the Anglo-
Italian John Cabot in 1497-1498 were later to be the basis of British
claims to North America. The search for a northwest passage drove
Frobisher (1576-1578), Davis (1585-1587), Hudson (1610-1611), and
Baffin (1616) to explore the northern extremity of North America, to
leave the record of their exploits in names of bays, islands, and
straits, and to establish England's claim to northern Canada; while the
search for a northeast passage enticed Willoughby and Chancellor (1553)
around Lapland, and Jenkinson (1557-1558) to the icebound port of
Archangel in northern Russia. Elizabethan England had neither silver
mines nor spice islands, but the deficiency was never felt while
British privateers sailed the seas. Hawkins, the great slaver, Drake,
the second circumnavigator of the globe, Davis, and Cavendish were but
four of the bold captains who towed home many a stately Spanish galleon
laden with silver plate and with gold. As for spices, the English East
India Company, chartered in 1600, was soon to build up an empire in the
East in competition with the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French, but
that story belongs to a later chapter.

France was less active. The rivalry of Francis I [Footnote: See below,
pp. 77 ff.] with Charles I of Spain had extended even to the New World.
Verrazano (1524) sailed the coast from Carolina to Labrador, and
Cartier (1534-1535) pushed up the Saint Lawrence to Montreal, looking
for a northwest passage, and demonstrating that France had no respect
for the Spanish claim to all America. After 1535, however, nothing of
permanence was done until the end of the century, and the founding of
French colonies in India and along the Saint Lawrence and Mississippi
rivers belongs rather to the history of the seventeenth century.

[Sidenote: Motives for Colonization]

One of the most amazing spectacles in history is the expansion of
Europe since the sixteenth century. Not resting content with
discovering the rest of the world, the European nations with sublime
confidence pressed on to divide the new continents among them, to
conquer, Christianize, and civilize the natives, and to send out
millions of new emigrants to establish beyond the seas a New England, a
New France, a New Spain, and a New Netherland. The Spaniards in Spain
to-day are far outnumbered by the Spanish-speaking people in Argentina,
Chili, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Central America, and the Philippine

[Sidenote: Religion]

It was not merely greed for gold and thirst for glory which inspired
the colonizing movement. To the merchant's eager search for precious
metals and costly spices, and to the adventurer's fierce delight in
braving unknown dangers where white man never had ventured, the
Portuguese and Spanish explorers added the inspiration of an ennobling
missionary ideal. In the conquest of the New World priests and chapels
were as important as soldiers and fortresses; and its settlements were
named in honor of Saint Francis (San Francisco), Saint Augustine (St.
Augustine), the Holy Saviour (San Salvador), the Holy Cross (Santa
Cruz), or the Holy Faith (Santa Fé). Fearless priests penetrated the
interior of America, preaching and baptizing as they went.
Unfortunately some of the Spanish adventurers who came to make fortunes
in the mines of America, and a great number of the non-Spanish
foreigners who owned mines in the Spanish colonies, set gain before
religion, and imposed crushing burdens on the natives who toiled as
slaves in their mines. Cruelty and forced labor decimated the natives,
but in the course of time this abuse was remedied, thanks largely to
the Spanish bishop, Bartolomé de las Casas, and instead of forming a
miserable remnant of an almost extinct race, as they do in the United
States, the Indians freely intermarried with the Spaniards, whom they
always outnumbered. As a result, Latin America is peopled by nations
which are predominantly Indian in blood, [Footnote: Except in the
southern part of South America.] Spanish or Portuguese [Footnote: In
Brazil.] in language, and Roman Catholic in religion.

The same religious zeal which had actuated Spanish missionary-explorers
was manifested at a later date by the French Jesuit Fathers who
penetrated North America in order to preach the Christian faith to the
Indians. Quite different were the religious motives which in the
seventeenth century inspired Protestant colonists in the New World.
They came not as evangelists, but as religious outcasts fleeing from
persecution, or as restless souls worsted at politics or unable to gain
a living at home. This meant the dispossession and ultimate extinction
rather than the conversion of the Indians.

[Sidenote: Decline of the Hanseatic League]

The stirring story of the colonial struggles which occupied the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will be taken up in another
chapter; at this point, therefore, we turn from the expanding nations
on the Atlantic seaboard to note the mournful plight of the older
commercial powers--the German and Italian city-states. As for the
former, the Hanseatic League, despoiled of its Baltic commerce by
enterprising Dutch and English merchants, its cities restless and
rebellious, gradually broke up. In 1601 an Englishman metaphorically
observed: "Most of their [the league's] teeth have fallen out, the rest
sit but loosely in their head,"--and in fact all were soon lost except
Lübeck, Bremen, and Hamburg.

[Sidenote: Decay of Venice]

Less rapid, but no less striking, was the decay of Venice and the other
Italian cities. The first cargoes brought by the Portuguese from India
caused the price of pepper and spices to fall to a degree which spelled
ruin for the Venetians. The Turks continued to harry Italian traders in
the Levant, and the Turkish sea-power grew to menacing proportions,
until in 1571 Venice had to appeal to Spain for help. To the terror of
the Turk was added the torment of the Barbary pirates, who from the
northern coast of Africa frequently descended upon Italian seaports.
The commerce of Venice was ruined. The brilliance of Venice in art and
literature lasted through another century (the seventeenth), supported
on the ruins of Venetian opulence; but the splendor of Venice was
extinguished finally in the turbulent sea of political intrigue into
which the rest of Italy had already sunk.


In a way, all of the colonizing movements, which we have been at pains
to trace, might be regarded as the first and greatest result of the
Commercial Revolution--that is, if by the Commercial Revolution one
understands simply the discovery of new trade-routes; but, as it is
difficult to separate explorations from colonization, we have used the
term "Commercial Revolution" to include both. By the Commercial
Revolution we mean that expansive movement by which European commerce
escaped from the narrow confines of the Mediterranean and encompassed
the whole world. We shall proceed now to consider that movement in its
secondary aspects or effects.

One of the first in importance of these effects was the advent of a new
politico-economic doctrine—mercantilism--the result of the transference
of commercial supremacy from Italian and German city-states to national

[Sidenote: Nationalism in Commerce]

With the declining Italian and German commercial cities, the era of
municipal commerce passed away forever. In the peoples of the Atlantic
seaboard, who now became masters of the seas, national consciousness
already was strongly developed, and centralized governments were
perfected; these nations carried the national spirit into commerce.
Portugal and Spain owed their colonial empires to the enterprise of
their royal families; Holland gained a trade route as an incident of
her struggle for national independence; England and France, which were
to become the great commercial rivals of the eighteenth century, were
the two strongest national monarchies.

[Sidenote: Mercantilism]

The new nations founded their power not on the fearlessness of their
chevaliers, but on the extent of their financial resources. Wealth was
needed to arm and to pay the soldiers, wealth to build warships, wealth
to bribe diplomats. And since this wealth must come from the people by
taxes, it was essential to have a people prosperous enough to pay
taxes. The wealth of the nation must be the primary consideration of
the legislators. In endeavoring to cultivate and preserve the wealth of
their subjects, European monarchs proceeded upon the assumption that if
a nation exported costly manufactures to its own colonies and imported
cheap raw materials from them, the money paid into the home country for
manufactures would more than counterbalance the money paid out for raw
materials, and this "favorable balance of trade" would bring gold to
the nation. This economic theory and the system based upon it are
called mercantilism. In order to establish such a balance of trade, the
government might either forbid or heavily tax the importation of
manufactures from abroad, might prohibit the export of raw materials,
might subsidize the export of manufactures, and might attempt by minute
regulations to foster industry at home as well as to discourage
competition in the colonies. Thus, intending to retain the profits of
commerce for Englishmen, Cromwell and later rulers required that
certain goods must be carried on English ships.

[Sidenote: Chartered Companies]

By far the most popular method of developing a lucrative colonial
trade--especially towards the end of the sixteenth and throughout the
seventeenth century--was by means of chartered commercial companies.
England (in 1600), Holland (in 1602), France (in 1664), Sweden,
Denmark, Scotland, and Prussia each chartered its own "East India
Company." The English possessions on the Atlantic coast of America were
shared by the London and Plymouth Companies (1606). English companies
for trade with Russia, Turkey, Morocco, Guiana, Bermuda, the Canaries,
and Hudson Bay were organized and reorganized with bewildering
activity. In France the crop of commercial companies was no less

To each of these companies was assigned the exclusive right to trade
with and to govern the inhabitants of a particular colony, with the
privilege and duty of defending the same. Sometimes the companies were
required to pay money into the royal treasury, or on the other hand, if
the enterprise were a difficult one, a company might be supported by
royal subsidies. The Dutch West India Company (1621) was authorized to
build forts, maintain troops, and make war on land and sea; the
government endowed the company with one million florins, sixteen ships,
four yachts, and exemption from all tolls and license dues on its
vessels. The English East India Company, first organized in 1600,
conducted the conquest and government of India for more than two
centuries, before its administrative power was taken away in 1858.

[Sidenote: Financial Methods.]
[Sidenote: The "Regulated Company"]

The great commercial companies were a new departure in business method.
In the middle ages business had been carried on mostly by individuals
or by partnerships, the partners being, as a rule, members of the same
family. After the expansion of commerce, trading with another country
necessitated building forts and equipping fleets for protection against
savages, pirates, or other nations. Since this could not be
accomplished with the limited resources of a few individuals, it was
necessary to form large companies in which many investors shared
expense and risk. Some had been created for European trade, but the
important growth of such companies was for distant trade. Their first
form was the "regulated company." Each member would contribute to the
general fund for such expenses as building forts; and certain rules
would be made for the governance of all. Subject to these rules, each
merchant traded as he pleased, and there was no pooling of profits. The
regulated company, the first form of the commercial company, was
encouraged by the king. He could charter such a company, grant it a
monopoly over a certain district, and trust it to develop the trade as
no individual could, and there was no evasion of taxes as by
independent merchants.

[Sidenote: The Joint-stock Company]

After a decade or so, many of the regulated companies found that their
members often pursued individual advantage to the detriment of the
company's interests, and it was thought that, taken altogether, profits
would be greater and the risk less, if all should contribute to a
common treasury, intrusting to the most able members the direction of
the business for the benefit of all. Then each would receive a dividend
or part of the profits proportional to his share in the general
treasury or "joint stock." The idea that while the company as a whole
was permanent each individual could buy or sell "shares" in the joint
stock, helped to make such "joint-stock" companies very popular after
the opening of the seventeenth century. The English East India Company,
organized as a regulated company in 1600, was reorganized piecemeal for
half a century until it acquired the form of a joint-stock enterprise;
most of the other chartered colonial companies followed the same plan.
In these early stock-companies we find the germ of the most
characteristic of present-day business institutions--the corporation.
In the seventeenth century this form of business organization, then in
its rudimentary stages, as yet had not been applied to industry, nor
had sad experience yet revealed the lengths to which corrupt
corporation directors might go.

[Sidenote: Banking]

The development of the joint-stock company was attended by increased
activity in banking. In the early middle ages the lending of money for
interest had been forbidden by the Catholic Church; in this as in other
branches of business it was immoral to receive profit without giving
work. The Jews, however, with no such scruples, had found money-lending
very profitable, even though royal debtors occasionally refused to pay.
As business developed in Italy, however, Christians lost their
repugnance to interest-taking, and Italian (Lombard) and later French
and German money-lenders and money-changers became famous. Since the
coins minted by feudal lords and kings were hard to pass except in
limited districts, and since the danger of counterfeit or light-weight
coins was far greater than now, the "money-changers" who would buy and
sell the coins of different countries did a thriving business at
Antwerp in the early sixteenth century. Later, Amsterdam, London,
Hamburg, and Frankfort took over the business of Antwerp and developed
the institutions of finance to a higher degree. [Footnote: The gold of
the New World and the larger scope of commercial enterprises had
increased the scale of operations, as may be seen by comparing the
fortunes of three great banking families: 1300--the Peruzzi's,
$800,000; 1440--the Medici's, $7,500,000; 1546--the Fuggers',
$40,000,000.] The money-lenders became bankers, paying interest on
deposits and receiving higher interest on loans. Shares of the stock of
commercial companies were bought and sold in exchanges, and as early as
1542 there were complaints about speculating on the rise and fall of

Within a comparatively short time the medieval merchants' gilds had
given way to great stock-companies, and Jewish money-lenders to
millionaire bankers and banking houses with many of our instruments of
exchange such as the bill of exchange. Such was the revolution in
business that attended, and that was partly caused, partly helped, by
the changes in foreign trade, which we call the Commercial Revolution.

[Sidenote: New Commodities]

Not only was foreign trade changed from the south and east of Europe to
the west, from the city-states to nations, from land-routes to ocean-
routes; but the vessels which sailed the Atlantic were larger,
stronger, and more numerous, and they sailed with amazing confidence
and safety, as compared with the fragile caravels and galleys of a few
centuries before. The cargoes they carried had changed too. The
comparative cheapness of water-transportation had made it possible
profitably to carry grain and meat, as well as costly luxuries of small
bulk such as spices and silks. Manufactures were an important item.
Moreover, new commodities came into commerce, such as tea and coffee.
The Americas sent to Europe the potato, "Indian" corn, tobacco, cocoa,
cane-sugar (hitherto scarce), molasses, rice, rum, fish, whale-oil and
whalebone, dye-woods and timber and furs; Europe sent back
manufactures, luxuries, and slaves.

[Sidenote: Slavery]

Slaves had been articles of commerce since time immemorial; at the end
of the fifteenth century there were said to have been 3000 in Venice;
and the Portuguese had enslaved some Africans before 1500. But the need
for cheap labor in the mines and on the sugar and tobacco plantations
of the New World gave the slave-trade a new and tremendous impetus. The
Spaniards began early to enslave the natives of America, although the
practice was opposed by the noble endeavors of the Dominican friar and
bishop, Bartolomé de las Casas. But the native population was not
sufficient,--or, as in the English colonies, the Indians were
exterminated rather than enslaved,--and in the sixteenth century it was
deemed necessary to import negroes from Africa. The trade in African
negroes was fathered by the English captain Hawkins, and fostered alike
by English and Dutch. It proved highly lucrative, and it was long
before the trade yielded to the better judgment of civilized nations,
and still longer before the institution of slavery could be eradicated.

[Sidenote: Effects on Industry and Agriculture]

The expansion of trade was the strongest possible stimulus to
agriculture and industry. New industries--such as the silk and cotton
manufacture--grew up outside of the antiquated gild system. The old
industries, especially the English woolen industry, grew to new
importance and often came under the control of the newer and more
powerful merchants who conducted a wholesale business in a single
commodity, such as cloth. Capitalists had their agents buy wool, dole
it out to spinners and weavers who were paid so much for a given amount
of work, and then sell the finished product. This was called the
"domestic system," because the work was done at home, or
"capitalistic," because raw material and finished product were owned
not by the man who worked them, but by a "capitalist" or rich merchant.
How these changing conditions were dealt with by mercantilist
statesmen, we shall see in later chapters.

The effect on agriculture had been less direct but no less real. The
land had to be tilled with greater care to produce grain sufficient to
support populous cities and to ship to foreign ports. Countries were
now more inclined to specialize--France in wine, England in wool--and
so certain branches of production grew more important. The introduction
of new crops produced no more remarkable results than in Ireland where
the potato, transplanted from America, became a staple in the Irish
diet: "Irish potatoes" in common parlance attest the completeness of

[Sidenote: General Significance of Commercial Revolution]

In the preceding pages we have attempted to study particular effects of
the Commercial Revolution (in the broad sense including the expansion
of commerce as well as the change of trade-routes), such as the decline
of Venice and of the Hanse, the formation of colonial empires, the rise
of commercial companies, the expansion of banking, the introduction of
new articles of commerce, and the development of agriculture and
industry. In each particular the change was noticeable and important.

But the Commercial Revolution possesses a more general significance.

[Sidenote: Europeanization of the World]

(1) It was the Commercial Revolution that started Europe on her career
of world conquest. The petty, quarrelsome feudal states of the smallest
of five continents have become the Powers of to-day, dividing up
Africa, Asia, and America, founding empires greater and more lasting
than that of Alexander. The colonists of Europe imparted their language
to South America and made of North America a second Europe with a
common cultural heritage. The explorers, missionaries, and merchants of
Europe have penetrated all lands, bringing in their train European
manners, dress, and institutions. They are still at work Europeanizing
the world.

[Sidenote: 2. Increase of Wealth, Knowledge, and Comfort]

(2) The expansion of commerce meant the increase of wealth, knowledge,
and comfort. All the continents heaped their treasures in the lap of
Europe. Knowledge of the New World, with its many peoples, products,
and peculiarities, tended to dispel the silly notions of medieval
ignorance; and the goods of every land were brought for the comfort of
the European--American timber for his house, Persian rugs for his
floors, Indian ebony for his table, Irish linen to cover it, Peruvian
silver for his fork, Chinese tea, sweetened with sugar from Cuba.

[Sidenote: 3. The Rise of the Bourgeoisie]

(3) This new comfort, knowledge, and wealth went not merely to nobles
and prelates; it was noticeable most of all in a new class, the
"bourgeoisie." In the towns of Europe lived bankers, merchants, and
shop-keepers,--intelligent, able, and wealthy enough to live like kings
or princes. These bourgeois or townspeople (_bourg_ = town) were
to grow in intelligence, in wealth, and in political influence; they
were destined to precipitate revolutions in industry and politics,
thereby establishing their individual rule over factories, and their
collective rule over legislatures.


GENERAL. A. F. Pollard, _Factors in Modern History_ (1907), ch.
ii, vi, x, three illuminating essays; E. P. Cheyney, _An Introduction
to the Industrial and Social History of England_ (1901), ch. ii-vi,
a good outline; F. W. Tickner, _A Social and Industrial History of
England_ (1915), an interesting and valuable elementary manual, ch.
i-vii, x-xii, xvi, xvii, xix-xxi, xxiv-xxvii; W. J. Ashley, _The
Economic Organization of England_ (1914), ch. i-v; G. T. Warner,
_Landmarks in English Industrial History_, 11th ed. (1912), ch.
vii-xiii; H. D. Traill and J. S. Mann (editors), _Social England_
(1909), Vols. II, III; H. de B. Gibbins, _Industry in England_,
6th ed. (1910), compact general survey; William Cunningham, _The
Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times_, 5th ed., 3
vols. (1910-1912), a standard work; H. D. Bax, _German Society at the
Close of the Middle Ages_ (1894), brief but clear, especially ch. i,
v, vii on towns and country-life in the Germanies. Very detailed works:
Maxime Kovalevsky, _Die ökonomische Entwicklung Europas bis zum
Beginn der kapitalistischen Wirtschaftsform_, trans. into German
from Russian, 7 vols. (1901-1914), especially vols. III, IV, VI; Émile
Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en
France avant 1789_, Vol. II (1901), Book V; Georges d'Avenel,
_Histoire économique de la propriété, des salaires, etc._, 1200-
1800, 6 vols. (1894-1912).

Farming Past and Present_ (1912), ch. iv; E. C. K. Gonner, _Common
Land and Inclosure_ (1912), valuable for England; R. H. Tawney,
_The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century_ (1912); E. F. Gay,
_Essays on English Agrarian History in the Sixteenth Century_
(1913); H. T. Stephenson, _The Elizabethan People_ (1910); W.
Hasbach, _A History of the English Agricultural Labourer_, trans.
by Ruth Kenyon (1908), an excellent work, particularly Part I on the
development of the class of free laborers from that of the medieval
serfs. Valuable for feudal survivals in France is the brief _Feudal
Regime_ by Charles Seignobos, trans. by Dow. Useful for social
conditions in Russia: James Mavor, _An Economic History of
Russia_, 2 vols. (1914), Vol. I, Book I, ch. iii. See also Eva M.
Tappan, _When Knights were Bold_ (1911) for a very entertaining
chapter for young people, on agriculture in the sixteenth century;
Augustus Jessopp, _The Coming of the Friars_ (1913), ch. ii, for a
sympathetic treatment of "Village Life Six Hundred Years Ago"; and W.
J. Ashley, _Surveys, Historical and Economic_, for a series of
scholarly essays dealing with recent controversies in regard to
medieval land-tenure.

TOWNS AND COMMERCE ABOUT 1500. Clive Day, _History of Commerce_ (1907),
best brief account; W. C. Webster, _A General History of Commerce_
(1903), another excellent outline; E. P. Cheyney, _European Background
of American History_ (1904) in "American Nation" Series, clear account
of the medieval trade routes, pp. 3-40, of the early activities of
chartered companies, pp. 123-167, and of the connection of the
Protestant Revolution with colonialism, pp. 168-239; W. S. Lindsay,
_History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce_, 4 vols. (1874-
1876), very detailed. The best account of sixteenth-century industry is
in Vol. II of W. J. Ashley, _English Economic History and Theory_, with
elaborate critical bibliographies. For town-life and the gilds: Mrs. J.
R. Green, _Town Life in England in the Fifteenth Century_, 2 vols.
(1894); Charles Gross, _The Gild Merchant_, 2 vols. (1890); Lujo
Brentano, _On the History and Development of Gilds_ (1870); George
Unwin, _The Gilds and Companies of London_ (1908), particularly the
interesting chapter on "The Place of the Gild in the History of Western
Europe." A brief view of English town-life in the later middle ages: E.
Lipson, _An Introduction to the Economic History of England_, Vol. I
(1915), ch. v-ix. On town-life in the Netherlands: Henri Pirenne,
_Belgian Democracy: its Early History_, trans. by J. V. Saunders
(1915). On town-life in the Germanies: Helen Zimmern, _The Hansa Towns_
(1889) in "Story of the Nations" Series; Karl von Hegel, _Städte und
Gilden der germanischen Volker im Mittelalter_, 2 vols. (1891), the
standard treatise in German. On French gilds: Martin St. Leon,
_Histoire des corporations des métiers_ (1897). See also, for advanced
study of trade-routes, Wilhelm Heyd, _Geschichte des Levantehandels im
Mittelalter_, 2 vols. (1879), with a French trans. (1885-1886), and
Aloys Schulte, _Geschichte des mittelalterlichen Handels und Verkehrs
zwischen Westdeutschland und Italien_, 2 vols. (1900).

History_, Vol. I (1902), ch. i, ii; A. G. Keller, _Colonization: a
Study of the Founding of New Societies_ (1908), a textbook, omitting
reference to English and French colonization; H. C. Morris, _History
of Colonization_, 2 vols. (1908), a useful general text; M. B.
Synge, _A Book of Discovery: the History of the World's Exploration,
from the Earliest Times to the Finding of the South Pole_ (1912);
_Histoire générale_, Vol. IV, ch. xxii, xxiii, and Vol. V, ch.
xxii; S. Ruge, _Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen_
(1881), in the ambitious Oncken Series; Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, _La
colonisation chez les peuples modernes_, 6th ed., 2 vols. (1908),
the best general work in French; Charles de Lannoy and Hermann van der
Linden, _Histoire de l'expansion coloniale des peuples européens_,
an important undertaking of two Belgian professors, of which two
volumes have appeared--Vol. I, _Portugal et Espagne_ (1907), and
Vol. II, _Néerlande et Danemark, 17e et 18e siècle_ (1911); Alfred
Zimmermann, _Die europaischen Kolonien_, the main German treatise,
in 5 vols. (1896-1903), dealing with Spain and Portugal (Vol. I), Great
Britain (Vols. II, III), France (Vol. IV), and Holland (Vol. V). Much
illustrative source-material is available in the publications of the
Hakluyt Society, Old Series, 100 vols. (1847-1898), and New Series, 35
vols. (1899-1914), selections having been separately published by E. J.
Payne (1893-1900) and by C. R. Beazley (1907). An account of the
medieval travels of Marco Polo is published conveniently in the
"Everyman" Series, and the best edition of the medieval travel-tales
which have passed under the name of Sir John Maundeville is that of The
Macmillan Company (1900). For exploration prior to Columbus and Da
Gama, see C. R. Beazley, _The Dawn of Modern Geography_, 3 vols.

the United States_ (1914), ch. i, ii, a good outline; Edward
Channing, _A History of the United States_, Vol. I (1905), an
excellent and more detailed narrative; Livingston Farrand, _Basis of
American History_ (1904), Vol. II of the "American Nation" Series,
especially valuable on the American aborigines; E. J. Payne, _History
of the New World called America_, 2 vols. (1892-1899); John Fiske,
_Colonization of the New World_, Vol. XXI of _History of All
Nations_, ch. i-vi; R. G. Watson, _Spanish and Portuguese South
America_, 2 vols. (1884); Bernard Moses, _The Establishment of
Spanish Rule in America_ (1898), and, by the same author, _The
Spanish Dependencies in South America_, 2 vols. (1914). With special
reference to Asiatic India: Mountstuart Elphinstone, _History of
India: the Hindu and Mohametan Periods_, 9th ed. (1905), an old but
still valuable work on the background of Indian history; Sir W. W.
Hunter, _A Brief History of the Indian Peoples_, rev. ed. (1903),
and, by the same author, _A History of British India_ to the
opening of the eighteenth century, 2 vols. (1899-1900), especially Vol.
I; Pringle Kennedy, _A History of the Great Moghuls_, 2 vols.
(1905-1911). With special reference to African exploration and
colonization in the sixteenth century: Sir Harry Johnston, _History
of the Colonization of Africa by Alien Races_ (1899), a very useful
and authoritative manual; Robert Brown, _The Story of Africa_, 4
vols. (1894-1895), a detailed study; G. M. Theal, _South Africa_
(1894), a clear summary in the "Story of the Nations" Series; J. S.
Keltic, _The Partition of Africa_ (1895). See also Sir Harry
Johnston, _The Negro in the New World_ (1910), important for the
slave-trade and interesting, though in tone somewhat anti-English and
pro-Spanish; J. K. Ingram, _A History of Slavery and Serfdom_
(1895), a brief sketch; and W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, _The Negro_
(1915), a handy volume in the "Home University Library."

Beazley, _Prince Henry the Navigator_ in "Heroes of the Nation," Series
(1897); J. P. Oliveira Martins, _The Golden Age of Prince Henry the
Navigator_, trans. with notes and additions by J. J. Abraham and W. E.
Reynolds (1914); K. G. Jayne, _Vasco da Gama and his Successors_, 1460-
1580 (1910); H. M. Stephens, _Portugal_ (1891), a brief sketch in the
"Story of the Nations" Series; F. C. Danvers, _The Portuguese In
India_, 2 vols. (1894), a thorough and scholarly work; H. M. Stephens,
_Albuquerque and the Portuguese Settlements in India_ (1892), in
"Rulers of India" Series; Angel Marvaud, _Le Portugal et ses colonies_
(1912); G. M. Theal, _History and Ethnography of Africa South of the
Zambesi_, Vol. I, _The Portuguese in South Africa from 1505 to 1700_
(1907), a standard work by the Keeper of the Archives of Cape Colony.
Spain: John Fiske, _Discovery of America_, 2 vols. (1892), most
delightful narrative; Wilhelm Roscher, _The Spanish Colonial System_, a
brief but highly suggestive extract from an old German work trans. by
E. G. Bourne (1904); E. G. Bourne, _Spain in America_, 1450-1580
(1904), Vol. III of "American Nation" Series, excellent in content and
form; W. R. Shepherd, _Latin America_ (1914) in "Home University
Library." pp. 9-68, clear and suggestive; Sir Arthur Helps, _The
Spanish Conquest in America_, new ed., 4 vols. (1900-1904). A scholarly
study of Columbus's career is J. B. Thacher, _Christopher Columbus_, 3
vols. (1903-1904), incorporating many of the sources; Washington
Irving, _Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus_, originally
published in 1828-1831, but still very readable and generally sound;
Filson Young, _Christopher Columbus and the New World of his
Discovery_, 2 vols. (1906), a popular account, splendidly illustrated;
Henry Harrisse, _Christophe Colomb, son origine, sa vie, ses voyages_,
2 vols. (1884), a standard work by an authority on the age of
exploration; Henri Vignaud, _Histoire critique de la grande entreprise
de Christophe Colomb_, 2 vols. (1911), destructive of many commonly
accepted ideas regarding Columbus; F. H. H. Guillemard, _The Life of
Ferdinand Magellan_ (1890); F. A. MacNutt, _Fernando Cortes and the
Conquest of Mexico_, 1485-1547 (1909), in the "Heroes of the Nations"
Series, and, by the same author, both _Letters of Cortes_, 2 vols.
(1908), and _Bartholomew de las Casas_ (1909); Sir Clements Markham,
_The Incas of Peru_ (1910). On the transference of colonial power from
Spain to the Dutch and English, see _Cambridge Modern History_, Vol. IV
(1906), ch. xxv, by H. E. Egerton. England: H. E. Egerton, _A Short
History of British Colonial Policy_, 2d ed. (1909), a bald summary,
provided, however, with good bibliographies; W. H. Woodward, _A Short
History of the Expansion of the British Empire, 1500-1911_, 3d ed.
(1912), a useful epitome; C. R. Beazley, _John and Sebastian Cabot: the
Discovery of North America_ (1898); J. A. Williamson, _Maritime
Enterprise, 1485-1558_ (1913); E. J. Payne (editor), _Voyages of the
Elizabethan Seamen to America_, 2 vols. (1893-1900); L. G. Tyler,
_England in America, 1580-1652_ (1904), Vol. IV of "American Nation"
Series; George Edmundson, _Anglo-Dutch Rivalry, 1600-1653_ (1911).
France: R. G. Thwaites, _France in America, 1497-1763_ (1905), Vol. VII
of "American Nation" Series.

Essay on Western Civilization in its Economic Aspects_, Vol. II,
_Mediaeval and Modern Times_ (1910), pp. 162-224, and, by the same
author, ch. xv of Vol. I (1902) of the _Cambridge Modern History_; E.
P. Cheyney, _Social Changes in England in the Sixteenth Century_
(1912); George Unwin, _Industrial Organization in the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Centuries_ (1904); G. Cawston and A. H. Keane, _Early
Chartered Companies_ (1896); W. R. Scott, _The Constitution and Finance
of English, Scottish, and Irish Joint-Stock Companies to 1720_, Vol. I
(1912); C. T. Carr (editor), _Select Charters of Trading Companies_
(1913); Beckles Willson, _The Great Company_ (1899), an account of the
Hudson Bay Company; Henry Weber, _La Compagnie française des Indes,
1604-1675_ (1904); _Recueil des voyages de la Compagnie des Indes
orientales des Hollandois_, 10 vols. (1730), the monumental source for
the activities of the chief Dutch trading-company.




As we look back upon the confused sixteenth century, we are struck at
once by two commanding figures,--the Emperor Charles V [Footnote:
Charles I of Spain.] and his son Philip II,--about whom we may group
most of the political events of the period. The father occupies the
center of the stage during the first half of the century; the son,
during the second half.

[Sidenote: Extensive Dominions of Charles]

At Ghent in the Netherlands, Charles was born in 1500 of illustrious
parentage. His father was Philip of Habsburg, son of the Emperor
Maximilian and Mary, duchess of Burgundy. His mother was the Infanta
Joanna, daughter and heiress of Ferdinand of Aragon and Naples and
Isabella of Castile and the Indies. The death of his father and the
incapacity of his mother--she had become insane--left Charles at the
tender age of six years an orphan under the guardianship of his
grandfathers Maximilian and Ferdinand. The death of the latter in 1516
transferred the whole Spanish inheritance to Charles, and three years
later, by the death of the former, he came into possession of the
hereditary dominions of the Habsburgs. Thus under a youth of nineteen
years were grouped wider lands and greater populations than any
Christian sovereign had ever ruled. Vienna, Amsterdam, Antwerp,
Brussels, Milan, Naples, Madrid, Cadiz,--even the City of Mexico,--owed
him allegiance. His titles alone would fill several pages.

Maximilian had intended not only that all these lands should pass into
the hands of the Habsburg family, but also that his grandson should
succeed him as head of the Holy Roman Empire. This ambition, however,
was hard of fulfillment, because the French king, Francis I (1515-
1547), feared the encircling of his own country by a united German-
Spanish-Italian state, and set himself to preserve what he called the
"Balance of Power"--preventing the undue growth of one political power
at the expense of others. It was only by means of appeal to national
and family sentiment and the most wholesale bribery that Charles
managed to secure a majority of the electors' votes against his French
rival [Footnote: Henry VIII of England was also a candidate.] and
thereby to acquire the coveted imperial title. He was crowned at Aix-
la-Chapelle in his twenty-first year.

[Sidenote: Character of Charles]

Never have greater difficulties confronted a sovereign than those which
Charles V was obliged to face throughout his reign; never did monarch
lead a more strenuous life. He was the central figure in a very
critical period of history: his own character as well as the
painstaking education he had received in the Netherlands conferred upon
him a lively appreciation of his position and a dogged pertinacity in
discharging its obligations. Both in administering his extensive
dominions and in dealing with foreign foes, Charles was a zealous,
hard-working, and calculating prince, and the lack of success which
attended many of his projects was due not to want of ability in the
ruler but to the multiplicity of interests among the ruled. The emperor
must do too many things to allow of his doing any one thing well.

[Sidenote: Difficulties Confronting Charles]

Suppose we turn over in our minds some of the chief problems of Charles
V, for they will serve to explain much of the political history of the
sixteenth century. In the first place, the emperor was confronted with
extraordinary difficulties in governing his territories. Each one of
the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands--the country which he always
considered peculiarly his own--was a distinct political unit, for there
existed only the rudiments of a central administration and a common
representative system, while the county of Burgundy had a separate
political organization. The crown of Castile brought with it the
recently conquered kingdom of Granada, together with the new colonies
in America and scattered posts in northern Africa. The crown of Aragon
comprised the four distinct states of Aragon, Valencia, Catalonia, and
Navarre, [Footnote: The part south of the Pyrenees. See above, p. 8.]
and, in addition, the kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, each
with its own customs and government. At least eight independent cortes
or parliaments existed in this Spanish-Italian group, adding greatly to
the intricacy of administration. Much the same was true of that other
Habsburg group of states,--Austria, Styria, Carniola, Carinthia, the
Tyrol, etc., but Charles soon freed himself from immediate
responsibility for their government by intrusting them (1521) to his
younger brother, Ferdinand, who by his own marriage and elections added
the kingdoms of Bohemia [Footnote: Including the Bohemian crown lands
of Moravia and Silesia.] and Hungary (1526) to the Habsburg dominions.
The Empire afforded additional problems: it made serious demands upon
the time, money, and energies of its ruler; in return, it gave little
but glamour. In all these regions Charles had to do with financial,
judicial, and ecclesiastical matters. He had to reconcile conflicting
interests and appeal for popularity to many varied races. More than
once during his reign he even had to repress rebellion. In Germany,
from his very first Diet in 1521, he was face to face with rising
Protestantism which seemed to him to blaspheme his altar and to assail
his throne.

The emperor's overwhelming administrative difficulties were complicated
at every turn by the intricacies of foreign politics. In the first
place, Charles was obliged to wage war with France throughout the
greater part of his reign; he had inherited a longstanding quarrel with
the French kings, to which the rivalry of Francis I for the empire gave
a personal aspect. In the second place, and almost as formidable, was
the advance of the Turks up the Danube and the increase of Mohammedan
naval power in the Mediterranean. Against Protestant Germany a Catholic
monarch might hope to rely on papal assistance, and English support
might conceivably be enlisted against France. But the popes, who
usually disliked the emperor's Italian policy, were not of great aid to
him elsewhere; and the English sovereigns had domestic reasons for
developing hostility to Charles. A brief sketch of the foreign affairs
of Charles may make the situation clear.

[Sidenote: Francis I of France and the Reasons for his Wars with the
Emperor Charles V]

Six years older than Charles, Francis I had succeeded to the French
throne in 1515, irresponsible, frivolous, and vain of military
reputation. The general political situation of the time,--the gradual
inclosure of the French monarchy by a string of Habsburg territories,--
to say nothing of the remarkable contrast between the character of
Francis and that of the persevering Charles, made a great conflict
inevitable, and definite pretexts were not lacking for an early
outbreak of hostilities. (1) Francis revived the claims of the French
crown to Naples, although Louis XII had renounced them in 1504. (2)
Francis, bent on regaining Milan, which his predecessor had lost in
1512, invaded the duchy and, after winning the brilliant victory of
Marignano in the first year of his reign, occupied the city of Milan.
Charles subsequently insisted, however, that the duchy was a fief of
the Holy Roman Empire and that he was sworn by oath to recover it. (3)
Francis asserted the claims of a kinsman to the little kingdom of
Navarre, the greater part of which, it will be remembered, had recently
[Footnote: In 1512. See above.] been forcibly annexed to Spain. (4)
Francis desired to extend his sway over the rich French-speaking
provinces of the Netherlands, while Charles was determined not only to
prevent further aggressions but to recover the duchy of Burgundy of
which his grandmother had been deprived by Louis XI. (5) The outcome of
the contest for the imperial crown in 1519 virtually completed the
breach between the two rivals. War broke out in 1521, and with few
interruptions it was destined to outlast the lives of both Francis and

[Sidenote: The Italian Wars of Charles V and Francis I]

Italy was the main theater of the combat. In the first stage, the
imperial forces, with the aid of a papal army, speedily drove the
French garrison out of Milan. The Sforza family was duly invested with
the duchy as a fief of the Empire, and the pope was compensated by the
addition of Parma and Piacenza to the Patrimony of Saint Peter. The
victorious Imperialists then pressed across the Alps and besieged
Marseilles. Francis, who had been detained by domestic troubles in
France, [Footnote: These troubles related to the disposition of the
important landed estates of the Bourbon family. The duke of Bourbon,
who was constable of France, felt himself injured by the king and
accordingly deserted to the emperor.] now succeeded in raising the
siege and pursued the retreating enemy to Milan. Instead of following
up his advantage by promptly attacking the main army of the
Imperialists, the French king dispatched a part of his force to Naples,
and with the other turned aside to blockade the city of Pavia. This
blunder enabled the Imperialists to reform their ranks and to march
towards Pavia in order to join the besieged. Here on 24 February,
1525,--the emperor's twenty-fifth birthday,--the army of Charles won an
overwhelming victory. Eight thousand French soldiers fell on the field
that day, and Francis, who had been in the thick of the fight, was
compelled to surrender. "No thing in the world is left me save my honor
and my life," wrote the king to his mother. Everything seemed
auspicious for the cause of Charles. Francis, after a brief captivity
in Spain, was released on condition that he would surrender all claims
to Burgundy, the Netherlands, and Italy, and would marry the emperor's

[Sidenote: The Sack of Rome, 1527]

Francis swore upon the Gospels and upon his knightly word that he would
fulfill these conditions, but in his own and contemporary opinion the
compulsion exercised upon him absolved him from his oath. No sooner was
he back in France than he declared the treaty null and void and
proceeded to form alliances with all the Italian powers that had become
alarmed by the sudden strengthening of the emperor's position in the
peninsula,--the pope, Venice, Florence, and even the Sforza who owed
everything to Charles. Upon the resumption of hostilities the league
displayed the same want of agreement and energy which characterized
every coalition of Italian city-states; and soon the Imperialists were
able to possess themselves of much of the country. In 1527 occurred a
famous episode--the sack of Rome. It was not displeasing to the emperor
that the pope should be punished for giving aid to France, although
Charles cannot be held altogether responsible for what befell. His army
in Italy, composed largely of Spaniards and Germans, being short of
food and money, and without orders, mutinied and marched upon the
Eternal City, which was soon at their mercy. About four thousand people
perished in the capture. The pillage lasted nine months, and the
brigands were halted only by a frightful pestilence which decimated
their numbers. Convents were forced, altars stripped, tombs profaned,
the library of the Vatican sacked, and works of art torn down as
monuments of idolatry. Pope Clement VII (1523-1534), a nephew of the
other Medici pope, Leo X, had taken refuge in the impregnable castle of
St. Angelo and was now obliged to make peace with the emperor.

[Sidenote: Peace of Cambrai, 1529]

The sack of Rome aroused bitter feelings throughout Catholic Europe,
and Henry VIII of England, at that time still loyal to the pope,
ostentatiously sent aid to Francis. But although the emperor made
little headway against Francis, the French king, on account of
strategic blunders and the disunion of the league, was unable to
maintain a sure foothold in Italy. The peace of Cambrai (1529) provided
that Francis should abandon Naples, Milan, and the Netherlands, but the
cession of Burgundy was no longer insisted upon. Francis proceeded to
celebrate his marriage with the emperor's sister.

[Sidenote: Habsburg Predominance in Italy]

Eight years of warfare had left Charles V and the Habsburg family
unquestionable masters of Italy. Naples was under Charles's direct
government. For Milan he received the homage of Sforza. The Medici
pope, whose family he had restored in Florence, was now his ally.
Charles visited Italy for the first time in 1529 to view his
territories, and at Bologna (1530) received from the pope's hands the
ancient iron crown of Lombard Italy and the imperial crown of Rome. It
was the last papal coronation of a ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

The peace of Cambrai proved but a truce, and war between Charles and
Francis repeatedly blazed forth. Francis made strange alliances in
order to create all possible trouble for the emperor,--Scotland,
Sweden, Denmark, the Ottoman Turks, even the rebellious Protestant
princes within the empire. There were spasmodic campaigns between 1536
and 1538 and between 1542 and 1544, and after the death of Francis and
the abdication of Charles, the former's son, Henry II (1547-1559),
continued the conflict, newly begun in 1552, until the conclusion of
the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559, by which the Habsburgs retained
their hold upon Italy, while France, by the occupation of the important
bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, extended her northeastern
frontier, at the expense of the empire, toward the Rhine River.
[Footnote: It was during this war that in 1558 the French captured
Calais from the English, and thus put an end to English territorial
holdings on the Continent. The English Queen Mary was the wife of
Philip II of Spain.]

[Sidenote: Results of the Wars between Charles V and Francis I]

Indirectly, the long wars occasioned by the personal rivalry of Charles
and Francis had other results than Habsburg predominance in Italy and
French expansion towards the Rhine. They preserved a "balance of power"
and prevented the incorporation of the French monarchy into an
obsolescent empire. They rendered easier the rise of the Ottoman power
in eastern Europe; and French alliance with the Turks gave French trade
and enterprise a decided lead in the Levant. They also permitted the
comparatively free growth of Protestantism in Germany.

[Sidenote: The Turkish Peril]

More sinister to Charles V than his wars with the French was the
advance of the Ottoman Turks. Under their greatest sultan, Suleiman II,
the Magnificent (1520-1566), a contemporary of Charles, the Turks were
rapidly extending their sway. The Black Sea was practically a Turkish
lake; and the whole Euphrates valley, with Bagdad, had fallen into the
sultan's power, now established on the Persian Gulf and in control of
all of the ancient trade-routes to the East. The northern coasts of
Africa from Egypt to Algeria acknowledged the supremacy of Suleiman,
whose sea power in the Mediterranean had become a factor to be reckoned
with in European politics, threatening not only the islands but the
great Christian countries of Italy and Spain. The Venetians were driven
from the Morea and from the Ægean Islands; only Cyprus, Crete, and
Malta survived in the Mediterranean as outposts of Christendom.

[Sidenote: Suleiman the Magnificent]

Suleiman devoted many years to the extension of his power in Europe,
sometimes in alliance with the French king, sometimes upon his own
initiative,--and with almost unbroken success. In 1521 he declared war
against the king of Hungary on the pretext that he had received no
Hungarian congratulations on his accession to the throne. He besieged
and captured Belgrade, and in 1526 on the field of Mohács his forces
met and overwhelmed the Hungarians, whose king was killed with the
flower of the Hungarian chivalry. The battle of Mohács marked the
extinction of an independent and united Hungarian state; Ferdinand of
Habsburg, brother of Charles V, claimed the kingdom; Suleiman was in
actual possession of fully a third of it. The sultan's army carried the
war into Austria and in 1529 bombarded and invested Vienna, but so
valiant was the resistance offered that after three weeks the siege was
abandoned. Twelve years later the greater part of Hungary, including
the city of Budapest, became a Turkish province, and in many places
churches were turned into mosques. In 1547 Charles V and Ferdinand were
compelled to recognize the Turkish conquests in Hungary, and the latter
agreed to pay the sultan an annual tribute of 30,000 ducats. Suleiman
not only thwarted every attempt of his rivals to recover their
territories, but remained throughout his life a constant menace to the
security of the hereditary dominions of the Habsburgs.

[Sidenote: Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire.]
[Sidenote: Possibility of transforming the Empire into a National
German Monarchy]

At the very time when Charles V was encountering these grave troubles
in administering his scattered hereditary possessions and in waging war
now with the French and now with the Mohammedans, he likewise was
saddled with problems peculiar to the government of his empire. Had he
been able to devote all his talent and energy to the domestic affairs
of the Holy Roman Empire, he might have contributed potently to the
establishment of a compact German state. It should be borne in mind
that when Charles V was elected emperor in 1519 the Holy Roman Empire
was virtually restricted to German-speaking peoples, and that the
national unifications of England, France, and Spain, already far
advanced, pointed the path to a similar political evolution for
Germany. Why should not a modern German national state have been
created coextensive with the medieval empire, a state which would have
included not only the twentieth-century German Empire but Austria,
Holland, and Belgium, and which, stretching from the Baltic to the
Adriatic and from the English Channel to the Vistula, would have
dominated the continent of Europe throughout the whole modern era?
There were certainly grave difficulties in the way, but grave
difficulties had also been encountered in consolidating France or
Spain, and the difference was rather of degree than of kind. In every
other case a strong monarch had overcome feudal princes and ambitious
nobles, had deprived cities of many of their liberties, had trampled
upon, or tampered with, the privileges of representative assemblies,
and had enforced internal order and security. In every such case the
monarch had commanded the support of important popular elements and had
directed his major efforts to the realization of national aims.

National patriotism was not altogether lacking among Germans of the
sixteenth century. They were conscious of a common language which was
already becoming a vehicle of literary expression. They were conscious
of a common tradition and of a common nationality. They recognized, in
many cases, the absurdly antiquated character of their political
institutions and ardently longed for reforms. In fact, the trouble with
the Germans was not so much the lack of thought about political reform
as the actual conflicts between various groups concerning the method
and goal of reform. Germans despised the Holy Roman Empire, much as
Frenchmen abhorred the memory of feudal society; but Germans were not
as unanimous as Frenchmen in advocating the establishment of a strong
national monarchy. In Germany were princes, free cities, and knights,--
all nationalistic after a fashion, but all quarreling with each other
and with their nominal sovereign.

[Sidenote: Charles V bent on Strengthening Monarchical Power though not
on a National Basis]

The emperors themselves were the only sincere and consistent champions
of centralized monarchical power, but the emperors were probably less
patriotic than any one else in the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V would
never abandon his pretensions to world power in order to become a
strong monarch over a single nation. Early in his reign he declared
that "no monarchy was comparable though not to the Roman Empire. This
the whole world had once obeyed, and Christ Himself had paid it honor
and obedience. Unfortunately it was now only a shadow of what it had
been, but he hoped, with the help of those powerful countries and
alliances which God had granted him, to raise it to its ancient glory."
Charles V labored for an increase of personal power not only in Germany
but also in the Netherlands, in Spain, and in Italy; and with the vast
imperial ambition of Charles the ideal of creating a national monarchy
on a strictly German basis was in sharp conflict. Charles V could not,
certainly would not, pose simply as a German king--a national leader.

[Sidenote: Nationalism among the German Princes]

Under these circumstances the powerful German princes, in defying the
emperor's authority and in promoting disruptive tendencies in the Holy
Roman Empire, were enabled to lay the blame at the feet of their
unpatriotic sovereign and thereby arouse in their behalf a good deal of
German national sentiment. In choosing Charles V to be their emperor,
the princely electors in 1519 had demanded that German or Latin should
be the official language of the Holy Roman Empire, that imperial
offices should be open only to Germans, that the various princes should
not be subject to any foreign political jurisdiction, that no foreign
troops should serve in imperial wars without the approval of the Diet,
and that Charles should confirm the sovereign rights of all the princes
and appoint from their number a Council of Regency
(_Reichsregiment_) to share in his government.

[Sidenote: The Council of Regency, 1521-1531]
[Sidenote: Its Failure to Unify Germany]

In accordance with an agreement reached by a Diet held at Worms in
1521, the Council of Regency was created. Most of its twenty-three
members were named by, and represented the interests of, the German
princes. Here might be the starting-point toward a closer political
union of the German-speaking people, if only a certain amount of
financial independence could be secured to the Council. The proposal on
this score was a most promising one; it was to support the new imperial
administration, not, as formerly, by levying more or less voluntary
contributions on the various states, but by establishing a kind of
customs-union (_Zollverein_) and imposing on foreign importations
a tariff for revenue. This time, however, the German burghers raised
angry protests; the merchants and traders of the Hanseatic towns
insisted that the proposed financial burden would fall on them and
destroy their business; and their protests were potent enough to bring
to nought the princes' plan. Thus the government was forced again to
resort to the levy of special financial contributions,--an expedient
which usually put the emperor and the Council of Regency at the mercy
of the most selfish and least patriotic of the German princes.

[Sidenote: Nationalism among the German Knights]

More truly patriotic as a class than German princes or German burghers
were the German knights--those gentlemen of the hill-top and of the
road, who, usually poor in pocket though stout of heart, looked down
from their high-perched castles with badly disguised contempt upon the
vulgar tradesmen of the town or beheld with anger and jealousy the
encroachments of neighboring princes, lay and ecclesiastical, more
wealthy and powerful than themselves. Especially against the princes
the knights contended, sometimes under the forms of law, more often by
force and violence and all the barbarous accompaniments of private
warfare and personal feud. Some of the knights were well educated and
some had literary and scholarly abilities; hardly any one of them was a
friend of public order. Yet practically all the knights were intensely
proud of their German nationality. It was the knights, who, under the
leadership of such fiery patriots as Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von
Sickingen, had forcefully contributed in 1519 to the imperial election
of Charles V, a German Habsburg, in preference to non-German candidates
such as Francis I of France or Henry VIII of England. For a brief
period Charles V leaned heavily upon the German knights for support in
his struggle with princes and burghers; and at one time it looked as if
the knights in union with the emperor would succeed in curbing the
power of the princes and in laying the foundations of a strongly
centralized national German monarchy.

[Sidenote: Rise of Lutheranism Favored by the Knights and Opposed by
Charles V]

But at the critical moment Protestantism arose in Germany, marking a
cleavage between the knightly leaders and the emperor. To knights like
Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von Sickingen the final break in 1520
between Martin Luther and the pope seemed to assure a separation of
Germany from Italy and the erection of a peculiar form of German
Christianity about which a truly national state could be builded. As a
class the knights applauded Luther and rejoiced at the rapid spread of
his teachings throughout Germany. On the other hand, Charles V remained
a Roman Catholic. Not only was he loyally attached to the religion of
his fathers through personal training and belief, but he felt that the
maintenance of what political authority he possessed was dependent
largely on the maintenance of the universal authority of the ancient
Church, and practically he needed papal assistance for his many foreign
projects. The same reasons that led many German princes to accept the
Lutheran doctrines as a means of lessening imperial control caused
Charles V to reject them. At the same Diet at Worms (1521), at which
the Council of Regency had been created, Charles V prevailed upon the
Germans present to condemn and outlaw Luther; and this action alienated
the knights from the emperor.

[Sidenote: The Knights' War, 1522-1523]

Franz von Sickingen, a Rhenish knight and the ablest of his class,
speedily took advantage of the emperor's absence from Germany in 1522
to precipitate a Knights' War. In supreme command of a motley army of
fellow-knights, Franz made an energetic attack upon the rich landed
estates of the Catholic prince-bishop of Trier. At this point, the
German princes, lay as well as ecclesiastical, forgetting their
religious predilections and mindful only of their common hatred of the
knights, rushed to the defense of the bishop of Trier and drove off
Sickingen, who, in April, 1523, died fighting before his own castle of
Ebernburg. Ulrich von Hutten fled to Switzerland and perished miserably
shortly afterwards. The knights' cause collapsed, and princes and
burghers remained triumphant. [Footnote: The Knights' War was soon
followed by the Peasants' Revolt, a social rather than a political
movement. For an account of the Peasants' Revolt see pp. 133 ff.] It
was the end of serious efforts in the sixteenth century to create a
national German state.

[Sidenote: Failure of German Nationalism in the Sixteenth Century]

The Council of Regency lasted until 1531, though its inability to
preserve domestic peace discredited it, and in its later years it
enjoyed little authority. Left to themselves, many of the princes
espoused Protestantism. In vain Charles V combated the new religious
movement. In vain he proscribed it in several Diets after that of
Worms. In vain he assailed its upholders in several military campaigns,
such as those against the Schmalkaldic League, which will be treated
more fully in another connection. But the long absences of Charles V
from Germany and his absorption in a multitude of cares and worries, to
say nothing of the spasmodic aid which Francis, the Catholic king of
France, gave to the Protestants in Germany, contributed indirectly to
the spread of Lutheranism. In the last year of Charles's rule (1555)
the profession of the Lutheran faith on the part of German princes was
placed by the peace of Augsburg [Footnote: See below, p. 136.] on an

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