Do you believe 1453 or 1492 is a "better" end-point for the Medieval Era?


Ad Honorem
May 2016
From your “source”, three quotes that send your sentence to the domain of a theory:

“All this has led some scholars to *suggest* that these pre-Cabot Bristol expeditions had actually discovered the Newfoundland fishing grounds, and that their sponsors had kept this discovery a secret for as long as possible in order not to share the fishing grounds with anyone else.” (the asterisks are mine)

“Alwyn Ruddock offers the more cautious conclusion that these several voyages were unsuccessful efforts to re- discover a fishery which had been found by accident but then was lost.”


“All the evidence suggests that Bristol's support for voyages into the Atlantic during the 1400s was part of a search for new trading prospects, rather than fishing opportunities, and that no one knew anything about Newfoundland or its fabulous fishing grounds until Cabot returned to England from his voyage in 1497.”

We all know that English, Breton, Cantabrian, Basque and Portuguese fishermen adventured long in the North Atlantic Sea, long before Columbus first voyage, but there are two important points: first is that we don’t know if they reached America, second is that if they reached America that reaching didn’t had consequences.

It is a bit like the discussion that occurred in another thread: It is possible that the Portuguese reached Australia long before the Dutch and the British, but that arrival didn’t had consequences.
Jul 2017
Hey WAA.
The take of Constantinopla by the turks in 1453 cutted important comercial lines for Europe.
The portuguese trying to go to India arround Africa, as well as the spanish trying to do it through the Atlantic ocean, are its direct consequence.
So, 1453 was the break point.
Anyway... I can't find the precise info. But I saw a documentary some years ago, saying the turk atack itself and the siege of Constantinopla, was delayed for a couple of decades because mongols attacked the turks. Know something about this??
Jul 2009
Drop-dead-dates are convenient for text books, but the recent concept of "periodization" seems more useful. Of course being familiar with certain dates is important, but the end point for the medieval era overlaps several notable periods of history (speaking of Western history here).

The plagues of the mid 14th century began gradual changes in economic and social order that undermined feudal institutions and transformed them into early modern conditions of wealth and of class. Feudal institutions continued for centuries (monarchy; nobility, etc.) but conditions of employment and of service became more fluid due to costs and how those had to be met and managed.

The periodization of the Renaissance overlapped the later 14th century and on well into the 16th - a wider rediscovery of classical knowledge; printing as mentioned above; new technologies in ship building and navigation, and so on. So if one is a split-the-difference type of person, from mid 14th to mid 16th centuries being an overlap, 1453 works I suppose.

Regional geographies were not so intertwined before modern centuries, so specific dates could be different for different regions. Perhaps 1453 works better for a Mediterranean identity; 1492 is better for the Atlantic maritime peoples, and maybe 1517 and Luther's impact for central Europe. Just a couple of thoughts.
Likes: Ichon
Jul 2018
Hong Kong
First of all, how would you define the "Medieval Era" ? By what standard you conclude the ending point of the Medieval Era ?
I think we should analyze the situation of Europe based on individual kingdoms / nation / region rather than the whole.

For example, the area like Flanders was much more prematured than wide sectors of Europe in development of muncipial autonomy and commerical society dominated by guilds and merchants while the local nobility's influence was heavily limited in as early as the 13th century, from which you already noticed how "un-Medieval" that region was in some extent. And of course, Italy was the same case.

On the contrary, the Kingdom of Hungary was a bit late in transformation from Medievalism into Renaissance. There was a theory that only by the reign of Matthias Corvinus (reigned from 1458-1490), Hungary ended the "Medieval Period" with all due reforms and change (the formation of the "Black Army" was a milestone in showing how the crown power much centralized and strengthened, as well as the strong patronage of art)

Rather than discussing which year was the most fittable ending point of the Medieval Era (for which I think it's totally pointless considering the complexity of the historical context, the elements of "conservatism" and "progression" are never isolated as a single but interwined as a combination in the endless flow of history), like someone suggested, "periodization" helps us much better in analyzing the evolution of the whole thing, whether politics, economy, society or culture...
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Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
Great OP. I would argue 1492. The rediscovery of the NEw World within a short period of time really transformed the world, Europe included. Tise age of exploration really is the start of something new, something modern.
Mar 2018
I'd just go with 1500. Why?

Because in science you're taught from primary school not to give measurements to more decimal places than it's accuracy. It doesn't make sense to say that the keyboard I'm typing on is 34.187cm +/- 1.98 cm. Much better to just give it as 34 +/- 2 cm.

The middle ages ended at different times in various parts of Europe. In Italy, the Renaissance was the key event. In the east, clearly the fall of Byzantium. In Ibera, the discovery of the Americas/passage to India. In France the end of the 100 years war. In England, the end of the war of the roses. In the HRE, probably the nailing of the 95 theses. And so on... These are all spread around quite a bit, and which one is the most important is entirely subjective. Best to just call it 1500 +/- 50. If you want a bit more accuracy, I'd settled for 1490 +/- 40.

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
1492. While some knowledge of land beyond the Atlantic may have existed, there was no appreciation of its extent or value. 1492 was only the first of five voyages by Columbus and he was soon joined by many others. As a result, Western Europe came to dominate the world for centuries after.
I agree. Constantinople was living on borrowed time, it would have fallen sooner or later. For a while before it fell, Byantium had been relatively unimportant, and it didn't matter if it fell in 1453, or 1480.

Columbus voyages led to other voyages, and help with the rise of European dominance in the world in the following centuries. Also, Columbus sailed just after the last Moslem possession in Spain fell, and the Jews expelled from Spain, both important events. Then too, by 1492 the printing press had been around 50 years, and spread throughout Europe, making its impact felt.

1492 is close to 1500, a nice round number, and most histories date the modern world from 1500, and the middle ages 500 to 1500 AD. Symbolically, discovering a new land for a new age seems right.

And Columbus had done what no one else had done - applying theoretically knowledge to practical use. It had long been known the world was a sphere, but no one had put that knowledge to practical use. Columbus ushered in an age where scientific theories began to be applied to solve practical problems, and to inventions and discoveries based off of theory.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
There is the geographical disconnect ,
the Mediterranean West had a narrative from the Spanish Reconquista to Cyprus , the last hold out of the Crusaders kingdoms
Atlantic West was a froth of activity , from the Portuguese crown granting commercial rights to increasingly distant part of the African coast
to the Dutch challenging the old Hansa
Northern and Central Europe were still riven with national formation ,filling the void left from the receeding of the mongols only to see the Ottomans replace them
the ever present struggle of great landed Nobles holding the weak crown in a dangerous dynastic equilibrium .

for the overwhelming part of the population nothing changed , ever , only the cycles of the seasons some bad some terrible
the visitation of plagues and the occasional ravage of armed men passing and destroying .

Cities noticed things , the lords needed money as usual but had to go to merchants cap in hands , kings too
fashion changed , lighter brighter vestments coming from other places than across the road ,
tales of wondrous and terrible things in far off places filled the imagination .
the whole world seemed on the cusp of spring after the long dark years of the black death and the clash of arms
Mar 2018
And Columbus had done what no one else had done - applying theoretically knowledge to practical use. It had long been known the world was a sphere, but no one had put that knowledge to practical use. Columbus ushered in an age where scientific theories began to be applied to solve practical problems, and to inventions and discoveries based off of theory.
Actually Columbus only attempted his trip because he made several theoretical mistakes. Firstly he bizzarely assumed the earth was pear shaped rather than round, and so a smaller distance could be used to traverse it. Secondly, he used Marco Polo's wrong estimate for the width of Asia, over estimating it by several thousand kilometers. Those two mistakes, which were not universally made by his peers, were what led him to believe he could reach Asia. If the Americas were not there, he would not have even made it 1/4 of the way across. This is less "theoretical knowledge being applied to practical use" than "ignorance and accidence having a happy marriage".
Jul 2018
Hong Kong
I personally think that the end of the Medieval Era should be measured by the following phenomenons :

1. Politics — The downfall of warlord nobility and the centralization of crown authority
2. Religion — The decline of the Papal authority and the Catholic church's influence
3. International perpsective — The dramatic expansion of geographic knowledge and the exploration of maritime trade route
4. Culture — The rise of humanism and the revolutionary progression in art, archeitecture, literature and science
5. Military — The significant application of gunpowder weapons and the establishment of non-nobility-based army
6. Urban growth — The remarkable enlargement of municipal autonomy and the rapid growth of large commerical cities

In fact, the entire late 15th century was standing at the crossroad between "Medievalism" and "Renaissance". You can't really tell whether 1453 or 1492 was more fittable to be the "end of the Medieval Era". History is never "linear" and "static" in evolution, but always develops like "multiple arrows heading towards multiple directions in three dimensions".

I asked you a very simple question : Was Emperor Maximilian (the Holy Roman Emperor reigned from 1508-19) a "Renaissance" monarch ? Could he completely cast away the influence of the Medieval custom and culture ?