The Renaissance Timeline: Events Overview

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  • 0:07 Ground Rules for Our Timeline
  • 1:53 1300s - Early 1400s
  • 2:35 Mid - Late 1400s
  • 3:40 Early - Mid 1500s
  • 5:29 Late 1500s - Early 1600s
  • 7:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson, we will build an outline of the historical events which flow together to form the time periods of the Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Discovery, and the Elizabethan era.

Ground Rules for Our Timeline

Today's lesson will differ from most in that it will be more of a tool than a lesson, a frame of reference rather than a subject dissected. Together we will be making a timeline to guide us through four very exciting, yet often confusing, eras of history. They are the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Exploration, and the Elizabethan era.

Now, before I begin rattling off dates or we begin making our timeline, we have two ground rules to cover, so listen carefully. Rule number one: remember, these time periods flow together with no definitive starts and stops. In truth, they sort of stream into one another. Think of it like your plate at a picnic, and no matter how careful you are, the coleslaw always sort of seeps into your baked beans or soaks the underside of your corn on the cob. It's pretty annoying for those of us who like to keep things all nice and neat, but it's just the way it goes at a picnic. It's the same way with these eras. Like the food on your picnic plate, they just seep and flow into one another, and even the geekiest of historians don't agree on where one truly starts and the other stops.

The Hundred Year War begins the Renaissance timeline of events.
Hundred Years War Timeline

This bring us to rule number two, the most important of our rules: do not freak out if you don't know these events. I'm going to repeat that one - do not freak out if you don't know these events. We've just begun, and you're not expected to know them. This timeline is simply a tool of reference, a road map of sorts, to help keep track of the times as we delve into each event in future lessons.

So for now, don't worry - we've got it all covered. Just take a deep breath, sit back, and watch our timeline unfold.

1300s - Early 1400s

First, we have the Hundred Years' War, beginning in 1337 and lasting for about 116 years. It was a nasty skirmish that began when the King of England tried to claim the crown of France.

Next, we have another struggle for power, but this time in the papacy. It was known as the Great Schism of 1378, when two popes both claimed authority over the Catholic Church. Again, this caused a bit of a problem. Because of this, we need to include the Council of Constance, lasting through the years 1414-1418, which ends the aforementioned Great Schism.

Mid - Late 1400s

On more of an up note, we can also include the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1448. This invention forever changed world communication.

On a down note, while Gutenberg is printing, people are still fighting as Constantinople falls to the Turks in the year 1453, thus ending the Byzantine Empire.

Not wanting to be left out of any action, England gets involved in her own civil war, known as the War of the Roses, which began in 1455 as a family feud of sorts between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Unlike the game show, this one lasted for over 30 years!

The printing press allowed more works of literature to reach the common citizen.
Printing Press Invention Image

To take a break from all the fighting, we have another high point as Columbus sails in 1492. Here, I feel we should just take a moment and honor elementary school teachers all over the land by simply saying, 'Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!'

Early - Mid 1500s

While sails are setting for the new world, art is flourishing in the old one. One example of this is the famous painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo himself in 1508. It's an amazing work of art still displayed and revered today.

As Mike was painting, others were writing. We have Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the doors at Wittenberg in the year 1517. This work not only changed the religious landscape of much of Northern Europe but also caused some real trouble for its author, Martin Luther.

Speaking of trouble, we also have the Peasants' War of Germany beginning in 1524 and lasting about two years. Although its duration was very short, it was a large uprising of the peasant class, seeking influence and freedom for their everyday lives.

Across the sea, while peasants in Germany were fighting for their freedom, Spanish conquistadors were robbing the new world of its freedom, as in 1532, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire of Peru.

Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door and changed religious practices in Europe.
Martin Luther Nailing Theses

Again not wanting to be left out, England joins the historical melee with the excommunication of Henry VIII by the pope. This occurred in 1538 over some trivial little matters like marriage annulments, cutting off wives' heads, and Henry declaring his supremacy and starting his very own church.

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