World 1453 CE
All the advances made in all regions of Eurasia have now reached Europe. Here, they combine and fizz, and begin to change every aspect of European civilization.
World history in 1453 - towards the modern world
The past couple of centuries have seen events of truly world-shaping significance dissolve barriers between the different parts of Eurasia. None of the great centers of Eurasian civilization were left untouched.
The Mongol Empire
First, Genghis Khan and his successors forged the huge Mongol empire, which took in much of Eurasia, from Russia to China. After Mongol rule had declined, another central Asian conqueror, Timur the Lame, briefly seized a large territory.
These conquerors spread terror and destruction on an epic scale, but the Mongol empire in particular fostered much closer links between the different regions of the Eastern Hemisphere than had ever been the case before. Along these travelled trade, ideas, technological innovations – and disease.
The Black Death
In the mid-14th century the Black Death killed millions of people, and was the biggest recorded catastrophe to hit the human race (in numbers of dead, larger even than the tragedy about to engulf the inhabitants of the Americas when Europeans arrive).
These great events have brought new opportunities to Europe, a region which has for centuries been something of a backwater. These opportunities will be seized with vigor, and the great age of European dominance is not far off.
The growing links with other parts of the eastern Hemisphere have brought East Asian technologies to backward Europe. The compass, gunpowder and printing are reshaping European civilization. (Printing may have been an indigenous European invention rather than an Asian import, but even so it is very likely that the concept of printing, if not the actual techniques, came from the East).
Europeans have already embarked on their long-distance ocean voyages. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, these will not be abandoned. They will end some centuries hence only with the European nations dominating all the seas of the world. From this much else will flow.
Europe will also be changed by another development which has started by now. This is the Italian Renaissance. This sees itself as a rebirth of Greek and Roman learning; in fact it is nothing less than a revolution in European culture. Along with the voyages of exploration, it forms a major turning point in world history. Amongst other things, it will give birth to modern science.
Mongol power, though ejected from other areas of the world, has retained its hold on Russia until very recently. Now the Russians, under the leadership of the rulers of Muscovy, have asserted their independence. This independence remains precarious, however: Mongol khans remain powerful to the east, and to the west the huge Polish-Lithuanian kingdom has Muscovy in its sites.
The peoples of Central Asia formed the motive-power for the empires of Genghis Khan and Timur. Since the decline of these empires, the steppe peoples have fragmented under the rule of different khans.
The Middle East
Much of the Middle East did fall to both the Mongols and Timur. One region which did not was Asia Minor. However, a side swipe by Timur was a major set back for the rising power of the Ottoman empire there. The Ottomans have recovered, and this year they capture the city of Constantinople. This brings a final end to the long history of the Roman/Byzantine empire. The fall of the city, one of the great historic centers of Christianity, comes as a huge shock to the Christian world of Europe.
Africa is being drawn into the international maritime trading networks of Europe and the Middle East. Coastal trading communities are expanding on both the east and west coasts. A key commercial element on both coasts is the trade in human beings.
Muslim-ruled states now cover much of the Indian sub-continent. In particular, the last couple of centuries have seen the dramatic rise and decline of the Delhi Sultanate.
The countries of East Asia, especially China and Korea, re-asserted their independence from Mongol rule in the late-14th century, and are ruled by native dynasties. The Ming dynasty presides over a China that is expanding in wealth and population. An early Ming emperor even sent great expeditions overseas which took Chinese ships as far as Africa, but these were soon abandoned.
Japan narrowly escaped Mongol rule. However, it has not escaped political instability and recurrent bouts of civil war.
South East Asia
Two new elements are making their presence felt in South East Asia. On the mainland, Thai tribes have been migrating down into the region from their homeland in southern China; and the coasts and islands of South East Asia have been drawn into the trading networks of Muslim merchants. The nodes of this trading system are a growing number of small coastal sultanates, which have been established here.
In Oceania, the Maori settlers of New Zealand are having to adapt to their new homeland as the native fauna gets hunted to extinction.
In Central America, Toltec power has vanished, and the Aztec empire is expanding. To the north, farming societies across North America have been experiencing difficulties, though the reasons for these are unclear.
In South America, the Inca empire is growing, but has not yet reached its full expanse. The Chimu kingdom continues to flourish, for now. To the east, the complex societies of the Amazon basin are continuing to evolve and expand.
For details of the different civilizations, click on the relevant timeline above.
More ‘Dig Deeper’ links may be found in the regional maps. To access, click on the markers in the world map.