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Early modern period

The early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages of the post-classical era. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the post-classical age (c. 1500), known as the Middle Ages, through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions (c. 1800) and is variously demarcated by historians as beginning with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, with the Renaissance period, and with the Age of Discovery (especially with the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492, but also with Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to the East in 1498), and ending around the French Revolution in 1789.

Historians in recent decades have argued that from a worldwide standpoint, the most important feature of the early modern period was its globalizing character. The period witnessed the exploration and colonization of the Americas and the rise of sustained contacts between previously isolated parts of the globe. The historical powers became involved in global trade, as the exchange of goods, plants, animals, and food crops extended to the Old World and the New World. The Columbian Exchange greatly affected the human environment.

New economies and institutions emerged, becoming more sophisticated and globally articulated over the course of the early modern period. This process began in the medieval North Italian city-states, particularly Genoa, Venice, and Milan. The early modern period also included the rise of the dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism. The European colonization of the Americas, Asia, and Africa occurred during the 15th to 19th centuries, and spread Christianity around the world.

Preceded by
Postclassical Era
History by period
1450 CE – 1750 CE
Succeeded by
Modern history

Dates are approximate. Consult particular article for details.
         Early modern themes      Other
Dates are approximate. Consult particular article for details.
         Early modern themes      Other
Dates are approximate. Consult particular article for details.
         Early modern themes      Other
Economic concepts
Price revolution, Proto-globalization
General concepts
Renaissance, Early Modern English, Early Modern warfare, Periodization, Atlantic history, Timeline of early modern history
Political powers
Habsburg Spain, Habsburg Monarchy, Portuguese Empire, Dutch Republic, Early Modern Britain, Early Modern France, Early Modern Italy, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ottoman Empire, Mughal Empire, Safavid Empire
  • Cavallo, Sandra, and Silvia Evangelisti, eds. A Cultural History of Childhood and Family in the Early Modern Age (2014)
  • De Vries, Jan. "The limits of globalization in the early modern world." Economic History Review (2010) 63#3 pp: 710–733. online
  • Duara, Prasenjit et al. eds. A Companion to Global Historical Thought (Wiley Blackwell 2014)
  • Goldstone, Jack A. "Early Modern World." in Sociological Worlds: Comparative and Historical Readings on Society (2013) pp: 249+
  • Goldstone, Jack A. Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (1993)
  • Goldstone, Jack A. "The Rise of the West–or not? A revision to socio-economic history," Sociological Theory (2000). 18#2 pp 173–194
  • Knoll, Martin, and Reinhold Reith, eds. An Environmental History of the Early Modern Period (2014)
  • Kümin, Beat A. A cultural history of food in the early modern age (1600–1800) (Berg, 2011)
  • Parker, Charles H. Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400–1800 (2010)
  • Pomeranz, Kenneth. The great divergence: China, Europe, and the making of the modern world economy (Princeton University Press, 2000), a highly influential statement
  • Wong, R. Bin. China Transformed; Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience (Cornell U.P., 1997)


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