The End of the Middle Ages
The end date for the Middle Ages is given differently by different historians. Most historians follow the periodization of history that was introduced by the Renaissance scholars who were the first to use the term Middle Ages for the period that followed the fall of the Western Roman Empire and tripartite division of history. The concept of the Renaissance scholars bases on conviction that the classical antiquity was followed by a period of cultural and economic backwardness which came to an end with Renaissance revival of the classical world providing a direct link to the classical period of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The end of the Middle Ages in modern history is usually linked to Renaissance as well but there are two main concepts. Some historians consider the spread of the Renaissance in the mid-15th century that coincides with other major events in European history as the end of the Middle Ages, while the others view the cultural movement as a transition period between the Middle Ages and early modern period. In addition, Renaissance which has had a major influence on philosophy, art, science, religion and politics was not uniform all over Europe.
Some historians suggest other events as the end of the Middle Ages. Most of the events that have been proposed as the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the modern period have had a major influence on Europe as a whole and took place in the middle or at the end of 15th century and beginning of the 16th century. Depending on the context, events that are most often used to mark the end of the Middle Ages include:
- Invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1445
- Fall of Constantinople and the end of the Hundred Years’ War both in 1453
- Voyages of Christopher Columbus and discovery of America in 1492
- Beginning of the Italian Wars in 1494
- Beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517
- Battle of Lepanto resulting in decisive defeat of the Ottoman Turks by the fleet of the Holy League in 1571
In addition to the above mentioned events, there are differences in the given end dates for the Middle Ages from country to country. English historians most often use the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485 to mark the end of the Middle Ages in Britain. The end of Reconquista (the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims) in 1492 is the most commonly given end date for the Middle Ages in Spain although some Spanish historians date the end of the medieval Spain to 1516 when Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) became the first King of Spain. On the other hand, the end of the Middle Ages in Italy is traditionally dated to as early as the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century.
Many modern historians avoid using specific events and dates to mark the end of the Middle Ages due to major differences that existed between different parts of Europe in the 15th century. The other reason why the use of the end date for the Middle Ages is often avoided is the fact that the transition from the medieval era to the early modern period took place gradually, while different parts of Europe went through the transition process at a different pace.