Timeline of Events in the Middle Ages

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Timeline of Events in the Middle Ages

180      The death of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius marks the end of the "Pax Romana," or Roman peace. Years of instability follow, and although Rome recovers numerous times, this is the beginning of Rome's three-century decline.

312      Roman emperor Constantine converts to Christianity. As a result, the empire that once persecuted Christians will embrace their religion and eventually will begin to persecute other religions.

325      Constantine calls the Council of Nicaea, first of many ecumenical councils at which gatherings of bishops determine official church policy.

330      Constantine establishes Byzantium as eastern capital of the Roman Empire.

395      After the death of Emperor Theodosius, the Roman Empire is permanently divided in half. As time passes, the Eastern Roman Empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire) distances itself from the declining Western Roman Empire.

410      Led by Alaric, the Visigoths sack Rome, dealing the Western Roman Empire a blow from which it will never recover.

413–425      Deeply affected—as are most Roman citizens—by the Visigoths' attack on Rome, Augustine writes City of God, one of the most important books of the Middle Ages.

455      The Vandals sack Rome.

c. 459      Death of St. Patrick, missionary who converted Ireland to Christianity.

476      The German leader Odoacer removes Emperor Romulus Augustulus and crowns himself "king of Italy." This incident marks the end of the Western Roman Empire.

481      The Merovingian Age, named for the only powerful dynasty in Western Europe during the period, begins when Clovis takes the throne in France.

496     Clovis converts to Christianity. By establishing strong ties with the pope, he forges a strong church-state relationship that will continue throughout the medieval period.

500      Date commonly cited as beginning of Middle Ages.

500–1000      Era in European history often referred to as the Dark Ages, or Early Middle Ages.

524      The philosopher Boethius, from the last generation of classically educated Romans, dies in jail, probably at the orders of the Ostrogoth chieftain Theodoric.

529      Benedict of Nursia and his followers establish the monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy. This marks the beginning of the monastic tradition in Europe.

532      Thanks in large part to the counsel of his wife Theodora, Justinian —greatest of Byzantine emperors—takes a strong stand in the Nika Revolt, ensuring his continued power.

534–563      Belisarius and other generals under orders from Justinian recapture much of the Western Roman Empire, including parts of Italy, Spain, and North Africa. The victories are costly, however, and soon after Justinian's death these lands will fall back into the hands of barbarian tribes such as the Vandals and Lombards.

535     Justinian establishes his legal code, a model for the laws in many Western nations today.

540      The Huns, or Hunas, destroy India's Gupta Empire, plunging much of the subcontinent into a state of anarchy.

c. 550      Death of Indian mathematician Aryabhata, one of the first mathematicians to use the numeral zero.

589      The ruthless Wen Ti places all of China under the rule of his Sui dynasty, ending more than three centuries of upheaval.

590      Pope Gregory I begins his fourteen-year reign. Also known as Gregory the Great, he ensures the survival of the church, and becomes one of its greatest medieval leaders. Late 500s      The first Turks begin moving westward, toward the Middle East, from their homeland to the north and west of China.

604      Prince Shotoku Taishi of Japan issues his "Seventeen-Article Constitution."

c. 610      An Arab merchant named Muhammad receives the first of some 650 revelations that form the basis of the Koran, Islam's holy book.

618      In China, T'ai Tsung and his father Kao Tsu over-throw the cruel Sui dynasty, establishing the highly powerful and efficient T'ang dynasty.

622     Muhammad and his followers escape the city of Mecca. This event, known as the hegira, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

632–661      Following the death of Muhammad, the Arab Muslims are led by a series of four caliphs who greatly expand Muslim territories to include most of the Middle East.

645      A conspiracy to murder the Japanese emperor places the reform-minded Emperor Tenchi on the throne and puts the Fujiwara clan—destined to remain influential for centuries—in a position of power.

661      The fifth caliph, Mu'awiya, founds the Umayyad caliphate, which will rule the Muslim world from Damascus, Syria, until 750.

690     Wu Ze-tian becomes sole empress of China. She will reign until 705, the only female ruler in four thousand years of Chinese history.

711      Moors from North Africa invade Spain, taking over from the Visigoths. Muslims will rule parts of the Iberian Peninsula until 1492.

711      Arabs invade the Sind in western India, establishing a Muslim foothold on the Indian subcontinent.

727      In Greece, the Iconoclasts begin a sixty-year war on icons, or images of saints and other religious figures, which they consider idols. Though the Greek Orthodox Church ultimately rejects iconoclasm, the controversy helps widen a growing division between Eastern and Western Christianity.

731     The Venerable Bede publishes his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, his most important work.

732      A force led by Charles Martel repels Moorish invaders at Tours, halting Islam's advance into Western Europe.

750      A descendant of Muhammad 's uncle Abbas begins killing off all the Umayyad leaders and establishes the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, Iraq.

751      The Carolingian Age begins when Charles Martel's son Pepin III, with the support of the pope, removes the last Merovingian king from power.

751      Defeated by Arab armies at Talas, China's T'ang dynasty begins to decline. A revolt led by An Lu-shan in 755 adds to its troubles.

768      Reign of Charlemagne, greatest ruler of Western Europe during the Early Middle Ages, begins.

782      English scholar Alcuin goes to France, on the invitation of Charlemagne, to organize a school for future officials in the Carolingian empire.

787     Irene of Athens convenes the Seventh Council of Nicaea, which restores the use of icons in worship.

793      Viking raiders destroy the church at Lindisfarne off the coast of England. Lindisfarne was one of the places where civilized learning had weathered the darkest years of the Middle Ages. Thus begins two centuries of terror as more invaders pour out of Scandinavia and spread throughout Europe.

797      Having murdered her son, Irene of Athens —who actually ruled from 780 onward—officially becomes Byzantine empress, the only woman ruler in the empire's eleven-hundred-year history. It is partly in reaction to Irene that the pope later crowns Charlemagne emperor of Western Europe.

800s      Feudalism takes shape in Western Europe.

800      Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne "Emperor of All the Romans." This marks the beginning of the political alliance later to take shape under Otto the Great as the Holy Roman Empire.

c. 800      The Khmers, or Cambodians, adopt Hinduism under the leadership of their first powerful king, Jayavarman II, founder of the Angkor Empire.

801      Death of Rabia al-Adawiyya, a woman and former slave who founded the mystic Sufi sect of Islam.

820      A group of Vikings settles in northwestern France, where they will become known as Normans.

843      In the Treaty of Verdun, Charlemagne 's son Louis the Pious divides the Carolingian Empire among his three sons. These three parts come to be known as the West Frankish Empire, consisting chiefly of modern France; the "Middle Kingdom," a strip running from what is now the Netherlands all the way down to Italy; and the East Frankish Empire, or modern Germany. The Middle Kingdom soon dissolves into a patchwork of tiny principalities.

c. 850      Death of Arab mathematician al-Khwarizmi, who coined the term "algebra" and who is often considered the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages.

860      Vikings discover Iceland.

863     St. Cyril and St. Methodius, two Greek priests, become missionaries to the Slavs of Central and Eastern Europe. As a result, the Greek Orthodox version of Christianity spreads throughout the region, along with the Cyrillic alphabet, which the brothers create in order to translate the Bible into local languages.

886      King Alfred the Great captures London from the Danes, and for the first time in British history unites all Anglo-Saxons.

907      China's T'ang dynasty comes to an end after almost three centuries of rule, and the empire enters a period of instability known as "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms."

911      The last of the Carolingian line in the East Frankish Empire dies. Seven years later, Henry the Fowler of Saxony, father of Otto the Great, takes leadership of the German states.

c. 930      Arab physician al-Razi writes his most important work, The Comprehensive Book, which sums up the medical knowledge of the era.

955      German king Otto I defeats a tribe of nomadic invaders called the Magyars. The Magyars later become Christianized and found the nation of Hungary; as for Otto, thenceforth he is known as Otto the Great.

957      Death of al-Mas'udi, perhaps the greatest historian of the Arab world.

960      In China, troops loyal to Chao K'uang-yin declare him emperor, initiating the Sung dynasty.

962      Having conquered most of Central Europe, Otto the Great is crowned emperor in Rome, reviving Charlemagne's title. From this point on, most German kings are also crowned ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

982      Vikings discover Greenland. Four years later, Erik the Red founds a permanent settlement there.

987      Russia converts to Greek Orthodox Christianity and gradually begins adopting Byzantine culture after Vladimir the Great marries Anne, sister of Emperor Basil II.

987      The last Carolingian ruler of France dies without an heir, and Hugh Capet takes the throne, establishing a dynasty that will last until 1328.

1000–1300      Era in European history often referred to as the High Middle Ages.

1001      Vikings led by Leif Eriksson sail westward to North America, and during the next two decades conduct a number of raids on the coast of what is now Canada.

1001      A second Muslim invasion of the Indian subcontinent, this time by Turks, takes place as the Ghaznavids subdue a large region in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and western India.

1002      Holy Roman Emperor Otto III dies at the age of twenty-two, and with him die his grand dreams of a revived Roman Empire.

1002      In Japan, Murasaki Shikibu begins writing the Tale of Genji, the world's first novel.

1014      After years of conflict with the Bulgarians, Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeats them. He orders that ninetynine of every one hundred men be blinded and the last man allowed to keep just one eye so he can lead the others home. Bulgaria's Czar Samuel dies of a heart attack when he sees his men, and Basil earns the nickname "Bulgar-Slayer."

1025     Basil II dies, having taken the Byzantine Empire to its greatest height since Justinian five centuries earlier; however, it begins a rapid decline soon afterward.

1039      Death of Arab mathematician and physicist Alhazen, the first scientist to form an accurate theory of optics, or the mechanics of vision.

1054      After centuries of disagreement over numerous issues, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church officially separate.

1060      Five years after Turks seize control of Baghdad from the declining Abbasid caliphate, their leader, Toghril Beg, declares himself sultan and thus establishes the Seljuk dynasty.

1066     William the Conqueror leads an invading force that defeats an Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings and wins control of England. The Norman invasion is the most important event of medieval English history, greatly affecting the future of English culture and language.

1071      The Seljuk Turks defeat Byzantine forces at the Battle of Manzikert in Armenia. As a result, the Turks gain a foothold in Asia Minor (today known as Turkey), and the Byzantine Empire begins a long, slow decline.

1071      A Norman warlord named Robert Guiscard drives the last Byzantine forces out of Italy. Byzantium had controlled parts of the peninsula since the time of Justinian.

1072      Robert Guiscard's brother Roger expels the Arabs from Sicily, and takes control of the island.

1075–77      Pope Gregory VII and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV become embroiled in a church-state struggle called the Investiture Controversy, a debate over whether popes or emperors should have the right to appoint local bishops. Deserted by his supporters, Henry stands barefoot in the snow for three days outside the gates of a castle in Canossa, Italy, waiting to beg the pope's forgiveness.

1084      Reversing the results of an earlier round in the Investiture Controversy, Henry IV takes Rome and forcibly removes Gregory VII from power. The pope dies soon afterward, broken and humiliated.

1084     Ssu-ma Kuang, an official in the Sung dynasty, completes his monumental history of China, Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government.

1094      Troops under the leadership of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar—better known as El Cid —defeat the Moorish Almoravids at Valencia. This victory, and the character of El Cid himself, becomes a symbol of the Reconquista, the Christian effort to reclaim Spain from its Muslim conquerors.

1094      Norman warrior Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, takes control of Rome from Henry IV and hands the city over to Pope Urban II. Fearing the Normans' power and aware that he owes them a great debt, Urban looks for something to divert their attention.

1095      Byzantine Emperor Alexis Comnenus asks Urban II for military assistance against the Turks. Urban preaches a sermon to raise support at the Council of Clermont in France, and in the resulting fervor the First Crusade begins. Among its leaders are Bohemond and his nephew Tancred.

1096–97      A pathetic sideshow called the Peasants' Crusade plays out before the real First Crusade gets underway. The peasants begin by robbing and killing thousands of Jews in Germany; then, led by Peter the Hermit, they march toward the Holy Land, wreaking havoc as they go. In Anatolia, a local Turkish sultan leads them into a trap, and most of the peasants are killed.

1099      The First Crusade ends in victory for the Europeans as they conquer Jerusalem. It is a costly victory, however—one in which thousands of innocent Muslims, as well as many Europeans, have been brutally slaughtered—and it sows resentment between Muslims and Christians that remains strong today.

c. 1100–1300      Many of the aspects of life most commonly associated with the Middle Ages, including heraldry and chivalry, make their appearance in Western Europe during this period. Returning crusaders adapt the defensive architecture they observed in fortresses of the Holy Land, resulting in the familiar design of the medieval castle. This is also the era of romantic and heroic tales such as those of King Arthur.

1105      King Henry I of England and St. Anselm of Canterbury , head of the English church, sign an agreement settling their differences. This is an important milestone in church-state relations and serves as the model for the Concordat of Worms seventeen years later.

1118      After being banished because of her part in a conspiracy against her brother, the Byzantine emperor, Anna Comnena begins writing the Alexiad, a history of Byzantium in the period 1069–1118.

1140      After a career in which he infuriated many with his unconventional views on God, French philosopher Peter Abelard is charged with heresy by Bernard of Clairvaux and forced to publicly refute his beliefs.

c. 1140      In Cambodia, Khmer emperor Suryavarman II develops the splendid temple complex of Angkor Wat.

1146      After the Muslims' capture of Edessa in 1144, Pope Eugenius III calls on the help of his former teacher, Bernard of Clairvaux, who makes a speech that leads to the launching of the Second Crusade.

1147–49      In the disastrous Second Crusade, armies from Europe are double-crossed by their crusader allies in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. They fail to recapture Edessa and suffer a heavy defeat at Damascus. Among the people who take part in the crusade (though not as a combatant) is Eleanor of Aquitaine.

1154      After the death of England's King Stephen, Henry II takes the throne, beginning the long Plantaganet dynasty. With Henry is his new bride, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now queen of England, she had been queen of France two years earlier, before the annulment of her marriage to King Louis VII.

1158      Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa establishes Europe's first university at Bologna, Italy.

1159     Frederick I Barbarossa begins a quarter-century of fruitless, costly wars in which the Ghibellines and Guelphs—factions representing pro-imperial and prochurch forces, respectively—fight for control of northern Italy.

1162     Moses Maimonides, greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, publishes his Letter Concerning Apostasy, the first of many important works by him that will appear over the next four decades.

1165      A letter supposedly written by Prester John, a Christian monarch in the East, appears in Europe. Over the centuries that follow, Europeans will search in vain for Prester John, hoping for his aid in their war against Muslim forces. Even as Europe enters the modern era, early proponents of exploration such asHenry the Navigator will remain inspired by the quest for Prester John's kingdom.

1170      Knights loyal to Henry II murder the archbishop Thomas à Becket in his cathedral at Canterbury.

1174–80      Arab philosopher Averroës writes one of his most important works, The Incoherence of the Incoherence, a response to hard-line Muslim attacks on his belief that reason and religious faith can coexist.

1183     Frederick I Barbarossa signs the Peace of Constance with the cities of the Lombard League, and thus ends his long war in northern Italy. After this he will concentrate his attention on Germany and institute reforms that make him a hero in his homeland.

1185      For the first time, Japan comes under the rule of a shogun, or military dictator. Shoguns will remain in power for the next four centuries.

1187      Muslim armies under Saladin deal the crusaders a devastating blow at the Battle of Hittin in Palestine. Shortly afterward, Saladin leads his armies in the reconquest of Jerusalem.

1189      In response to Saladin 's victories, Europeans launch the Third Crusade. Of the crusade's three principal leaders, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa drowns on his way to the Holy Land, and Richard I takes a number of detours, only arriving in 1191. This leaves Philip II Augustus of France to fight the Muslims alone.

1191      Led by Richard I of England and Philip II of France, crusaders take the city of Acre in Palestine.

1192     Richard I signs a treaty with Saladin, ending the Third Crusade.

1198      Pope Innocent III begins an eighteen-year reign that marks the high point of the church's power. Despite his great influence, however, when he calls for a new crusade to the Holy Land, he gets little response—a sign that the spirit behind the Crusades is dying.

c. 1200      Cambodia's Khmer Empire reaches its height under Jayavarman VII.

1202      Four years after the initial plea from the pope, the Fourth Crusade begins. Instead of going to the Holy Land, however, the crusaders become involved in a power struggle for the Byzantine throne.

1204      Acting on orders from the powerful city-state of Venice, crusaders take Constantinople, forcing the Byzantines to retreat to Trebizond in Turkey. The Fourth Crusade ends with the establishment of the Latin Empire.

1206      Qutb-ud-Din Aybak, the first independent Muslim ruler in India, establishes the Delhi Sultanate.

1206     Genghis Khan unites the Mongols for the first time in their history and soon afterward leads them to war against the Sung dynasty in China.

1208      Pope Innocent III launches the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars, a heretical sect in southern France.

1209     St. Francis of Assisi establishes the Franciscan order.

1215      In Rome, Pope Innocent III convenes the Fourth Lateran Council. A number of traditions, such as regular confession of sin to a priest, are established at this, one of the most significant ecumenical councils in history.

1215      English noblemen force King John to sign the Magna Carta, which grants much greater power to the nobility. Ultimately the agreement will lead to increased freedom for the people from the power of both king and nobles.

1217–21      In the Fifth Crusade, armies from England, Germany, Hungary, and Austria attempt unsuccessfully to conquer Egypt.

1227     Genghis Khan dies, having conquered much of China and Central Asia, thus laying the foundation for the largest empire in history.

1228–29      The Sixth Crusade, led by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, results in a treaty that briefly restores Christian control of Jerusalem—and does so with a minimum of bloodshed.

1229      The brutal Albigensian Crusade ends. Not only are the Cathars destroyed, but so is much of the French nobility, thus greatly strengthening the power of the French king.

1231      Pope Gregory IX establishes the Inquisition, a court through which the church will investigate, try, and punish cases of heresy.

c. 1235      The empire of Mali, most powerful realm in sub-Saharan Africa at the time, takes shape under the leadership of Sundiata Keita.

1239–40      In the Seventh Crusade, Europeans make another failed attempt to retake the Holy Land.

1241      After six years of campaigns in which they sliced across Russia and Eastern Europe, a Mongol force is poised to take Vienna, Austria, and thus to swarm into Western Europe. But when their leader, Batu Khan, learns that the Great Khan Ogodai is dead, he rushes back to the Mongol capital at Karakorum to participate in choosing a successor.

1242     Alexander Nevsky and his brother Andrew lead the Russians' defense of Novgorod against invaders from Germany.

1243      Back on the warpath, but this time in the Middle East, the Mongols defeat the last remnants of the Seljuk Turks.

1248–54      King Louis IX of France (St. Louis) leads the Eighth Crusade, this time against the Mamluks. The result is the same: yet another defeat for the Europeans.

1252      In Egypt, a group of former slave soldiers called the Mamluks take power from the Ayyubid dynasty, established many years before by Saladin.

1260      The Mamluks become the first force to defeat the Mongols, in a battle at Goliath Spring in Palestine.

1260     Kublai Khan, greatest Mongol leader after his grandfather Genghis Khan, is declared Great Khan, or leader of the Mongols.

1261      Led by Michael VIII Palaeologus, the Byzantines recapture Constantinople from the Latin Empire, and Byzantium enjoys one last gasp of power before it goes into terminal decline.

1270–72      In the Ninth Crusade, last of the numbered crusades, King Louis IX of France again leads the Europeans against the Mamluks, who defeat European forces yet again.

1271     Marco Polo embarks on his celebrated journey to the East, which lasts twenty-four years.

1273      The Hapsburg dynasty—destined to remain a major factor in European politics until 1918—takes control of the Holy Roman Empire.

1273      Italian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas completes the crowning work of his career, the monumental Summa theologica. The influential book will help lead to wider acceptance of the idea, introduced earlier by Moses Maimonides, Averroës, and Abelard, that reason and faith are compatible.

1279      Mongol forces under Kublai Khan win final victory over China's Sung dynasty. Thus begins the Yüan dynasty, the first time in Chinese history when the country has been ruled by foreigners.

1291      Mamluks conquer the last Christian stronghold at Acre, bringing to an end two centuries of crusades to conquer the Holy Land for Christendom.

1292      Death of Roger Bacon, one of Europe's most important scientists. His work helped to show the rebirth of scientific curiosity taking place in Europe as a result of contact with the Arab world during the Crusades.

1294      At the death of Kublai Khan, the Mongol realm is the largest empire in history, covering most of Asia and a large part of Europe. Within less than a century, however, this vast empire will have all but disappeared.

1299      Turkish chieftain Osman I refuses to pay tribute to the local Mongol rulers, marking the beginnings of the Ottoman Empire.

1300–1500      Era in European history often referred to as the Late Middle Ages.

1303      After years of conflict with Pope Boniface VIII, France's King Philip the Fair briefly has the pope arrested. This event and its aftermath marks the low point of the papacy during the Middle Ages.

1308     Dante Alighieri begins writing the Divine Comedy, which he will complete shortly before his death in 1321.

1309      Pope Clement V, an ally of Philip the Fair, moves the papal seat from Rome to Avignon in southern France.

1309      After years of fighting, Sultan Ala-ud-din Muhammad Khalji subdues most of India.

1324     Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali, embarks on a pilgrimage to Mecca. After stopping in Cairo, Egypt, and spending so much gold that he affects the region's economy for years, he becomes famous throughout the Western world: the first sub-Saharan African ruler widely known among Europeans.

1328      Because of a dispute between the Franciscans and the papacy, William of Ockham, one of the late medieval period's most important philosophers, is forced to flee the papal court. He remains under the protection of the Holy Roman emperor for the rest of his life.

1337      England and France begin fighting what will become known as the Hundred Years' War, an on-again, off-again struggle to control parts of France.

1347–51      Europe experiences one of the worst disasters in human history, an epidemic called the Black Death. Sometimes called simply "the Plague," in four years the Black Death kills some thirty-five million people, or approximately one-third of the European population in 1300.

1368      Led by Chu Yüan-chang, a group of rebels overthrows the Mongol Yüan dynasty of China and establishes the Ming dynasty, China's last native-born ruling house.

1378      The Catholic Church becomes embroiled in the Great Schism, which will last until 1417. During this time, there are rival popes in Rome and Avignon; and from 1409 to 1417, there is even a third pope in Pisa, Italy.

1383     Tamerlane embarks on two decades of conquest in which he strikes devastating blows against empires in Turkey, Russia, and India and subdues a large portion of central and southwestern Asia.

1386     Geoffrey Chaucer begins writing the Canterbury Tales.

1389      Ottoman forces defeat the Serbs in battle at Kosovo Field. As a result, all of Southeastern Europe except for Greece falls under Turkish control.

1390     Tamerlane attacks and severely weakens the Golden Horde even though its leaders come from the same Mongol and Tatar ancestry as he.

1392      General Yi Song-ye seizes power in Korea and establishes a dynasty that will remain in control until 1910.

1398     Tamerlane sacks the Indian city of Delhi, hastening the end of the Delhi Sultanate, which comes in 1413.

1402      After conquering much of Iran and surrounding areas and then moving westward, Tamerlane defeats the Ottoman sultan Bajazed in battle. An unexpected result of their defeat is that the Ottomans, who seemed poised to take over much of Europe, go into a period of decline.

1404–05      Christine de Pisan, Europe's first female professional writer, publishes The Book of the City of Ladies, her most celebrated work.

1405      Ming dynasty emperor Yung-lo sends Admiral Cheng Ho on the first of seven westward voyages. These take place over the next quarter-century, during which time Chinese ships travel as far as East Africa.

1417      The Council of Constance ends the Great Schism, affirming that Rome is the seat of the church and that Pope Martin V is its sole leader. Unfortunately for the church, the Great Schism has weakened it at the very time that it faces its greatest challenge ever: a gathering movement that will come to be known as the Reformation.

1418      The "school" of navigation founded by Prince Henry the Navigator sponsors the first of many expeditions that, over the next forty-two years, will greatly increase knowledge of the middle Atlantic Ocean and Africa's west coast. These are the earliest European voyages of exploration, of which there will be many in the next two centuries.

1421      Emperor Yung-lo moves the Chinese capital from Nanjing to Beijing, where it has remained virtually ever since.

1429      A tiny French army led by Joan of Arc forces the English to lift their siege on the town of Orléans, a victory that raises French spirits and makes it possible for France's king Charles VII to be crowned later that year. This marks a turning point in the Hundred Years' War.

1430–31      Captured by Burgundian forces, Joan of Arc is handed over to the English, who arrange her trial for witchcraft in a court of French priests. The trial, a mockery of justice, ends with Joan being burned at the stake.

1431      In Southeast Asia, the Thais conquer the Angkor Empire.

1431      The Aztecs become the dominant partner in a triple alliance with two nearby city-states and soon afterward gain control of the Valley of Mexico.

1438      Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui, greatest Inca ruler, takes the throne.

1440     Montezuma I takes the Aztec throne.

1441      Fourteen black slaves are brought from Africa to Portugal, where they are presented to Prince Henry the Navigator. This is the beginning of the African slave trade, which isn't abolished until more than four centuries later.

1451      The recovery of the Ottoman Empire, which had suffered a half-century of decline, begins under Mehmet the Conqueror.

1453      Due in large part to the victories of Joan of Arc, which lifted French morale twenty-four years earlier, the Hundred Years' War ends with French victory.

1453      Turks under Mehmet the Conqueror march into Constantinople, bringing about the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Greece will remain part of the Ottoman Empire until 1829.

1455      Having developed a method of movable-type printing, Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, prints his first book: a Bible. In the years to come, the invention of the printing press will prove to be one of the most important events in world history.

1456      A commission directed by Pope Calixtus III declares that the verdict against Joan of Arc in 1431 had been wrongfully obtained.

1470      One of the first printed books to appear in England, La Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory helps establish the now-familiar tales of Arthurian legend.

1492      Spain, united by the 1469 mdarriage of its two most powerful monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, drives out the last of the Muslims and expels all Jews. A less significant event of 1492, from the Spanish perspective, is the launch of a naval expedition in search of a westward sea route to China. Its leader is an Italian sailor named Christopher Columbus, who has grown up heavily influenced by Marco Polo 's account of his travels.

1493     Mohammed I Askia takes the throne of Africa's Songhai Empire, which will reach its height under his leadership.

1500      Date commonly cited as the end of Middle Ages, and the beginning of the Renaissance.

1517      Exactly a century after the Council of Constance ended the Great Schism, a German monk named Martin Luther publicly posts ninety-five theses, or statements challenging the established teachings of Catholicism, on the door of a church in Germany. Over the next century, numerous new Protestant religious denominations will be established.

1521      Spanish forces led by the conquistador Hernán Cortés destroy the Aztec Empire.

1526      Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane, invades India and establishes what becomes the Mogul Empire.

1533      Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish forces with him arrive in Peru and soon bring about the end of the Inca Empire.

1591      Songhai, the last of the great premodern empires in Africa's Sudan region, falls to invaders from Morocco.

1806      In the process of conquering most of Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte brings the Holy Roman Empire to an end.

1912      More than twenty-one centuries of imperial rule in China end with the overthrow of the government by revolutionary forces, who establish a republic.

1918      Among the many outcomes of World War I are the disintegration of several empires with roots in the Middle Ages: the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires.

1960s      Nearly a thousand years after Leif Eriksson and other Vikings visited the New World, archaeologists find remains of a Norse settlement in Newfoundland.