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. 1400-1500), 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 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Renaissance period in Europe and Timurid Central Asia, the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, and the end of the Reconquista and the Age of Discovery (especially the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492 but also with Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India 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 spreading globalizing character. New economies and institutions emerged, becoming more sophisticated and globally articulated over the course of the period. This process began in the medieval North Italian city-states, particularly Genoa, Venice, and Milan in the west, and in India's Bengal in the east. The early modern period also included the rise of the dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism.
In the Americas, pre-Columbian peoples had built a large and varied civilization, including the Aztec Empire and alliance, the Inca civilization, the Maya civilization and its cities, and the Chibcha. The European colonization of the Americas began during the early modern period, as did the establishment of European trading hubs in Asia and Africa, which contributed to the spread of Christianity around the world. The rise of sustained contacts between previously isolated parts of the globe, in particular the Columbian Exchange that linked the Old World and the New World, greatly altered the human environment. Notably, the Atlantic slave trade and the genocide of Native American peoples began during this period. Turkey colonized Southeastern Europe, and parts of the West Asia and North Africa. Russia reached the Pacific coast in 1647 and consolidated its control over the Russian Far East in the 19th century.
In the Islamic world, after the fall of the Timurid Renaissance, powers such as the Ottoman, Suri, Safavid, and Mughal empires grew in strength (three of which are known as gunpowder empires for the military technology that enabled them). Particularly in the Indian subcontinent, Mughal architecture, culture, and art reached their zenith, while the empire itself is believed to have had the world's largest economy, bigger than the entirety of Western Europe and worth 25% of global GDP, signalling the period of proto-industrialization.
Various Chinese dynasties and Japanese shogunates controlled the Asian sphere. In Japan, the Edo period from 1600 to 1868 is also referred to as the early modern period. In Korea, the early modern period is considered to have lasted from the rise of the Joseon Dynasty to the enthronement of King Gojong. By the 16th century, Asian economies under the Ming dynasty and Mughal Bengal were stimulated by trade with the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the Dutch, while Japan engaged in the Nanban trade after the arrival of the first European Portuguese during the Azuchi–Momoyama period.
The early modern trends in various regions of the world represented a shift away from medieval modes of organization, politically and economically. Feudalism declined in Europe, and Christians and Christendom saw the end of the Crusades and of religious unity under the Roman Catholic Church. The old order was destabilized by the Protestant Reformation, which caused a backlash that expanded the Inquisition and sparked the disastrous European Wars of Religion, which included the especially bloody Thirty Years' War and ended with the establishment of the modern international system in the Peace of Westphalia. Along with the European colonization of the Americas, this period also contained the Commercial Revolution and the Golden Age of Piracy.
Other notable trends of the early modern period include the development of experimental science, increasingly rapid technological progress, secularized civic politics, accelerated travel due to improvements in mapping and ship design, and the emergence of nation states. Historians typically date the end of the early modern period when the French Revolution of the 1790s began the "late modern" period.
The Indian Empires and civilizations of Southeast Asia, mainly the major trading nation known as the Bengal Sultanate, were a vital link in the spice trade. The Mughal Empire was founded by the descendants of Tamerlane and its architecture has impressed the world. The archipelagic empires, the Sultanate of Malacca and later the Sultanate of Johor, controlled the southern areas.
What is now called Latin America, a designation first used
What is now called Latin America, a designation first used in the late 19th century, was claimed by Spain and Portugal. The Western Hemisphere, the New World, was divided between the two Iberian powers by the Treaty of Tordesillas in what until the late 16th-century, was an area that could be called "Ibero-America." Spain called its overseas empire there "The Indies," with Portugal calling its territory in South America Brazil, after the dyewood found there. Spain concentrated building its empire where there were large indigenous populations, "Indians," who could be compelled to work and large deposits of precious metals, mainly silver. Both New Spain (colonial Mexico) and Peru fit those criteria and the Spanish crown established viceroyalties to rule those two large areas. As Spanish settlements and the economy grew in size and complexity, the Spanish established viceroyalties in the eighteenth century during administrative reforms Rio de la Plata (southeastern South America) and New Granada (northern South America).
Initially, Portuguese settlements (Brazil) in the coastal northeast were of lesser importance in the larger Portuguese overseas empire, where lucrative commerce and small settlements devoted to trade were established in coastal Africa, India and China. With sparse indigenous populations that could not be coerced to work and no known deposits of precious metals, Portugal sought a high-value, low-bulk export product and found it in sugarcane. Black African slave labour from Portugal's West African possessions was imported to do the grueling agricultural work. As the wealth of the Ibero-America increased,
Initially, Portuguese settlements (Brazil) in the coastal northeast were of lesser importance in the larger Portuguese overseas empire, where lucrative commerce and small settlements devoted to trade were established in coastal Africa, India and China. With sparse indigenous populations that could not be coerced to work and no known deposits of precious metals, Portugal sought a high-value, low-bulk export product and found it in sugarcane. Black African slave labour from Portugal's West African possessions was imported to do the grueling agricultural work. As the wealth of the Ibero-America increased, some Western European powers (Dutch, French, British, Danish) sought to duplicate the model in areas that the Iberians had not settled in numbers. They seized some Caribbean islands from the Spanish and transferred the model of sugar production on plantations with slave labour and settled in northern areas of North America in what are now the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada.