17th Century

The 17th century was the century which lasted from January 1, 1601 to December 31, 1700 in the Gregorian calendar. The 17th century falls into the Early Modern period of Europe and in that continent was characterized by the Dutch Golden Age, the Baroque cultural movement, the French Grand Siècle dominated by Louis XIV, the Scientific Revolution, and The General Crisis. This last is characterised in Europe most notably by the Thirty Years' War, the Great Turkish War, the end of the Dutch Revolt, the disintegration of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the English Civil War.

Some historians extend the scope of the General Crisis to encompass the globe, as with the demographic collapse of the Ming Dynasty, China lost approximately 30% of its population. It was during this period also that European colonization of the Americas began in earnest, including the exploitation of the fabulously wealthy silver deposits of Potosí in Upper Peru and Mexico which resulted in great bouts of inflation as wealth was drawn into Europe from the rest of the world.

In the midst of this global General Crisis, there were victory and triumph: In the Near East, the Ottoman, Safavid Persian and Mughal empires grew in strength and the Sikhs began to rise to power in the Punjab. Farther east in Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Edo period at the beginning of the century, starting the isolationist Sakoku policy that was to last until the 19th century. In China, the collapsing Ming Dynasty was challenged by a series of conquests led by the Manchu warlord Nurhaci which were consolidated by his son Hong Taiji and finally consummated by his grandson, the Shunzi Emperor, founder of the Qing Dynasty.

European politics during the Crisis were dominated by the France of Louis XIV, where royal power was solidified domestically in the civil war of the Fronde, in which the semi-feudal territorial French nobility was weakened and subjugated to the power of an absolute monarchy through the reinvention of the Palace of Versailles from a hunting lodge to a gilded prison in which a greatly expanded royal court could be more easily kept under surveillance. With domestic peace assured, Louis XIV caused the borders of France to be expanded to include, among other regions, Rousillon, Artois, Dunkirk, Franche-Comté, Strasbourg, Alsace and Lorraine.

By the end of the century, Europeans were also aware of logarithms, electricity, the telescope and microscope, calculus, universal gravitation, Newton's Laws of Motion, air pressure and calculating machines due to the work of the first scientists of the Scientific Revolution, including Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Pierre Fermat, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and William Gilbert among other luminaries.

Read more about 17th Century:  Significant People, Inventions, Discoveries, Introductions

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