Today we’re going back into time… a time before electricity, aeroplanes, telephones, Cheetos and Progressive car insurance commercials. It was a time when people had to pour sweat into the earth to survive, when brave men risked all to rape, pillage, steal natural resources and exploit native peoples navigate the open seas and find mysterious knowledge at the ends of the unexplored earth. The year: 1555 A.D.
What was happening in the world 457 years ago? (Surely this was in the front of your mind when you woke up this morning?) Let’s look at a few broad topics.
Cultural Learnings – By 1555, the Renaissance had emanated across Europe. Sparked by the Italian masters named after Ninja Turtles and innovations like the printing press, Europe at this point was increasing in knowledge, improving technologies, increasing food diversity (the rich at least), and afire with vigorous religious debate (#euphemisms). The arts (literature, sculptures, music, paintings, etc.) were flourishing, China (under the Ming Dynasty) was inventing all sorts of neat gadgets, trade was becoming an increasingly global affair, and tremendous leaps were being made in various sciences.
Violence – There was plenty of fussin’, fightin’ and consternation going around in 1555. Catholics and Protestants were really going at it. All sorts of “heretics” were being burned at the stake in England, France and elsewhere. The Holy Roman Empire was always plotting and conniving. Henry VIII had ‘unburdened’ himself of several wives in recent years. The slave trade was starting to boom. Europeans were well on their way to wiping out entire populations of native peoples in the Caribbean. There were all sorts of wars and skirmishes being fought throughout Africa and Asia. Ivan the Terrible was rampaging around Russia and Suleiman “The Magnificent,” Sultan of Turkey, had his share of conquests. People were getting executed by elephants. Piracy was rampant.
Exploration – During this time, the Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Dutch were sailing all over the place: circumnavigating the globe, claiming land in the Americas, capturing Africans and making them slaves, getting spices from Asia. These guys just straight bulldozed their way through the world! In 1555 there were still dodo birds on Mauritius, but not much longer thanks to hungry, inconsiderate European sailors. Murderous, callous monsters though these European colonists inevitably were, you have to admit they were some pretty intrepid monsters nonetheless. Sailing uncharted waters for months at a time with a bunch of unsavory dudes, battling storms and eating boot leather? None for me, thanks…
Clearly we’ve come a long way in the last 457 years. I would argue we probably haven’t accomplished as much as we probably think we have: slavery still exists, warfare and violence are still constant, we’re still wiping out wildlife, injustice is everywhere…
In general we are cleaner, live longer, know more about the planet and have way more conveniences than 1555 people could dream of; though it seems we humans are just as bloodthirsty, corrupt and shifty as ever.
Hopefully in another 457 years we’ll be better off?