Fifteen Fifty Five (1555 A.D.)

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?

* Check it out on Mental Floss!



Filed under F Commentary, F History, Food, Foreign Lands

6 responses to “Fifteen Fifty Five (1555 A.D.)

  1. Alonge mayowa

    I realy need to know wat happened in russia in the year 1555,please alert me on my gmail acount.

  2. In 1555, the Mughal Rule of India was well and truly established. It went on for another 200 years before the British came in towards the end of the 18th century.

  3. mis

    “Hopefully in another 457 years we’ll be better off?”

    You’re kidding, right? We keep telling ourselves that we’re getting more civilised, etc., but to be honest, it seems like our barbarity just takes on different aspects : anti-personnel mines replace foot soldiers, online pornography replaces (or suppliments) street prostitution, etc. The one constant is the almighty dollar/pound/euro … whatever it takes to make more, regardless of how many lives/how much humanity it costs.

    • Cmon now we gotta have hope! Clearly it’s a bleak proposition that things will somehow get better — or if we’ll even still be here 457 years from now. I prefer not to have a worldview in which evil inevitably wins 100% of the time, and dictates we are on a crash course to oblivion. Some days it’s hard to believe otherwise… That said I guess the best thing we can do in the meantime is work toward positive change in whatever small/selfless way, Mother Teresa-style.

  4. Pingback: Guerrilla Monkey – Today’s bookmarks…

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