When Did the 'Modern Era' Begin?

There seems to be a lot of disagreement about when the “modern era” began. I have heard a lot of interesting interpretations. One view, for example, says it began in 1492, with the (re-)discovery of America.

Anyway, I won’t bore you all with all of the different interpretations. But suffice it to say, all dates are long ago, and none include the Industrial Revolution.

***Why not? *** I think more changed at the Industrial Revolution than any other time. All the technology and science that we know came into being then. Modern medicine came into being–as did modern philosophy. Most of the democracies we know, came into being. Society became more merciful and kind. No one was drawn and quartered anymore.

So why didn’t the Modern Age begin with the Industrial Revolution, c. 1760, if you wonder what I am referring to?


Modernity began whenever you would like it to have begun, surely?

I’d have said that with your chosen examples of modernity, the Enlightenment is as likely to have been as relevant as the Industrial Revolution, but there’s a lot of room for debate about precisely when and how they interact. A lot of the scientific and technical change started earlier - maybe one could go back as far as Newton and the late seventeenth century; social change following on the Industrial Revolution (the factory system, the importance of common clock time and timekeeping, the development of different attitudes to community) came later in the nineteenth century. Some ideas of democracy came earlier, but were much disputed; democracy as we know it came much later than the Industrial Revolution, and some would argue that notions of a more merciful and kind society even later still.

Only historians answer that way, OP. For me it would be the general availability of electricity, the automobile, the telephone, the radio–so under a century. For a teenager it might be the general availability of the smartphone.

It depending on what you mean by modern. Do you mean liberal democracy, science, social justice, technology, medicine, wealth, etc? Then I’d agree with op, it started with the industrial revolution.

I don’t understand why the modern Era would begin with discovery of the America’s by the Spanish. Europe was still the global world power for another 500 years, and America was fine when it was filled with indigenous peoples.

Supposedly there have been two great technological revolutions in human history. The Neolithic revolution of ~10,000 years ago and the industrial revolution of 250 years ago. We are currently in the early stages of the third great tech revolution, the machine intelligence revolution.

Each one totally changes life, culture and how humans live. So each one ushers in a new age of modernity.

It’s all a matter of interpretation of the question, and what your goals are in defining a Modern Era, and so this may be more of a IMHO than GD. But I personally would be hard pressed to consider 1493 modern by any sense of the word. I also think that 1760 is too early as well. Although the Industrial revolution had officially started, it really hadn’t reached its full level of infiltrating every aspect of society. I would view the modern era as the time at which we can look back and while things might be old fashioned, basically life was lived the same way. The two dates I would consider would be around 1920, or around 1995.

By the first date, cars had overtaken horses as the primary mode of transplantation, Electricity and indoor plumbing was widely available. Most consumer goods were manufactured etc. The average person drove or took a streetcar in an office building with electric lights, bought their food at a grocery store which was cooked by their wife in a gas or electric oven, and have instant communication over telephone lines. For entertainment they would watch movies or listen to the radio rather than attend live events. The 1995 date would be the time at which the internet and computers became ubiquitous. To the point that nearly everything is computer controlled and much is interconnected. However, I suspect that like comparing 1920 to the industrial revolution we haven’t quite reached full potential of the information age, an in the future it will be decided that the modern age started when everyone to have self driving cars, computer controlled houses, and social media is the primary method of communication.

We’ve been in the Postmodern Era since the 1970’s.
The Modern Era started with the Industrial Revolution, and ended with the social change in the 60’s.

Modern era of what? The modern era for the USA is much different than the modern era for humanity is much different than the modern era for computing.

Withe the publishing of The Origin of Species in 1859.

If we’re going for the time when we definitively left the medieval than I’d agree 1492 wasn’t anything special. I’d pick 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks and also during which Gutenberg was working on printing the Bible.

But when I hear the word, context is critical to the timespan I think of. Modern world of technology is different from the modern world of social attitudes which is also different from the modern world of music and all of them can have different sub-eras (for instance, eras when attitudes and rights toward minorities, women, and homosexuals advanced for some of that group but not others.)

This Wikipedia article states 1500 as the start of the modern era and splits those into three parts. Human history - Wikipedia

This fits in roughly with how it was taught to me at university so I think this is the historians view. Putting the most recent (contemporary) era at the start of WW1 seems about right to me. The Great War caused huge social upheaval, the end of a great number of powerful dynasties, and political boundaries consolidating into the patterns we still see today. Not to mention a huge upwards usage of mechanisation.

I took an “Early Modern” history class in college. It covered basically the 1500s and 1600s. So historians seem to think it started around 1500. But that’s only academic history. If you want to talk about art history, modernity started in the later 1800s. The “modern era” tends to mean something slightly differently in each sport as well, with it starting much more recently in general.

In Britain (and by extension, the US) the traditional boundary between the middle ages and the early modern era is the Battle of Bosworth Field the outcome of which began the Tudor Dynasty.

Plenty of historians are earning their living debating the exact significance of the battle itself, and of the monarchies and wars before and after the battle. But not many modern historians would, I think, consider it anything other than an arbitrary line in the sand to help future historians describe periods of history, not anything contemparies would recognize as a watershed moment that changed everything.

Hiroshima and Sputnik.

Well, taking a longer view…

The “Modern” era began when humanoids invented agriculture, and the seeds were sewn for the collapse of civilization.

With agriculture came attachment to land, restriction of freedom, possession and defense of property, evolution of fiefdoms, states, and nations…

And the application of science to the evolving system:
yielding excess CO2, and nuclear weapons;
and the “coming due” of forestalled effects long held off by creative accounting,
the lack of regulation;
and greed.

All of this in a short period of around 150,000 years:
with dramatic acceleration with the coming of the “industrial revolution”.

So, despite the “classical definitions”, the “modern period”, may be noted to be
when homo-twolegs started using personal ego to get “what he/she wanted”
to the exclusion of whole-istic considerations.

Gimme gimme gimme


That was the date I would have suggested as well, although Edward IV was pretty modern compared to many of his predecessors.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that we all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place.

Nah. The trees were a bad move and no-one should ever have left the oceans.

I would have been so disappointed with the Dope if this reply hadn’t happened.

I’m just surprised that I got there first.

Personally, I would say that the Industrial Revolution was the start of the Industrial Era, with the Modern Era coming later. But that might just be my time playing Civilization. Offhand, I’d probably put the start of the Modern Era at the release of the Model T, when self-propelled vehicles became available to the general public. That’s also pretty close to the time of powered flight and of wireless communication, also highly significant inventions. And personal weaponry has advanced almost not at all since that time, with many weapons designed (or even, possibly, built, if they’ve been maintained well) in that era still being popular today.