When do you feel marks the beginning of the modern era (in the West)?

The modern era, depending on people’s opinion, seems to either start in the late 15th century or sometime during the 16th century. For example, historians consider that the accession of Henry Tudor to the English Throne in 1485 and the end of the War of the Roses marks the end of the Medieval period and the beginning of what is called “The Early Modern Period” in England. I personally have mixed feelings on that date range.

I for example feel The Battle of Cerignola - in which early guns made the difference in a major battle for the first time - could mark the beginning in a sense of the modern era -the beginning of the end of swords and the beginning of modern weaponry as such - that was 1503.

I’m curious when you guys consider it to have started though

Hell, I would have gone with 1945. The rise of American dominance leading to the 21st century is a bigger sea change to the world than every single thing that happened since the 1400s.

When historians consider the great epochs of human history, 1945 can still be considered “current events” :slight_smile:

The modern era is generally considered to start at the end of the Renaissance - somewhere in the 15th or 16th centuries, because it marked the rise of nation-states. The end of the Wars of the Roses is a convenient date.

If we have to choose something specific, my own big event preference is the Fall of Constantinople. No one thought the Byzantines(they still thought of themselves as Romans) could come back after that, and the final passing of the Empire was news around the known world. While that was seen as an inevitability, it was considered - even at the time - to be the passing of an era.

But while I’ll put my money on 1453, it’s not like somebody just threw a switch and the Modern era began, and different dates can work just as well.

Two major events: The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and Columbus reaching the New World in 1492. You could throw in the fall of the last Muslim state in Iberia in 1491 but that was just a mopping up operation.

The old college texts I knew on Western Civilization used the late 1400s as the dividing point between Medieval and Modern and used those two events as their jumping off point.

Note that the fall of Constantinople’s big impact to the West was the dispersion of knowledge that went with it. Educated Christians with books started showing up in Italy and then spread out.

And the beginning of the Age of Discovery impacted the whole globe, not just Europe. The before and after of Westerners showing up with guns all over the place was significant.

The 1519-1521 Conquest of Mexico and the subsequent Spanish (and other European) colonization of the Americas. The gold and silver brought into Europe by the Spanish treasure fleets empowered Europe and led (IMHO) to the dominance shown by Europe in the future history of the planet. So to me that’s the start of the ‘modern’ Era/

To go on, it’s rather hard to define ‘Modern’, since changes (like the fall of Constantinople) take time to develop and for most people living at the time things don’t change much from one year to the next.

I’d also propose a much later date than many, the first really successful steam engine (1712 by a Thomas Newcomen, with improvements later by James Watt). Nothing of today’s industry or civilization would be here unless a relatively cheap and plentiful source of converting potential energy to lots of power had come on the market.

The date may be apocryphal, but we can assume it was sometime around this time, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Protestant Revolution. That was an important event in ushering in the modern era.

Personally, I would vote for 1882. That’s when Thomas Edison formed the first electric company in Manhattan, and brought electricity into homes and businesses for the first time.

I am certainly aware of this. My degrees are in history. I’ve just always disagreed with it as, in my experience, most historians still subscribe to an outmoded way of looking at things.

Look at one of the listing in this thread: the rise of nation-states. I think a decent argument could be made that since the industrial revolution nation-states have been on their way out the door. Their relevance continues at the moment due to inertia but multi-national corporate - both industrial and technological - entities are far surpassing them in power.

Would that make this era ‘post-modern’? Or is some other label more suitable?

Could even break in down into the industrial era - if you consider the 1400s ‘modern’ then the industrial era is very different - and the ‘communications era’ in which we’ve seen the rise of all forms of electronic communications to bring control of information out of the hands of nation-states and into corporate hands.

I’ll nominate development of the telegraph circa CE 1840 as ushering in fast, distant communications. Premodern knowledge was mostly local and slow to spread. The non-local seemed mighty strange. We’re now intimately and almost instantaneously linked globally and beyond.

Earlier turning point IMHO involved some guys, not an event. Tycho Brahe emphasized the need for regular, detailed observations - empirical facts, not occasional notes and suppositions - to understand the universe. I also see Francis Bacon’s formalization of the scientific method as transformative. These are the foundations of our current world.

BTW “modern” is IMHO a terrible label for fixed dates. Today is modern; last week is ancient. Next week will be ancient by next month. :eek:

The story of the world over the last five-plus centuries is the story of how Europeans and their ideas came to dominate the world, and if I had to start that with anything, it would be the discovery of the New World.

As good a point as any to me would be the Witchcraft act 1735, which granted, was not a sudden sea change in society, but was making the law reflective of the changing zeitgeist of the enlightenment. But still, in terms of superstitious attitudes, I would much rather be sent back to the mid-18th century than to the 17th.

The “modern era” of the Post-World-War-II world is starting to look like a brief flash-in-the-pan.

We want an “era” to be some major pattern or trend of events that becomes stable and persists for a long long time. The Post-War era seemed to get off to a real good start for 50 years or so, but now seems to be disintegrating before our eyes, not even a century later. We hardly knew ye.

I would go back as far as the 1200’s and the beginning of real sea travel and exploration. Like Marco Polo. The business and trade possibilities opened up trade and opportunities that had previously only existed on a much smaller scale. There was no going back.

Countries like Spain and Portugal opening up these new lands and trades was like an explosion of capitalism. And conquests, unfortunately conquests can be seen as having a modernizing result.

This eventually led to the British Empire’s global influence in so many lands that is was true that the sun never set upon the British Empire.

So I would start the modern era with the advent of major sea travel and trade, for better or worse.

Yeah, I’m comfortable with 1492 but I’m not dogmatic about it. As always there are no right or wrong answers. Or perhaps more accurately, all the standard answers are both right and wrong depending on your POV.

Except 1945 which is clearly wrong, full stop :).

The Ottoman victory over the Aq Qoyunlu at Bashkent( Otlukbeli ) in 1473 might better claim that distinction( it certainly well precedes the more famous Ottoman gunpowder triumph over the Safavids at Chaldiran in 1514 ).

But at any rate it is such a subjective thing. Gunnery was making the difference in even earlier battles. For example would the French have won Castillon so decisively in 1453 without guns?