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Interesting Happenings
From Around the World
1000-1499 AD

Linda Haas Davenport
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1000: World population estimated at 300 million. Leif Ericson lands in North America, calling it Vinland. The first vision aid is invented (inventor unknown) called a reading stone - a glass sphere that is laid on top of the material to be read that magnifies the letters.

1010: The Tale of Genji, the book usually considered as the world's first novel, by Shikibu Murasaki, lady in waiting to the empress of Japan. Nile frozen over - also happened in 829.

1023: Paper money printed in China. First governmental currency reserve bank, in China, counterfeiting carried the death penalty.

1040: Movable wood type invented in China by Bi Sheng. He also developed movable baked clay type.

1044: Gasoline-based flame-throwers common in China. The earliest surviving recipes for gunpowder can be found in the Wujing Zongyao (China). An early form of the compass (a magnetized needle floating in water) is invented in China.

1046: The weather turns especially cold throughout Europe. Monks note in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that "no man alive...could remember so severe a winter." It is the first known record of the beginning of the 200 year period of exceptional cold, known as the Little Ice Age.

1073: Pope Gregory VII attacks the problem called simony, the buying and selling of offices in the church, such as paying a large fee to be named bishop. He then decreed an end to marriage among the clergy.

1077: William the Conqueror begins construction of Windsor Castle.

1078: Construction of the Tower of London begins - at the direction of William the Conqueror.

1085: While spending Christmas in Gloucester, William the Conqueror "had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire ... to find out ... what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).

1086: William the Conqueror's great survey of England is recorded in The Domesday Book (also known as Domesday, or Book of Winchester). It is the oldest surviving document outside of court records. (In August 2006, a complete online version of Domesday Book was made available for the first time by the UK's National Archives.) Shen Kua of China writes about the magnetic compass, relief maps and the origins of fossils.

1088: The birth of the modern university (a secular degree-granting institution with at least one professional school attached) is thought to begin with the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy founding its law university.

1096-1291: The Christian Crusades march across Europe.

1096: Teachers from mainland Europe and other scholars settle in Oxford, and lectures are known to have been delivered as of this date. The beginning of what will become Oxford University.

1100: China develops weapons using gunpowder.

1107: Chinese money printed in 3 colors to stop counterfeiting.

1117: Seagoing compasses first used.

1119: Knights Templar founded by French nobleman, Hugues de Payens, from the Champagne region, with the stated mission "to protect pilgrims on their journey to visit The Holy Places". The Knights wear distinctive white mantles quartered by a red cross,

1153: Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House (modern name) opens in Kaifeng, China. It's the first restaurant (as we know them) and although documentation does not exist to prove continuous service it is still in operation today.

1155: Map of western China printed (oldest known printed map).

1160: Welsh longbow has range of 250 meters, more accurate than crossbow, and with four times the rate of fire.

1162: Genghis Khan born.

1170: Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

1173: Building of the Leaning Tower of Pisa begins in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracle Square) in the town of Pisa, Italy. Is considered on of the Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages.

1176: Citadel of Cairo is under construction. Is considered on of the Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages.

1178: Construction stopped on the Leaning Tower of Pisa at the 3rd floor when the tower started to lean. Construction will resume in 1272.

1184: Paved streets begin in Paris.

1190: The Louvre Museum in Paris built as a fortress.

1201: Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, formalized with the naming of a chancellor.

1202: Leonardo Fibonacci publishes Liber Abaci (The Book of the Abacus), which deals with fractions, percentages and the number zero.

1209: Cambridge University, second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, is founded when Oxford scholars move to Cambridge to escape the "Town & Gown" riots.

1211: Genghis Khan invades China. Fragments of the account book of a Amatino Manucci, a Florentine merchant present the earliest known evidence of the double entry-system of bookkeeping although many scholars believe it to have been in use for quite some time.

1215: The Magna Carta signed in England. Considered the first document that contains the seeds of Democracy. Many of its ideas will find their way into the US Bill of Rights.

1221: Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II declares all official documents written on paper to be invalid. Parchment and vellum used instead. Cast iron bombshells used in China.

1229: The Council of Toulouse forbids the laity to possess or read the vernacular translations of the Bible.

1234: The Council of Tarragona orders "All vernacular versions of the Bible to be brought to the bishop to be burned".

1250: Guns in use in China.

1252: The flioria gold coins created in Florence - it will become the first international currency.

1266: England passes a law regulating quality, measurement, and pricing of bread. It will be in force for the next 600 years.

1268: Invention of eyeglasses, according to some sources; others date it as 1285 or 1289.

1271: The start of Venetian glass production with the establishment of the first glass "factories".

1276: Colored signal flares used to signal troops in China.

1277: Powerful exploding land mines used in China.

1280: The first mechanical clocks made - used to ring bells on the hour.

1282: The Mafia begins operating in Sicily, Italy.

1284: In Italy, Salvino D'Armate is credited with inventing the first wearable eyeglasses.

1293: Paper manufactured in Bologna.

1300: Beginning of the Renaissance. Money from Florence, Italy is now the first international currency. Corsets for women introduced.

1311: The world's first history, The Great Universal History, published by Rashid-Eddin of Persia.

1314: England bans football (soccer) because it's too violent.

1326: The first written reference to a handgun, found in an order for iron bullets.

1335: First public clock that strikes hourly erected in Milan.

1337: Hundred Years' War between France and England begins.

1347-1351: At least 25 million people die in Europe's "Black Death" (bubonic plague).

1349: Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron published - a collection of 100 novellas. Written in the "language of the people", as opposed to Latin, the language of scholars.

1350: Drinking chocolate made by Aztecs. Steel crossbows common in Europe.

1352: First known painting showing the subject wearing eyeglasses is Tomaso da Modena's portrait of the cardinal Hugh de Provence reading in a scriptorium.

1364: First recorded description of the use of a gun - shooter lights the wick by hand that ignites gunpowder that is loaded into the gun barrel.

1366: Weighing scales invented.

1376-1382: John Wycliffe, pre-Reformation religious reformer, and followers translates the Latin Bible into English.

1368: Clock to ring the bells on the hour is installed in Salisbury Cathedral in England (and is still working).

1375: Firearms common in Europe.

1381: Peasants' Revolt in England

1387: Geoffrey Chaucer authors a collection of stories called Canterbury Tales.

1390: First written documentation of the Masonic order - Regius Manuscript.

1391: The Bureau of Imperial Supplies in China is producing 720,000 sheets of toilet paper a year, each sheet measuring two feet by three feet. It is for use by the Emperors.

1397: In a manuscript it is reported that a certain Hermann Poll has invented a clavicembalum or harpsichord. In doing so he has adapted the keyboard (long familiar in the organ) to the playing of strings. Whether or not Poll is its actual inventor, the harpsichord rapidly becomes a successful and widespread instrument.

1400: Matchlock guns invented in China - first mechanically fired guns. Wicks are attached to a clamp that springs into gunpowder placed in a "flash pan".

1402: London's Bedlam institution, a former monastery whose named derived from Bethlehem, begins to house the poor and incurably mad.

1407: The birth of "checking accounts" - created in Genoa called Casa di San Giorgio issuing "bills of exchange" that functioned as IOUs.

1408: Archbishop of Canterbury (Henry Chicheley) issues this decree: "We therefore decree and ordain that no man shall, hereafter, by his own authority, translate any text of the scripture into English, or any other tongue."

1410: The French Book of the Chase depicts hunting dogs and snares. The earliest known copy of an English carol was probably written by Ritson. The Christmas song lyrics are: "I saw a sweet, a seemly sight, A blissful burd, a blossom bright, That mourning made and mirth among: A maiden mother meek and mild In cradle keep a knave child, That softly slept; she sat and sung, Lullay, lulla balow, My bairn, sleep softly now."

1412: Use of sea mines declassified and talked about freely in China.

1413: Iceland uses dried fish as money.

1416: The Drepung Loseling Monastery is founded in Lhasa, Tibet by Chojey Tashi Palden, as a center for Buddhist teaching. It will be the home for early Dalai Lamas.

1421: The first patent is awarded by the Republic of Florence, however, there is evidence suggesting that something like patents was used among some ancient Greek cities

1421: Hoisting gear invented in Florence.

1426: Joan of Arc leads the French against the English. Mexico's Aztec overthrows its rulers and begins to create an empire.

1428: John Wycliffe, English theologian and biblical translator, is posthumously declared a heretic and his body is exhumed for burning (44 years after his death).

1431: Joan of Arc burned at the stake.

1434: Nov 24th, The Thames River froze.

1435: King James sends troops to hunt down and kill Sawney Beane, his wife, their 14 children and 32 incest-spawned grandchildren. The inbred clan waylaid travelers and feasted on their flesh.

1436: Vlad III or Dracula as he is more popularly known assumes the throne of Walachia in Transylvania and embarks on his reign of terror.

1438: Empire of the Inca is founded by Pachacuti.

1439: Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a German goldsmith and printer, is credited with inventing movable type and mechanical printing. Along the way he was the first to use oil-based ink and a wooden printing press. Jul 16th, Kissing is banned in England in order to stop the spreading of pestilence and disease.

1440: Gilles de Rais, hero of France's Hundred Years' War and great favorite of Joan of Arc is executed after admitting he sodomized, mutilated and killed 140 children on his estate. It is believed he actually killed over 300 children. Lief Eriksson draws a map of America about this time.

1441: Portuguese kidnap several noble-born Africans, who in turn offer African slaves to the captors as ransom.

1444: First officially recorded Christmas tree is erected in Tallinn, Estonia. It is erected by the Brotherhood of Blackheads (local merchants guild) to celebrate the birth Christ. It is decorated with red and white roses. Slaves from Africa are first carried to Portugal.

1446: In Scotland Sir William St. Clair, a grand master in the Knights Templar, founds the Rosslyn Chapel. It is built in the shape of a cross in the Pentland Hills outside Edinburgh.

1448: Pope Nicholas V combines all the documents of prior popes and founds the Vatican library. When its first librarian, Bartolomeo Platina, produced a listing in 1481, the library held over 3500 items, making it by far the largest in the Western world.

1449: Thomas Brightfield of London, develops a toilet flushed by water piped from a cistern.

1450: The stimulating effect of coffee is discovered by the Sufis in Yeman. Coffee will go on to become the world's most traded commodity other than oil.

1453: Hundred Year War between France and England ends. Johannes Gutenberg prints the Bible with his invention of moveable type. Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks - a new sea route to Asia becomes compelling.

1455: Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, releases 200 copies of the Bible he printed using his new kind of press and movable type. It takes one full day for a worker to set the type for one page of the Bible, but after the type is set as many copies as a person wants can be printed easily and quickly. This new press, new moveable type and process brings reading and writing to the masses. Wars of the Roses plunges England into a series of internal wars that will last for 30 years. In an effort to rein in economic expansion and end hyperinflation, the new Ming Dynasty ends paper money production and use. Has closed down much of China's trading.

1456: Earthquake in Naples kills approximately 35,000 people. An appellate court reverses and annuls the sentence against Joan of Arc pronounced some 25 years earlier.

1457: King James II of Scotland bans the games of "golfe" and "Futeball" saying they distract his men from archery practice.

1458: Benedetto Cotrugli of the Kingdom of Naples publishes the first known work on double-entry bookkeeping - Book on the Art of Trade (Libro de l'arte de la mercatura).

1462: First known reference to a pocket watch - Letter from Italian clockmaker Bartholomew Manfredi to the Duke of Modena. where he offers him a "pocket clock".

1469: Isabelle of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon marry and give rise to a united Spain.

1470: Peter Schoeffer publishes a bookseller's advertisement. (It is thought to be to the first printed poster on paper in Europe.)

1472: Dante's Devine Comedy is first printed.

1474: Republic of Venice issues first patent laws - a decree by which new and inventive devices, once they had been put into practice, had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers.

1477: Vlad III (Dracula) killed in battle bringing to an end his reign of terror. France establishes the Poste Royael the forerunner of the modern postal system. William Caxton sets up the first printing press in England. On Nov 18th he publishes the first dated book printed in England. Dictes & Sayengis of the Phylosophers, by Earl Rivers, the king's brother-in-law, translated from French. The first printed atlas, Ptolemy's Cosmographia

1478: The first edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton.

1482: Portuguese Diogo Cao finds the mouth of the Congo River.

1484: Pope Innocent VIII issues a bull deploring the spread of witchcraft and heresy in Germany. He orders that all cats belonging to witches scheduled to be burned, be burned also.

1485: A mysterious and highly virulent disease called "Sweating Sickness" sweeps across England. The onset of symptoms is dramatic and sudden, with death often occurring within hours. (Its cause still remains unknown). England's War of Roses ends. Leonardo da Vinci, a pupil of Verrocchio, makes detailed sketches of parachutes. The medical encyclopedia Gart der Gesundheit describes the female mandrake (or mandragora, a purple-flowered tuber with roots that often resembled the human body) thought to stop bleeding, and to scream when pulled by its roots. Many people believe that the mandrake shrieks when harvested and that anyone hearing the piercing cry would die.

1486: Christopher Columbus petitions the Spanish monarchs (King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I Queen of Castile and León) for funds to undertake a voyage to Asia by sailing west. Although not granted the funds he is granted an annuity to secure an option on the project. German churchman and inquisitor Heinrich Kraemer and Johann Sprenger, Dominican friars, published Malleus melefircarum (The Witches' Hammer), which becomes the authoritative encyclopedia of demonology throughout Christendom. The authority of their work, which was a synthesis of folk beliefs that had until then been manifested in local outbursts of witch finding, lasted through the European witch craze of the next three centuries.

1487: Bell chimes invented.

1489: The Plague ravages the Netherlands.

1490: The first historical record of a stove being built in Alsace, France. This stove was made entirely of brick and tile, including the flue. French mount bronze cannons on carriages. In Venice the Aldine Press (credited with the introduction of italics), founded by Aldus Manutius the Elder, opens and publishes the first "pocket books" - editions of poetry and Greek classics. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean astronomers report a bright comet for 48 nights during the mid-winter weeks of 1490-1491. Dubbed the "Comet of 1491" it comes within 873,784 of earth, the closest ever recorded.

1492: Columbus sets sail on his famous journey. Lorenzo de' Medici dies. Leonardo da Vinci produces his drawings of the Ornithopter flying machine. Although never built the modern helicopter is based on his design. One of the earliest written reports of a blood transfusion - Pope Innocent VIII, in Rome, has an apoplectic stroke; becomes weak and goes into a coma. His physician advised a blood transfusion as a therapeutic measure for the Pope's illness. Employing crude methods, the Pope did not benefit and died by the end of the year. Nov 15th Christopher Columbus noted the 1st recorded reference to tobacco - "the natives brought fruit, wooden spears, and certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance." As each item seemed much-prized by the natives Columbus accepted the gifts and ordered them brought back to the ship. The fruit was eaten; the pungent "dried leaves" were thrown away. Martin Behaim of Nuremberg creates of the world's first globe.

1493: Columbus sets sail on his 2nd voyage to the New World. In Russia after a major fire in Moscow, Ivan III Moscow forbids the construction of wooden buildings in the old city.

1494: Syphilis, a previously unknown disease, begins to spread through Europe, probably imported by New World explorers. Scots make whiskey. Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli (sometimes Paciolo) publishes Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita a textbook for use in the abbaco schools of Northern Italy. It is a synthesis of the mathematical knowledge of the time and contains the first printed work on algebra written in the vernacular (the spoken language of the day). It also contains thirty-six chapters explaining double entry bookkeeping - the first written description.

1495: Leonardo da Vinci begins work on the fresco The Last Supper. Jun 1st - first written record of Scotch Whiskey appears in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. Friar John Cor is the distiller. John Cabot (real name Giovanni Caboto) aborts attempt to find new route to the Orient. Young Inca girl (dubbed "The Ice Maiden") is killed by a crushing blow to the head probably in a ritual sacrifice. (Her frozen remains will be found near the summit of Mt. Ampato, Peru, by American archeologist Johan Reinhard in 1995.)

1496: Columbus returns from his 2nd trip to the New World. The Treatyse of Fyshynge wyth an Angle" by Dame Juliana Berners (or Barnes or Bernes) prioress of Sopwell nunnery near St Albans publishes the first known book, by a woman, on fishing. Scotland's Education Act of 1496 makes education compulsory for the children of barons and wealthy landowners.

1497: Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) sailing under the sponsorship of the king of England in search of a Northwest Passage is the first European, since the Viking voyages over 4 centuries earlier, to reach the mainland of North America, he claims it for England. Michelangelo completes his Bacchus sculpture, considered his first masterpiece. Girolamo Savonarola, Italian Dominican priest and leader of Florence, known for his anti-Renaissance preaching, is responsible for the "Bonfire of the Vanities". He and his followers sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with what they considered "moral laxity": mirrors, cosmetics, "lewd" pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures, gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women's hats, and the works of immoral and ancient poets. They burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence. Mar 9th Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer, makes the first recorded astronomical observation.

1498: Columbus embarks on his 3rd trip to the New World. The toothbrush with bristles set at a right angle to the handle is invented in China - uses the stiff hairs from a hog's neck, attached to a bamboo stick. An enraged crowd burns the body of Girolamo Savonarola," moral scourge of Florence" and two of his Dominican companions (who had earlier been hung) on the same spot where Savonarola had ordered cultural works burned the year before. The Vienna Boys School and Choir is founded by Emperor Maximilian I.

1499: Michelangelo completes his Pieta, the only work he ever signed. Anne of Brittany begins custom of wearing a white wedding dress.

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