Timeline of the 17th century

Timeline of major events in the 17th century 

1606 Jamestown, Virginia, established-first permanent English colony on American mainland. Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, saves life of John Smith.

1609 Johannes Kepler publishes his Laws of Planetary Motion which explained the movement of planets around the sun.

1610 Galileo Galilei sees the moons of Jupiter through his telescope. Galileo also showed the Copernican system in which the planets circle the sun was correct.

1611 King James Version of the Bible published in England.

1616 William Shakespeare dies.

1618 Start of the Thirty Years’ War – Protestants revolt against Catholic oppression; Denmark, Sweden, and France invade Germany in later phases of war. Johannes Kepler proposes last of three laws of planetary motion.

1619 The first African slaves are brought to Jamestown.
(Slavery is made legal in 1650.)

1620 Pilgrims from England arrive at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the Mayflower.

1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan island for the Dutch from Man-a-hat-a Indians for goods worth $24. The island is renamed New Amsterdam.

1630 Boston is founded by Massachusetts colonists led by John Winthrop.

1631 The Taj Mahal is built in India (1631 – 1653)

1633 The Spanish Inquisition forces Galileo Galilei to recant his belief in Copernican theory.

1642 English Civil War. Cavaliers, supporters of Charles I, against Roundheads, parliamentary forces. Oliver Cromwell defeats Royalists (1646). Parliament demands reforms. Charles I offers concessions, brought to trial (1648), beheaded (1649). Cromwell becomes Lord Protector (1653). Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn paints his Night Watch.

1644 End of Ming Dynasty in China-Manchus come to power. René Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy.

1648 End of the Thirty Years’ War. German population about half of what it was in 1618 because of war and pestilence.

1658 Oliver Cromwell dies; son Richard resigns and Puritan government collapses.

1660 English Parliament calls for the restoration of the monarchy; invites Charles II to return from France.

1661 Charles II is crowned King of England. Louis XIV begins personal rule as absolute monarch; starts to build Versailles.

1664 Isaac Newton’s experiments with gravity. The English seize New Amsterdam from the Dutch. The city is renamed New York.

1665 Great Plague in London kills 75,000.

1699 French settlers move into Mississippi and Louisiana.


Restoration Housewives and Heroines

These articles and video series are easy to read/watch and give insight into the lives of English women during the restoration era and how similar they are to our lives today.  Aphra Behn and other exploratory women are detailed as well the lives and customs of common women, wives, prostitutes and the wealthy.
This is research that  Nina, our costume designer, found and thought that all of you could benefit from it as well.

An article on the series, comparing 17th century women to women of today.

Below a episode from the BBC series “Harlots,Housewives, and Heroines at work and play” It explores the day to day lives of 17th century women in London as well as the lives of some of the extraordinary women of the time.

The Language of Courtesans

This article discusses courtesans’ use of language as a powerful and manipulative entrepreneurial strategy.  In the courtesan business sex and language worked hand in hand to encourage men into giving up their money.  Their language was so seductive and exhilarating that courtesans were often described as witches and compared to deadly Greek seductresses.  Yet, the courtesans were economically and socially a fundamental part of their cities despite being looked at with both awe and horror.


Women and Carnival

Women during carnival are often put through the lens of the male gaze, represented through the minds of men.  Behaviors and circumstances are often distorted as a result yet, women also have the ability to reverse their roles in society during carnival with the help of masquerade and the carnival open-mindedness.



In the 17th century sex was strongly discouraged outside of wedlock.  Yet, casual sex began to arise with the commonality of prostitutes and courtesans.  It was not uncommon for men, especially soldiers, to have sex with many women while abroad.

Pornography and Sexual desires in 17th century England

Primary sources detailing opinions and reflections on sexual experiences by women in the 17th century.

Religion in the 17th Century

The 17th century began a rise in conflict over Religion especially in England.  People were expected to belong to the Church of England, yet there were a great amount of Roman Catholics too.  Those who did not below to the Church were severely frowned upon including Roman Catholics, Jews and Gypsies.  England was primarily Anglican during this time, Spain was primarily Roman Catholic and Italy was primarily Roman Catholic.

To learn more about religion in the 17th century refer to the links below:

Overview of religion in 17th century England

Roman Catholic Beliefs

Anglican Beliefs

Primary sources that represent women’s view on religion and its importance to their lives.  17th-century-religion-and-women

Carnival Masks

“Universal madness… the women, men, and persons of all conditions disguising themselves in antique dresses with extravagant musique and a thousand gambols.” – John Evelyn

Carnival festivities in Italy were widely renowned and were directed at foreigners as well as the locals. It provided the opportunity for men and women to come together without the need to discuss serious matters, though trade often did occur. In order to fully invest in the free and anonymous spirit of Carnival, all partakers donned a mask.

Many Venetians would dress up as their favorite stock characters from commedia dell’arte including:

(1) Mattacino – all white except for red shoes/laces, feathered hat

(2) Pantalone – the emblem of Venice; red waistcoat and black cloak

(3) Arlecchino – multicolored costume

(4) Pulcinella – likely the most popular mask, originating from Naples; dressed with large white trousers and large shirt

(1) image    (2) pantalonew1

(3) cdcarlplate3  (4) imgres


Besides the commedia dell’arte masks, the most popular form of costume was the bauta – silk or velvet the covered the head and shoulders with a three-cornered hat worn on top; the face was then covered by a half-mask or a beak-like mask known as larva.venetian_masks__la_bauta_by_fabula_docet

In addition to these, some individuals wore other styles of masks including some which were meant to be held between the teeth, preventing speech. In general, men tended to wear white masks and women wore black.

Carnival masking traditions were taken quite seriously by the population and even if the mask did not fully disguise the masked individual, their identity was never to be revealed.

Additional reading including more information about commedia dell’arte characters replicated during Carnival:



The World in 1650

The 17th century in Europe is divided into two subsections: Reformation, Restoration and Enlightenment.  At the beginning of the century, wars broke out both civilly and internationally with aims to change monarchical power as well as religious and social reform.  The Enlightenment sparked creative, technological and political innovations in light of new social and political reform.

1 age of growing religious conflict ca. 1500-1618
2 Thirty Years’ War ca. 1618-1648
3 Early Enlightenment ca. 1648-1715
4 Late Enlightenment ca. 1715-1800
5 English Revolution ca. 1640-60
6 French Revolution ca. 1789-99

To find out more refer to these short articles and timelines of Early Modern Europe (Reformation and Enlightenment):