Tag Archives: 17th century

The Camino Pilgrimage way through the Northern Spain

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Map of Northern Spain, 1606.

This map covers part of Spain that is today the autonomous communities of Asturias, Cantabria, Basque County, Castille and Leon, La Rioja and Navarra. This area is well-known to modern day pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Two routes of the Camino lead through this area: the Camino Frances: from the Pyrenees (where it connects to the network of routes converging from all of Europe), passing the cities of Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Ponteferrada towards Santiago de Compostela; and Camino del Norte, which is a route mimicking the Biscay Bay coastline towards Galicia. Nowadays, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is very popular, and approximately 200 000 pilgrims walk one of the routes every year. This was not the case when this map was first printed in 1606, though. In the 17th century, the reformation movement continued to be active in Europe and wars were frequent in the 16th and 17th centuries, which made Spain extremely complicated for pilgrims to enter at this time. There are many books written about the Camino de Santiago from the pilgrim’s point of view.

Jean-Christophe Rufin’s “Immortelle randonnée” (in French, Italian and Czech) gives the reader a taste of the life of a modern pilgrim and the atmosphere of the Way in general. “Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino” by Joyce Rupp is another memoir from a pilgrim’s journey to Santiago.

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1640s – Crete Becoming an Ottoman Territory

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Map of the Island of Crete (Candia), 1644.

This map shows the island of Crete during a particularly turbulent time. In 1644, it was still a Venetian colony and its official name was The Kingdom of Candia. After the Republic of Venice lost Cyprus in the 1570s, the Kingdom of Candia remained its last major overseas dominion. The Ottomans were set on the island due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea. That year, Maltese ships attacked an Ottoman convoy that was heading from Constantinople to Alexandria. The convoy carried a number of pilgrims bound for Mecca including a woman who was believed to be one of the wives of the sultan and her son. The Maltese won the battle and took captives to be sold as slaves.

On the voyage home, the Maltese stopped in Crete to take on supplies. The Ottomans considered this act a breach of Venetian neutrality and declared war on the Republic of Venetia. Most of the island was conquered by the Ottomans in the early years of the war. The capital city of Candia (now Heraklion) resisted until 1669, thus making it one of the longest sieges in history.

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Fantasizing about the Earth’s Poles

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Map of the Polar Regions, 1690.

This map shows how people thought the Polar Regions looked before there were explored. The North Pole is marked Pole Septentrional Arctique on this map. Septentrional means “North” and the name is derived from the seven stars of the Big Plough constellation. It is clear from the map that the northern coast of Greenland, Svalbard and other islands in the Arctic Ocean were yet to be explored and mapped. The area around the South Pole on this map is captured as “Terra Magellanique Australis”, with Australis meaning south and Magellanique referring to the Portuguese explorer Fernando Magellan who explored the southern passage between Antarctica and Southern America. It was sometimes also called Terra Australis Incognita (The unknown land of the South), The Cold Land or Megallonica and it was a mythical land. Its existence was not based on any direct exploration, but rather on the theory that the land mass to the north should be balanced by a similar mass to the south. The Antipodes of Paris is marked on the map. This map is beautifully illustrated with pictures from Greek mythology. For example, there is the Horn of Plenty in the bottom left corner.

To touch the spirit of Antarctica, read Sara Wheeler’s “Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica”.

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Java under Dutch Control

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Map of the Island of Java, 1700

In 1700, Java was part of a Dutch colony that had been administered through the Dutch East India Company (VOC) for almost one hundred years. The VOC controlled much of the spice trade in the area of what is today Indonesia and beyond that. Batavia (today known as Jakarta) was established as the VOC headquarters in 1619. Based on agreements with the native kingdoms on Java, only Dutch ships were allowed to trade in the archipelago and so the VOC became the dominant ruler in the area. The Dutch sent close to a million people to Indonesia in the 17th and 18th centuries to further strengthen its control over the region.

Europe and a wider world, 1415–1715” by the British historian J. H. Parry comprehensively covers the Dutch colonial era in Indonesia.

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The Pillars of Hercules

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Nautical Map of the Strait of Gibraltar, 1644.

The Strait of Gibraltar has always been a highly strategic naval passage between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and therefore the subject of many disputes and wars. The name comes from Arabic, meaning Tariq’s mountain, referring to the Muslim commander Tariq ibn Ziyad who conquered the Rock in the early 8th century. In ancient times, the Strait was called The Pillars of Hercules (Columnae Herculis). This refers to the legend of Hercules and his twelve labours. One of these, which included travelling to the most western limits of the world, was to bring the cattle of Geryon to Greece. The title Pillars of Hercules was also included on ancient maps before Gibraltar became the widespread name for the Rock and the nearby Strait from the 8th century onwards.

The travel book, “Pillars of Hercules” by Paul Theroux describes the author’s travels from Gibraltar around the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Ceuta, a Spanish territory in Africa, just across from Gibraltar.

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The Foundation of Antananarivo

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Map of the Island of Madagascar, 1677.

In the 17th century, the majority of the territory that is now Madagascar was part of the Marina Kingdom (c. 1540–1897). Antananarivo, the present day capital city of the modern state of Madagascar, was founded around the time the map was first printed. In the local language, Antananarivo means the city of the thousand. Back then, it took time to include a newly founded town into a map, which is why Antananarivo is not shown on this map.

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Power Division of the Western Balkans in the Early 17th Century

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Map of the Western Balkans, 1603.

At the beginning of 17th century, the Western Balkan region was divided between three powers: the Republic of Venice dominated the peninsula of Istria and the Northern part of Dalmatia; the Hapsburg Monarchy ruled a strip of coastline between Istria and Dalmatia and the adjoining inland area of what is today Croatia. The last big power in the region was the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the area of what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. The Republic of Radusa with its centre of Dubrovnik was also officially a vassal territory of the Turks. The borders of these territories are marked with a dotted line on the map.

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The Eddystone Lighthouse Story

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Portolan Map Covering the Atlantic Ocean by the English, French, Spanish and Portugese Coastline, 1698. This map  oriented to the East.

Because of the colonies in Africa, Asia and America, the intensity of transatlantic trade had increased considerably by the end of the 17th century. This made the coastline of England, France, Spain and Portugal very busy due to the maritime traffic. The development of seafaring brought the need for new tools in navigation and safety at sea. That is why many lighthouses were built in this area.

The first recorded instance of an offshore lighthouse was in 1698, which was built on Eddystone Rocks, located about 14 kilometres offshore from the major harbour of Plymouth. The rocks are also marked on this map. There is a moving story of Mr Henry Winstanley connected to this lighthouse. Winstanley was a man with many interests such as mechanics or mathematics. He became a merchant and purchased five ships for such entrepreneurial activities. After two of the ships were wrecked on Eddystone Rocks, Winstanley complained, claiming that ships should be protected from such dangerous rocks, but nothing was done as the reef was considered impossible to mark. As a result, he decided to build a lighthouse himself, which took him two years to finish. He had to face unexpected obstacles during the construction. As this was in the period when England was at war with France, he was taken captive by a French privateer while on the construction site and taken to France. The construction had been destroyed. However, the French King Louis XIV ordered his immediate release, stating: “France is at war with England, not with humanity”. Winstanley returned to the Eddystone reef and finished the construction in 1698. He remained as the lighthouse keeper for the next five years. During the time he ran the lighthouse, no ships were wrecked on Eddystone rock. He died in the lighthouse in 1703 during a particularly strong storm.

For the full story, read “Henry Winstanley and the Eddystone Lighthouse” by Adam Hart-Davis or “Fearless” by Elvira Woodruf.

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The Canamunt and the Canavall – Majorca’s Romeo and Juliet Story

Map of the Balearic Islands, 1639.

The 17th century was a very turbulent period in the history of the islands. The islanders had to face frequent attacks from Berber and Turkish pirates. In Palma, Majorca’s capital, daily life was strongly influenced by the ongoing conflict between the two noble families, which divided the city into two hostile territories – the Canamunt and the Canavall. The entire story is strikingly reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, which was released around the same time. Just like with the Montagues and the Capulets, Nicolau Rossinyol loved Elisabet Anglada, but her family did not approve. The Rossinyols took offence and a battle followed, which resulted into the territory being divided between the two clans. The confrontations sustained over time. In the next phase, alliances were made between the clans and gangs of bandits to strengthen their position and the clashes became more violent. In total, the conflict lasted almost 70 years between 1598 and 1666; however, the banditry persisted until the War of Spanish Succession. Every September 4th, a battle with water guns between the Canamunt and Canavall sides takes place in Palma de Majorca in commemoration of the two opposing sides.

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17th Century – Exploration of Australia

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Map of the World, 1680.

The map shows that there were still many parts of the world unexplored in 1680. These were some of the islands in the Arctic Ocean (back then called Oceanus Septentrionalis – The Northern Ocean, named after the seven stars of the Big Plough star constellation); also Alaska, Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand.

The most important explorations of Australia took place in the 17th century. The first documented European landing on Australia was in 1606 by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. Ships from the Dutch East India Company continued to explore the Australian coastline over the following years. In the 1640s, the Dutch captain Abel Tasman set out on two voyages; during the first voyage he explored and mapped the Northern coast of the continent that he named New Holland. It is under this name that Australia is shown on this map. During his second voyage, Tasman explored Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) and New Zealand. The last parts of Australia’s coastline were those most densely populated today: New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

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