chapter  1
27 Pages

Navies and the Mediterranean in the Early Modern Period

Historians of the Mediterranean have paid considerable attention to the period 1450-1700, and for good reason. During the early modern centuries seafarers adopted new ships and sailing techniques that changed the character of trade and naval warfare. Equally important were changes in the rivalries that marked Mediterranean seafaring. After centuries in which Latin and Orthodox Christian powers had dominated the Mediter­ ranean, the rise of the Ottomans led to a titanic clash between Christian and Muslim civilizations. In that struggle, which involved political, religious, commercial and cultural antagonisms, the diverse peoples of the Mediterranean were the major players at first. None the less, a much larger theater of rivalry extended from the Mediterranean northward to central Europe and the Black Sea and southeastward into western Asia and the Indian Ocean. During the sixteenth century, in the aftermath of the Age of Discoveries, the European center of economic and political activity shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and beyond.1 However, in the broader context of world trade and international rivalries, the Mediterranean retained its strategic importance. During the seven­ teenth century European states that were primarily linked to the Atlantic world - England, Holland and France - established themselves in the Mediterranean as well.