The time of the Renaissance is under a great debate. Was it the end of the middle ages, or the beginning of the modern age? Jacob Burckhardt, in his book The Civilization Of The Renaissance in Italy said that it was the beginning of the modern age.
The Renaissance began in the city-states of northern Italy, which, early on, were controlled by the weakening Holy Roman Empire. The city-states included Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Mantua, Ferrara, Padua, Bologna and Genoa. By the twelfth centuries, these city-states were flourishing communities, which monopolized trade. The merchant-bankers, not the aristocracy, for the first time, were the upper class.
In the beginning of the Renaissance (1300-1450) the city-states were republics, but later (1450-1550) there was despotism, or rule by a rich monarch. The only city-state, which never turned over to despot rule, was Venice.
Renaissance cities were notorious for their sodomy, prostitution, and "Triangles" involving older husbands, young wives, and young lovers.
With the Renaissance came secularism, a new outlook which basically said that religion shouldnít interfere with living life to its fullest. They were not atheists.
Another Renaissance philosophy, individualism stated that people should assert their own personalities, express their feelings and demonstrate their unique talents. This applied only to few, and disregarded the masses.
The prevalent philosophy of the Renaissance, humanism was an "educational and cultural program based on the study of ancient Greek and Roman literature." They did not seek these text to replace Christian texts, rather for the appreciation of ancient texts. "Italian humanists ued classical learning to nourish their new interest in a worldly life." Humanists restored every Roman text that could be found, and tackled moral problems in an essentially secular manner.
(1304-1375) With Boccaccio (1446-1513), Petrarch founded classical humanistic thought. He advanced humanistic thought by encouraging his students to learn Greek and Roman. He was particularly drawn to Cicero, the master of rhetoric.
According to humanism, people were completely subject to Godís will, and it was impossible and discouraged to try to attain excellence. People were capable of excellence and it was their duty to achieve it.
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
(1463-1494) He said that man has the freedom to sheep his own life, in his book Oration on the Dignity of Man. He also said that through his own exertions, man can come to understand and control nature. Man was magus, the magician.
Medieval scholasticism failed because its terms and Latin usage were barbaric, and it did not even provide useful knowledge. The humanists obliterated the Christian view that history is Godís "playpen," and said that human actions and human history determined the past. History alternated between times of "darkness" and times of "light." Even though the humanist valued Greco-Roman tradition, they felt that they might even pass the romans.
(c. 1407-1457) A classicist, Valla wrote the very important Declamation Concerning the False Decretals of Constantine. This book was regarding the papal claim that they controlled all of western Europe, because they had a document from the fourth century bestowing all of the land of the western empire. Valla proved that the document was a forgery when he pointed out that the language at certain points was unknown at Constantineís time.
(1469-1527) An author, his most famous work was The Prince. He made very fundamental contributions to political theory by stating that politics requires force, as well as virtue. He also wrote that the prince had to be both wily and virtuous, and that even when he wasnít he had to make the people believe he was virtuous.
The signature of the Renaissance was its art. It stressed proportion, balance, harmony, and realism. While medieval art portrayed spiritual aspiration, Renaissance art portrays realism, and natural beauty.
(c. 1276-1337) He created figures using Chiaoscuro, alterations of light and shade. He also pioneered in perspective art.
He completed the perspective revolution by figuring out the mathematical formulas for perspective.
(1386-1441) A famous sculptor, Donatello studied anatomy for realism in his figures.
Jan Van Eyck
(c. 1390-1441) A Belgian painter, Van Eyck painted only for accuracy, and not for appearance. He developed oil-base paint, as opposed to egg base.
(c. 1444-1510) A famous Florentine painter, he was one of the first to incorporate structure into the realistic paintings of the past. One of his finest works was "The Birth Of Venus."
Leonardo da Vinci
(1452-1519) A painter, scientist, engineer, anatomist, and inventor, da Vinci painted such works as The Last Supper, St. John, and, The Mona Lisa.
(1475-1564) He created artistic harmony by mastering anatomy and drawing. He was a brilliant sculptor, who sculpted David and Moses.
(1483-1520) The master painter, Raphaelís structure and design, made the beauty of his "Madonna" series some of the most notable art of the period.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Renaissance spread to England, France and Spain. The invention of movable type by Johann Gutenburg facilitated the spread of information, and humanistic thought.
In the early sixteenth century the one major institution, the Roman-Catholic church was attacked by reformers. The church had succumbed to the evils of its own massive wealth and power. Humanists called for reform of the church.
(1483-1546) A Greek monk, Luther rejected the churchís claim to be the only vehicle for human salvation and defied the popeís right to excommunicate any Christian.
By the late middle Ages, the church entered a time of crisis. Theologians and politicians rejected the popeís claim to supremacy over kings. The church was corrupt, and many called for a council to run the church, rather than a pope. Before Luther, there were two other major reformers
(c. 1320-1384) A master student, Wycliffe argued that the Church did not control peopleís destiny. He said that salvation came only to those who posses faith, a gift given by God, and not the church. This made the clergy less important. He said that all true believers were equal and he translated the bible into English. He received support from nobility, who hated the churchís economic power. His attempt to reform the church failed, however, largely due to the Peasantsí Revolt of 1381.
(c. 1369-1415) Burned at the stake by the church, Hus believed that the Holy Roman Empire should be disbanded, and Bohemia should be independent.
Because of Wycliffe and Hus, many people, called mystics, sought a personal relationship with God.
The Lutherian Reformation
As a monk, Luther feared damnation, and even when he completed the sacraments, he still felt the burdens of his sins. After reading the bible, he concluded that no amount of good works would bring salvation, and that through reading the bible, any Christian could obtain all of the answers. The starting point of the reformation was an attack on the churchís policy of selling indulgences. He relied on faith as the only means of salvation. He challenged the churchís ability to save souls, and guard the gates of heaven. In his paper, "The Ninety-Five theses," he wrote that people must repent, and trust Godís mercy. He also said that anyone could read the bible without assistance of the clergy, and that the clergy were on the same level as everyone else. In the eyes of Luther, hope laid only in a personal relationship between the individual and God.
A French theologist named John Calvin stated that all people were damned or blessed from the beginning of life, and Calvinism became the most prevailing form of Protestantism.
When Luther was excommunicated in 1520, it was too late, Luther had many followers, who believed that the pope was Antichrist. When Luther received his excommunication, he burned it. He proclaimed that the Church was "the most lawless den of robbers, the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, and hell." He appealed to the German king to cast off their allegiance to the pope, and that worked, to an extent. The followers of Luther became known as Protestants.
Although Luther reformed religion, and rebelled against the church; Luther believed that Christians should be obedient citizens, and rarely challenged royal authority. In the early sixteenth century, there was a major population boom in Europe, causing prices to shoot through the roof.
The Peasantsí Revolt of 1524
In Germany, 300,000 peasants attacked their masters. Without a doubt, Luther had inspired them, but in 1525, the peasants were defeated.
Cuius Regio, Eius Religio
"Whoever rules, his religion" was a thought expressed by the Peace of Ausburg in 1555, causing Germany to be mostly protestant, rather than traditional Catholicism.
A priest from Zurich, Switzerland, Zwingli preached a form of Christianity close to that of Lutherís, but claimed he developed his ideas independently. One of his major changes was the alteration of the communion services.
(1509-1564) A French scholar and theologian, impressed by Lutherís ideas, and trained as a humanist, Calvin spread Lutherís beliefs and became a preacher of the reformation. Calvin believed in absolute faith in God, and Godís confidence in us. He also followed the Doctrine of Predestination which stated that some people are saved, and others damned at birth. He also felt that Protestants should follow legitimate political authority. He left France to establish a church in the Protestant country of Switzerland, and with Guillaume Farel, he led a Protestant congregation in Geneva. In Geneva, there was an "Unofficial Theocracy," where Protestant elders were the social leaders. Calvinís most well known book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, published in 1536, became the textbook of "Calvinism," the dominating religion of Europe.
After 1534, Protestantism was Illegal in France, however, its persecution was half-hearted. The French Calvanists, called Huguenots, became a well organized, albeit "underground," movement, which had churches, usually under noble protection. In 1559, the Huguenots had enough power to challenge their opposition, the Guise family and King Henri II, and in 1562 civil war erupted between Catholics and Protestants. After about 30 years of fighting, the Catholics won, but barely.
Henry of Navarre
King of France after the civil war, Henry established partial tolerance for Protestants. In 1598 he issued the Edict of Nantes, which established true religious toleration. The edict was revoked in 1685 by Henry IV.
(1509-1547) King of England, Henry removed the English church from papal jurisdiction because the pope refused to grant him a divorce from his wife, who Henry thought was unable to produce a mail heir. When the English church was formed, Henry placed himself at the top, and he swallowed the monasteries and nunneries for their wealth.
In Italy, where the Inquisition was powerful, the Reformation struggled and failed to convert Catholics. The Italian inqusition was supported by both the papacy and the population, and the humanistic reformation was never popular in Italy anyway.
In Spain, Lutherian writings circulated, but the authorities stamped out Protestantism. The church was heavily influential in Spain, responsible for a quarter of the jobs, and half of the property.
Reformers in Hungary, such as Mathias Biro and Stephen Kis allied with Luther in Wittenberg and preached Lutherianism to Hungarians. As the number of conversions grew, the Catholic and Turkish officials became alarmed and imprisoned Kis and Biro, and fought the reformation at every turn. They did convert people, but Protestantism did not hit Hungary again until the seventeenth century.
In Poland Bohemia and Lithuania, Papal control had always been problematic. Peter Waldo, a 12th century heretic had followers in Poland, but the progress of the Reformation was the most shocking. In Poland, many people embraced Lutheranism, including most of the nobility.
The largest group in the Radical Reformation prior to 1950, the Anabaptists felt that the first baptism one received did not count, and, that one must prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Radicals in every sense of the word, the Anabaptists took the city of Munster in Westphalia, near Germany. They seized the property of non-believers, burned all books except for the Bible and practiced polygamy, while proclaiming the Day of Judgement was coming. They were condemned from all sides, and defeated by an army lead by the Lutherian prince Phillip of Hesse.
The church could never have predicted the force of the Protestant Reformation, especially the noble following. One group which tried to peacefully regain followers to Christianity were the Jesuits.
Founded in 1534, and known as the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits became the backbone of the Catholic Reformation (also called the Counter Reformation) in southern and western Europe, the Jesuits "strove to bypass local corruption and appealed to the papacy to lead a truly international movement to revive Christian universalism." They pursued positions as confessors to Princes in hopes to revive religion based on ceremony, religion and the power of the priest to forgive. They even sought to develop a system in which "small sins" were forgiven. It became unclear whether or not the Jesuits were the true voice of a reformed church, or used the church to gain power.
From 1450 to 1750, there was a period of overseas exploration and economic expansion in Europe. The population of Western Europe increased heavily between 1450 and 1600, soon, the land ran out, causing the need for more land beyond Europe. New routes were forged between Europe and China, which had always traded heavily, albeit through an intermediary, which drove up prices. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain sought new land for power purposes.
The expansion was greatly aided by sailboats, which replaced boats which necessitated many people paddling it.
Prince Henry the Navigator
(1394-1460) Named by English writers, Prince Henry, a prince of Portugal, encouraged a revival of the crusades "to which Portugal owed its existence as a Christian state."
In the 1400s, Portugal expanded into the Atlantic islands. By 1475, they had a formidable economy based on sugar, slaves, and gold.
After winning the support of Queen Isabella, he landed on an Island in the Carribean, and, trying to find a route to the west, he landed on North America.
The Spaniards were lured to the New World by the abundance of Gold and Silver to be found there.
The Price Revolution
The Expansion brought on another revolution, unprecedented inflation in what was to be called the price revolution. Occurring during the 16th century, cereal and grain prices rose to astronomical points. The best explanation of the price revolution was "Too many people with too much money chasing too few goods."
"Food prices spurred ambitious farmers to take advantage of the situation" and try to invent aids in mass farming.
Enclosure was the pursuit to change manorial agriculture. The two main principals of Enclosure were the abolishment of the open-field system, and the transition from copyhold to leasehold. The open-field system stated that each peasant was entitled to a strip of land. "Whereas copyhold was heritable and fixed (price), leasehold was not. When a lease came up for renewal, the landlord could raise the rent beyond the tenantís capacity to repay."
A yeoman was a prosperous British farmer. Yeomen tended to rent land, and produced a (marketable) surplus.
Convertible Husbandry was a farming technique which replaced the three-field system. It involved planting soil depleting grains for a few years, then planting soil restoring legumes, then using the field for grazing, and gaining the effects of the soil-enriching manure.
Another effect of the price revolution was the expansion of trade and industry
The Putting-Out System
The Putting-Out System involved a merchant buying raw materials, and taking advantage of local peasants to process those materials for low wages. The putting-out system was an example of the beginning of capitalism.
A new banking operation, double-entry bookkeeping involved entering data under "assets" or "debts."
A regular practice, maritime insurance involved the paying of a premium to an insurer before maritime. If the ship got damaged, an amount (much greater than the premium) was paid to the policyholder.
Joint-Stock Companies are companies owned by people making many small investments. "These companies made possible the accumulation of capital needed for large-scale operations."
Capitalism flourished during this period. Capitalism involved the pursuit of capital, or money in excess of what was needed to live.
The system of free enterprise involved the ability of people to obey the law of supply and demand.
In the 17th century, population began to decline sharply. Demand continued to outrun supply, and wages fell. Most people could not even buy bread. By the second quarter, population grew again, this time however; food supply kept with the population growth. "The new economy produced a situation in which more and more people had more and more money to spend on or invest in things other than foodĖnamely industry and its products."
The usual example of special occasions which granted people freedom of expression, carnivals were a 3-6 day festivals preceding lent.
The Witch Craze
The prosecution of witches picked up during this time. There were supposedly two kinds of witches, white, which involved healing and fortune-telling, and black, which involved evil manipulative powers. By the 16th century "the linkage of women to witchcraft had been firmly established."