Renaissance

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  • Topic: Renaissance, Florence, Italy
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Renaissance is the term used to describe the period of European history that saw a renewed interest in the arts. The Renaissance began in 14th¬century Italy and spread to the rest of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, the fragmented feudal society of the Middle Ages, with its agricultural economy and church¬dominated intellectual and cultural life, was transformed into a society increasingly dominated by central political institutions, with an urban, commercial economy and lay patronage of education, the arts, and music. Background

The term renaissance, meaning literally "rebirth," was first employed in 1855 by the French historian Jules Michelet to refer to the "discovery of the world and of man" in the 16th century. The great Swiss historian Jakob Burckhardt, in his classic The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), expanded on Michelet's conception. Defining the Renaissance as the period between the Italian painters Giotto and Michelangelo, Burckhardt characterized the epoch as nothing less than the birth of modern humanity and consciousness after a long period of decay. Modern scholars have exploded the myth that the Middle Ages were dark and dormant. The thousand years preceding the Renaissance were filled with achievements. Because of the scriptoria (writing rooms) of medieval monasteries, Latin writers, such as Vergil, Ovid, Cicero, and Seneca, were preserved. The legal system of modern continental Europe had its origin in the development of civil and canon law in the 12th and 13th centuries. Renaissance thinkers continued the medieval tradition of grammatical and rhetorical studies. In theology, the medieval traditions of Scholasticism, Thomism, Scotism, and Ockhamism were continued in the Renaissance. Medieval Platonism and Aristotelianism were crucial to Renaissance philosophical thought. The advances of mathematical disciplines, including astronomy, were indebted to medieval precedents. The schools of Salerno, Italy, and Montpellier, France, were noted centers of medical studies in the Middle Ages. See also Astronomy; Medicine; Philosophy; Scholasticism. Characteristics

The Italian Renaissance was above all an urban phenomenon, a product of cities that flourished in central and northern Italy, such as Florence, Ferrara, Milan, and Venice. It was the wealth of these cities that financed Renaissance cultural achievements. The cities themselves, however, were not creations of the Renaissance, but of the period of great economic expansion and population growth during the 12th and 13th centuries. Medieval Italian merchants developed commercial and financial techniques, such as bookkeeping and bills of exchange. The creation of the public debt, a concept unknown in ancient times, allowed these cities to finance their territorial expansion through military conquest. Their merchants controlled commerce and finance across Europe. This fluid mercantile society contrasted sharply with the rural, tradition¬bound society of medieval Europe; it was less hierarchical and more concerned with secular objectives. Breaks with Tradition

The Middle Ages did not, of course, end abruptly. It could be false, however, to regard history as perpetual continuity and the Renaissance as a mere continuation of the Middle Ages. One of the most significant breaks with tradition came in the field of history. The Historiarum Florentini populi libri XII (Twelve Books of Florentine Histories, 1420) of Leonardo Bruni, the Istorie fiorentine (Florentine History, 1525) of Niccolò Machiavelli, the Storia d'Italia (History of Italy, 1561¬1564) of Francesco Guicciardini, and the Methodus ad Facilem Historiarum Cognitionem (Easy Introduction to the Study of History, 1566) of Jean Bodin were shaped by a secular view of time and a critical attitude toward sources. History became a branch of literature rather than theology. Renaissance historians rejected the medieval Christian division of history that began with the creation,...
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