Europe began to assume a more dominant position in world trade; the Protestant Reformation produced sweeping internal changes in Western society and religion. The Renaissance, built on a commercial society, challenged medieval intellectual foundations. Writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio embraced classical models in preference to medieval ones. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo introduced classical forms into the fine arts. Political realism appeared in the writing of Niccolo Machiavelli. The Italian Renaissance stressed humanism: emphasis on classicism and human endeavor. Renaissance merchants openly embraced the ideals of capitalism. Italian city-states patronized the arts, became more militarized, and began the formal use of diplomacy. Foreign invasions of the Italian peninsula after 1500 and the introduction of Atlantic trade routes diminished the role of Italy in commerce and politics. The sense of creativity endemic to the Renaissance moved northwards after 1450. Classicism became popular in northern European countries, although classical literature was balanced by innovation in the vernacular languages. As in Italy, the Northern Renaissance produced political change. States became more powerful, attempted to control religion within their boundaries, and engaged in the manipulation of national economies. In northern Europe, however, restraints on the state remained significant. The cultural movement was largely limited to the ranks of the elite. Western technology in areas such as metallurgy and printing advanced after 1500. The advent of the printing press led to improvements in literacy and the rapid dissemination of ideas. The European family pattern featured a relatively late marriage age and the adoption of the nuclear family as the norm. These patterns of household formation linked family to individual property and stressed the importance of husband-wife relations. The Protestant Reformation began when Martin...
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