Origins of the Modern Age in Europe
The Modern age in Europe begins with the renaissance, which means rebirth. During the Modern Age, writers and artists worked to recover the learning of ancient Greece and Rome to apply to their own lives. The culture of the Renaissance transformed the way people in the West see themselves, the way we live in society and community, the nature of art and the role of learning. Despite its secular bent, the Renaissance is still considered to be a part of a larger Age of Religion. The growth of the Italian City-States
Italy was made up of city-states.
The city states also claimed supreme religious authority, challenging the papacy, which was itself a powerful political institution in Italy. The new states started as republics.
Warfare among the city states was common.
In the fifteenth century, Florence was seen as the leading city of Renaissance in Italy. Republicanism soon turned into oligarchy, though Florence remained a constitutional state. Italy was the commercial bridge between the West and the wealthier world of Asia. Cities used advanced shipbuilding and navigating techniques. People developed the skills required to undertake modern business. Humanism
The writers and artist of the Renaissance were conscious about being in a new era, with new values. They used the term humanism to distinguish their period from the past. To identify their cultural programs based on the revival of Greek and Latin classics. Humanists viewed the classics literature, philosophy and art as their inspiration. Humanism stressed living in this world human dignity and being a responsible citizen. The early humanist made distinctions between their own age and the age that had preceded it. Petrarch valued the classical languages and the recovery of ancient texts. Humanists stressed the important of education and the value of directing children early in life. Humanism was a civic idea as well as a scholarly one.
The ideal person was one who would develop fully in the context of the city states. Machiavelli: The New Idea of the State
In 1494, France invaded Italy.
The various city-states found it difficult to counter the invasion and to keep their autonomy. Niccolo Machiavelli was a Florentine civil servant and humanist. Machiavelli’s primary insight, one that made him the first modern political philosopher was to realize that the new Renaissance state existed as thing in itself, sovereign an powerful not beholden to any other entity, secular or spiritual. Machiavelli valued the lessons of history, taking most of his examples from ancient Rome and from the recent history of Italy. Machiavelli saw the states as the most significant secular institution. Instead that human nature required a strong ruler, a prince. Renaissance Society
Family life began to change from communal family of the Middle Ages to the smaller unit of the modern times. Property held in common began to be divided among individuals’ members of an extended family. The nuclear family was coming into being.
Marriages became a more personal affair, less a relationship between two families. Loyalty to one’s family remained a powerful value, even as loyalty to the state become more prominent. Young men were expected to acquire knowledge of history, literature, ethics and rhetoric. Upper-Class women in the Renaissance became literate, but their social standing remained subject to male authority Women managed family finances and also had authority over children
Society and Class
Europe in the Middle Ages was, in large part of peasant and serf society. Urban life had its wealthy upper class, occasionally noble, mainly engaged in commerce, banking and industry. There were shopkeepers in the middle and urban poor made up roughly 30% of the population. Urban poverty accompanied the wealth.
New wealth = Sharper distinction between rich and poor.
Even in the midst of the new humanism and individualism, there was an upsurge of slavery. The Renaissance in the North- Christian Humanism
Renaissance quickly spread to the North of Europe, where it developed in a different form. The northern version was less secular than the one of Italy. More interested in religious theme.
Writings were highly influential in movements to reform religion, usually did not break with the Catholic Church. Combination of Christian and classical elements.
Thomas More was a major figure in the bringing the Renaissance to the North.
The development of the State in the Renaissance
National monarchies were being created.
These monarchies were more centralized than those of the Middle Ages. The new monarchies used legal structures to gain and enhance their power. Monarchs created armies, generally with professional soldiers. The nobility usually got relief from taxes and retained ancient feudal dues and rights, their positions grew weaker over time.
The Renaissance and Modernity
The period of the Renaissances saw the introduction of many of the features that distinguish modern life and thought in the west. History took on a new meaning and new importance.
Printing played a vital role in these developments.