The word Renaissance in French implies the notion of “rebirth” or “reformation “ This period within the context of history was characterized as the period of European Civilization immediately following the era of the middle ages (Burke 18). This period mostly relates to a large extent, the growth and propagative phenomena of artistic and intellectual erudition, presently used by artistic scholars and philosophers decipher and recover ancient learning as well as standards of Greece and Rome. The Renaissance era to many transcended beyond a period of simply intellectual movement, it was to them equally a period of cultural rediscovery which imparted some sort of deeper understanding making it one of the most significant eras in universal history. Believed to have been restricted to Italy, the Renaissance era occurred during the late 15th century, this great movement made an advanced and significant difference in the world we have come to know today as well as the world of the past. The Renaissance era is significant not just simply because it is one of the world’s most known events, but because it is a movement that has benefited and contributed intellectual developments to today’s notion of western civilization.
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A common perception with the history of the Renaissance movement is the perception that the underlying reason for the emergence of the movement was due to the fact that theology had been rejected by the Middle Ages and had been overtaken by science. This outlook and the institutions of the middle ages era had disintegrated and conspicuous modern forms, such as had begun to emerge. Due to the different hierarchical frameworks predominant within the society at that point in time of this intellectual movement, varying notions and views could be witnessed in the European civilization, thus the initialization of different forms of religious, political economic, social and cultural status.
The Renaissance era, within the context of economics, brought about the expansion of commerce and industry. For some nations, the medieval forms of their economic organization were largely replaced by capitalism (The Open University). The period was not just limited to the perception of economic growth, though this sector was the most notable of factors leading to the voyages of discovery and self-realization in the 15th and 16th century. One of the most significant contributions that were expanded during the Renaissance period was the appreciation and patronage of the Arts. This significance of Art at that period at first stance was the notion that the appreciator of arts belonged to the upper class due to the fact that art like literature served as a focus of public pride and patriotism. Members of the upper class within society became patrons of art and as thus provided funding for the support of promising young writers and artist. The wealth of urban patricians like in other eras was not based on lands, but on banking and commerce, which had invariably become a dominant trade in both despotic Milan and republican Florence. Being born into a family of urban patricians wasn’t justification for the claim of power and social status neither was the reliance on traditional loyalties. People within the Renaissance era looked to culture to provide them with trappings and justification of power. Art served as a political function for the newly rich and in light with the absolute splendor it conveyed, it bore the notion of the manifestation of power. Because of the result of art being linked to self-worth and success, people competed for art and the patronage of artist as a means of boosting their ego. Art in the 15th century during the time of the Renaissance became one of the most political investments a far contrast to what art offered a century or two prior to the Renaissance. Even The Popes invested in art. The Papal States became consolidated and expanded. The Papacy concentrated on the growth of its direct dominion in Italy in light of the loss of the temporal battle for dominion over Europe. The Popes thereafter became the most lavish patrons of the Renaissance period as they heaped wealth on artist and their works. Notable among these artistic works were works of Raphael, Michelangelo and Botticelli. The Period witnessed an explosion of creativity as a result of the new wave of patronage ensured by the Popes and patricians. In a similar fashion, significant commotion for honor and reputation were propelled by patrician rivalry and insecurity of status which was adequately fuelled by the Renaissance ethic of achievement and reward (Har 121).
Another element that contributed to heavily to the economic development in Italy during the Renaissance era was secularism. During the period, society was had embraced a more secular approach towards its outlook. Having been so intrigued by the active like of the city, the wealthy, mainly the merchants and bankers would move away from the medieval preoccupation with salvation and enjoy the worldly pleasures that they could obtain with their money. Although for them, religion increasingly had to compete with the worldly concerns as in a major way these people were still believers, but not firm in their belief. Most of the members of the urban upper class paid religion with no interest to even the extent of not allowing it to interfere with their quest for a full life. To them, the challenge and pleasure of living well in this world seemed more excited than the promise of heaven; they focused so much on the secular things and did not bother about religion at all. This viewpoint found expression in Renaissance art and literature.
Another trademark that was also a major influence in Europe of the Renaissance society was individualism. Individualism during the Renaissance can mean the basic moral foundation that only individuals can benefit, act and suffer, and it also is a belief system that places great importance on the ability of people to act as individuals. The old constraints of manor and church would be where people of wealth and talent are released by the urban life. Due to the fact that the urban elite strives to win fame and glory to fulfill their ambitions, expressing their individual feelings, demonstrating their unique talents and also asserting their own personalities is something they would seek to do. This Renaissance ideal was explicitly elitist (Hunt 18). Valuing what was distinctive and superior in an individual, entirely disregarding the masses, which was not common at all, was only applied to very few people. In the Western soul, individualism became deeply rooted and was expressed by artists, who sought to capture an individual character, like for example, by explorers who ventured into the unfamiliar seas, by merchant-capitalists who amassed fortunes and also by conquerors who carved out empires in the New World. Therefore, having said that, the individualism and also secularism really made an impact in the economic growth due to the many increases by trying to obtain fame and power.
As for the political level, at the expenditure of feudalism, the central government grew much stronger. An example of feudalism would be the expense of having poor people who are paying to stay on rich people’s land. Humanism became quite popular during the Renaissance. Therefore, the political view during the Renaissance era also changed when humanism, the most characteristic intellectual movement, was put into the picture. It affected and changed the way people perceived art, religion, education, and government, all in a positive manner. Humanism is an educational and cultural program based on the study of ancient Greek and Roman literature that became a major influence in today’s world. The humanist attitude toward the ancient times changed from the attitude of the Middle Age scholars, into a Christian worldview from the fit classical learning. For the humanists, to achieve self-cultivation, to write well, to speak well, and to live well was necessary for a guide to the good life. Unlike the Italian humanists, who use classical learning to nourish their new interest in a worldly life, the scholastic philosophers used Greek philosophy to prove the truth of Christian doctrines.
The first great humanists, Francesco Petrarca, most commonly known as Petrarch, is known to be the first great humanist. The ideal world of antiquity and the desire to improve the current world had Petrarch torn between two worlds, not knowing which one to follow. He believed that by studying classical literature, it would help make the world a better place. He, along with other humanists, like Boccaccio, admired the formal beauty of classical writing. It was known that, Boccaccio, nine years younger than Petrarch, was an admirer of Petrarch who has written a biography oh him but had not previously met him. At a certain point, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and their followers, made a systematic attempt to discover the classical roots of the Italian rhetoric from carrying the recovery of the classics further. Despite the fact that Petrarch fails to learn the Greek language, he still encouraged his students to master the ancient tongue, and from that, he advanced humanist learning. Cicero, the ancient Roman orator, had drawn the attention of Petrarch. Following the example of Cicero, Petrarch insisted that education should consist not only of learning and knowing, but also to learn how to communicate one’s knowledge and how to use it for the public good. Petrarch focused so much on the study of human thought and action that he inspired the humanist philosophy, which led to the intellectual blossoming of the Renaissance. Besides Petrarch and Boccaccio, there were many other successful humanists who contributed to the political change during the Renaissance era (Panofsky 23).
- Burke, Peter. A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot Polity Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000.
- Har, Michael H. History of Libraries in the Western World, Scarecrow Press Incorporate, 1999, ISBN 0-8108-3724-2.
- Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art 1969:38; Panofsky’s chapter “‘Renaissance— self-definition or self-deception?” succinctly introduces the historiographical debate, with copious footnotes to the literature.
- Hunt, Shelby D. (2003). Controversy in marketing theory: for reason, realism, truth, and objectivity. M.E. Sharpe. p. 18. ISBN 0-7656-0932-0