Chapter 13 - European Society in the Age of the Renaissance

    The evolution of the Italian Renaissance

    1. Beginnings
      1. The Renaissance was a period of commercial, financial, political, and cultural achievement in two phases, from 1050 to 1300 and from 1300 to about 1600.
      2. The northern Italian cities led the commercial revival, especially Venice, Genoa, and Milan.
        1. Venice had a huge merchant marine; improvements in shipbuilding enhanced trade.
        2. These cities became the crossroads between northern Europe and the East.
      3. The first artistic and literary flowerings of the Renaissance appeared in Florence.
        1. Florentine mercantile families dominated European banking.
        2. The wool industry was the major factor in the city's financial expansion and population increase.
    2. Communes and republics
      1. Northern Italian cities were communes--associations of free men seeking independence from the local lords.
        1. The nobles, attracted by the opportunities in the cities, often settled there and married members of the mercantile class, forming an urban nobility.
        2. The popolo, or middle class, was excluded from power.
        3. Popololed republican governments failed, which led to the rule of despots (signori) or oligarchies.
        4. In the fifteenth century, the princely courts of the rulers were centers of wealth and art.
    3. The balance of power among the Italian citystates
      1. Italy had no political unity; it was divided into citystates such as Milan, Venice, and Florence, the Papal States, and a kingdom of Naples in the south.
      2. The political and economic competition among the citystates prevented centralization of power.
      3. Shifting alliances among the citystates led to the creation of permanent ambassadors.
      4. After 1494 a divided Italy became a European battleground.

    Intellectual hallmarks of the Renaissance

    1. Many, like the poet and humanist Petrarch, saw the fourteenth century as a new golden age and a revival of ancient Roman culture.
    2. Individualism
      1. Literature specifically concerned with the nature of individuality emerged.
      2. Renaissance people believed in individual will and genius.
    3. Humanism
      1. Italians collected ancient manuscripts and monuments, and copied the ancient Roman lifestyle.
      2. The study of the classics led to humanism, an emphasis on human beings.
        1. Humanists sought to understand human nature through a study of pagan and classical authors and Christian thought.
        2. The humanist writer Pico della Mirandola believed that there were no limits to what human beings could accomplish.
      3. Ancient Latin style was considered superior to medieval Latin.
    4. Secular spirit
      1. Secularism means a concern with materialism rather than religion.
      2. Unlike medieval people, Renaissance people were concerned with money and pleasure.
        1. In On Pleasure, Lorenzo Valla defended the pleasure of the senses as the highest good.
        2. In the Decameron, Boccaccio portrayed an acquisitive and worldly society.
      3. The church did little to combat secularism; in fact, many popes were Renaissance patrons and participants--and the church even gave up its opposition to usury.

    Art and the artist

    1. The quattrocento (1400s) and the cinquecento (1500s) saw dazzling artistic achievements, led by Florence and Rome.
    2. Art and power
      1. In the early Renaissance, powerful urban groups commissioned works of art, which remained overwhelmingly religious.
      2. In the later fifteenth century, individuals and oligarchs began to sponsor works of art as a means of selfglorification.
      3. Wealthy people began to spend less on warfare and more on art and architecture.
        1. At first the bed chamber room was the most important, but later many other rooms were even more decorated.
        2. The home's private chapel was the most elaborate and expensive.
      4. As the century advanced, art became more and more secular, and classical subjects became popular.
        1. The style of art changed in the fifteenth century.
        2. The individual portrait emerged as a distinct genre.
        3. Painting and sculpture became more naturalistic and realistic, and the human body was glorified, as in the work of the sculptors Donatello and Michelangelo.
        4. A new "international style" emphasized color, decorative detail, and curvilinear rhythms.
        5. In painting, the use of perspective was pioneered by Brunelleschi and della Francesca.
    3. The status of the artist
      1. The status of the artist improved during the Renaissance; most work was done by commission from a prince.
      2. The creative genius of the artist was recognized and rewarded.
      3. The Renaissance was largely an elitist movement; Renaissance culture did not directly affect the middle classes or the urban working class.

    Social change during the Renaissance

    1. Education and political thought
      1. Humanists were interested in education, particularly the training of rulers, and moral behavior.
        1. Vergerio wrote a treatise on education that stressed the teaching of history, ethics, and rhetoric (public speaking).
        2. Castiglione's The Courtier, which was widely read, described the model Renaissance gentleman as a man of many talents, including intellectual and artistic skills.
        3. Machiavelli's The Prince described how to acquire, maintain, and increase political power.
        4. Machiavelli believed that the politician should manipulate people and use any means to gain power.
        5. Machiavelli did not advocate amoral behavior but believed that political action cannot be governed by moral considerations.
    2. The printed word
      1. The invention in 1455 of movable type by Gutenberg, Fust, and Schöffer made possible the printing of a wide variety of texts.
      2. Printing transformed the lives of Europeans by making propaganda possible, encouraging a wider common identity, and improving literacy.
    3. Clocks
      1. By about 1320 some Europeans had learned how to quantify time by use of the mechanical "clock"--meaning "bells."
      2. Clocks were important for understanding and controlling urban-economic life.
    4. Women and work in Renaissance society
      1. Most women married, were responsible for domestic affairs, and frequently worked outside the home.
      2. Women worked in ship building, textiles, agriculture, as well as midwives and servants.
      3. Compared to women in the previous age, the status of upperclass women declined during the Renaissance.
      4. . The Renaissance did not include women in the general improvement of educational opportunities. Women were expected to use their education solely to run a household.
    5. Culture and sexuality
      1. With respect to sex and love, a double standard was applied as sex for women was restricted to marriage, while men could pursue sex outside of marriage.
      2. The rape of women by upperclass men was frequent and not considered a serious offense.
      3. Sex crimes occurred and were punished, but women appear to be victims in fewer cases than earlier.
      4. Homosexual practice appears to have been common, particularly based on relationship between men and boys.
      5. Some of this sexual activity seems to have evolved out of social-community needs of men.
      6. The frequency of anti-sodomy laws in the fifteenth century suggests that homosexuality was widespread, difficult to outlaw, and important in shaping masculine gender identity.
    6. Blacks and ethnicity in Renaissance society
      1. Enslavement of Slavic peoples in eastern Europe was common--as Germans and others enslaved and/or sold Polish and Bohemian people.
      2. Italians brought many white slaves to Europe by way of the Mediterranean.
      3. Beginning in the fifteenth century, black slaves were brought into Europe in large numbers.
      4. Black slavery in Europe appears to have been less harsh than that in America.
      5. Some black rulers in Africa adopted a European lifestyle and participated in selling their black people into European slavery.
      6. Africans, in fact, were of different ethnic groups and thus biracial.
      7. Blacks as slaves and freemen filled a variety of positions, from laborers to dancers and actors and musicians.
      8. The European attitude toward blacks was ambivalent--blackness symbolized both evil and humility.
      9. In the Renaissance, blacks were displayed as signs of wealth.
  1. The Renaissance in the north began in the last quarter of the fifteenth century.
    1. It was more Christian than the Renaissance in Italy, and it stressed social reform based on Christian ideals.
    2. Christian humanists sought to create a more perfect world by combining the best elements of classical and Christian cultures.
      1. Humanists like Lefèvre believed in the use of the Bible by common people.
      2. Thomas More, the author of Utopia, believed that society, not people, needed improving.
        1. More was a Christian lawyer and minister of King Henry VIII.
        2. His Utopia was a socialistic society based on common ownership and social equality.
      3. The Dutch monk Erasmus best represents Christian humanism in his emphasis on education as the key to a moral and intellectual improvement and inner Christianity.
    3. The stories of the French humanist Rabelais were distinctly secular but still had a serious purpose.
      1. Like More, Rabelais believed that institutions molded individuals and that education was the key to moral life.
      2. His books on the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel were spoofs on French social life.
    4. Northern art and architecture were more religious than in Italy and less influenced by classical themes and motifs.
      1. Van Eyck painted realistic works with attention to human personality.
      2. Bosch used religion and folk legends as themes.
      3. The city halls of northern Europe were grand architectural monuments.

    Politics and the state in the Renaissance (ca. 1450-1521)

    1. Fifteenthcentury rulers began the process of order through centralization of power.
      1. The result was the rise of many powerful and ruthless rulers interested in the centralization of power and the elimination of disorder and violence.
      2. Many of them, such as Louis XI of France, Henry VII of England, and Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, seemed to be acting according to Machiavelli's principles.
      3. These monarchs invested kingship with a strong sense of royal authority and national purpose.
      4. The ideas of the new monarchs were not entirely original--some of them had their roots in the Middle Ages.5. The ideas of the new monarchs were not entirely original--some of them had their roots in the Middle Ages.
    2. France after the Hundred Years' War
      1. Charles VII ushered in an age of recovery and ended civil war.
        1. He expelled the English, reorganized the royal council, strengthened royal finances, reformed the justice system, and remodeled the army.
        2. He made the church subject to the state.
      2. Louis XI expanded the French state and laid the foundations of later French absolutism.
    3. England also suffered from disorder.
      1. Feudal lords controlled the royal council and Parliament in the fifteenth century.
      2. Between 1455 and 1471, the houses of York and Lancaster fought a civil war called the Wars of the Roses that hurt trade, agriculture, and domestic industry.
      3. Edward IV and his followers began to restore royal power, avoided expensive war, and reduced their reliance on Parliament for funds.
      4. The English Parliament had become a power center for the aristocracy but was manipulated by Henry VII into becoming a tool of the king.
      5. Henry VII used the royal council and the court of Star Chamber to check aristocratic power.
      6. Henry VII and his successors won the support of the upper middle class promoting their interest in money, trade, and stability.
    4. Spain turned against its own cultural diversity
      1. The reconquista was the centurieslong attempt to unite Spain and expel Muslims and Jews.
      2. The marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella was the last major step in the unification and Christianization of Spain.
        1. Under their reign, however, Spain remained a loose confederation of separate states.
        2. They used the hermandades, or local police forces, to administer royal justice.
      3. Ferdinand and Isabella restructured the royal council to curb aristocratic power.
      4. The church was also used to strengthen royal authority.
      5. Ferdinand and Isabella completed the reconquista in 1492, but many Jews remained because they aided royal power.
        1. Jews were often financiers and professionals; many (called conversos) had converted but were still disliked and distrusted.
        2. Needing a scapegoat during the Black Death, Spanish mobs killed many Jews.
        3. Ferdinand and Isabella revived the Inquisition and used its cruel methods to unify Spain and expel the Jews.
      6. Spanish Christians rejected conversos on the basis of race--out of fear of conversos taking over public offices. Most Jews fled from Spain.

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