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Renaissance

 
 
tycoon
 
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 02:44 pm
I've plowed through history books before and I'm sorry to say that's what it's been -- plowing. Sumeria blah blah, Egypt blah blah, Julius Caeser, King what's his name. Until I come to the period known as the Renaissance. Then it seems like a window has been opened to a stuffy room, the story of mankind becomes hurried, restless, impatient as songbirds at dawn, with the spring air wafting over the yellowed pages of history.

What caused this thing called The Renaissance or rebirth? Rebirth from what? Was it inevitable that it occured in Europe?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 02:51 pm
In The Decline and Fall of the Great Powers, Kennedy asserts that it was inevitable that the Europeans would be "hurried, restless, impatient as songbirds at dawn" (nice turn of phrase there, Boss). While not subscribing entirely to Mr. Kennedy's theories, i think he makes a good few cases about why Europe developed the way it did.

Two events seem to have sparked the Renaissance--the Crusades and the Reconquista. In both cases, ideas and books, often the long-forgotten works of ancient scholars, were brought to light which caused a sudden intellectual conflagration in Europe. In particular, the Reconquista in Andalusia turned up literally thousands of texts of the ancients, some in Greek or Latin, most in Arabic, which lead to new developments in optics, architecture, engineering, mathematics, accounting, the plastic arts, astronomy--the list of major headings could fill this page.

I'd say that if you were to carefully study the impact of new ideas which arrived in Europe via the Crusaders, or were uncovered by the Reconquista, you'd have a fascinating story on your hands.

Welcome to the Monkey House, Tycoon, please do not feed the animals.
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hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 06:20 pm
Well, no. The "renaissance" per se is a convenient tag to place on an intellectual movement that occurred in later medieval and early modern Europe (also convenient tags.).
A lot depends on what one means by "renaissance." If you are referring to a rediscovery of classical texts, then it is valid to place the beginning of this moivement in the mid 12th century, as Homer Haskins did. If you are referring to the rise of commercial and economic changes, then the later 12th or early 13th century is when you would start (Peter Spufford seems to hold this opinion). If you are referring to a shift from scholasticism toward humanism, then you would proabably choose the end of the 13th century as the starting point.

One of the problems with referring to a "renaissance" is that the movement seems only to effect the elites of society, and seems to be limited to the Italian penninisula, if one follows the traditional narrative.

I apologize if I have just muddied the waters further, but those are my two florins on the subject. Wink
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hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 06:23 pm
Setanta wrote:


Two events seem to have sparked the Renaissance--the Crusades and the Reconquista. In both cases, ideas and books, often the long-forgotten works of ancient scholars, were brought to light which caused a sudden intellectual conflagration in Europe. In particular, the Reconquista in Andalusia turned up literally thousands of texts of the ancients, some in Greek or Latin, most in Arabic, which lead to new developments in optics, architecture, engineering, mathematics, accounting, the plastic arts, astronomy--the list of major headings could fill this page.


Set, the problem with this argument is that such works were readily available in Europe from the 12th century onwards. The military campaigns, and religious persecutions that occurred as aspects of reconquista were more likely to result in this imformation's supression and destruction than their popularization.
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 06:29 pm
Christianity dominated the life of Europe for about a thousand years. The social order was entrenched, and everyones place in that world was divinely ordered. It was a stable system, but change was very slow and individualism was discouraged. For a thousand years the church decided what people would think, and feudal lords sat atop the social hierarchy. Almost without exception, peoples eyes were turned to God, to a redress of wrongs and rewards for faith after death. This was a largely an agricultural time with a barter economy. Trade existed, but the real center of life was within the fief. To call the period the "Dark Ages" isn't quite right, but it certainly wasn't dynamic.

What upset the stasis of Medieval life? During the late medieval period population was growing, and a number of changes were in the air. New ideas were beginning to form, but they never really took off.

Then a ship arrived in Sicily from the eastern mediterranean. The ship carried refugees from an advancing and militant Islam. Below the decks the ship also carried rats infested with plague carrying lice. The Black Death had arrived in Europe, and for several hundred years afterward the Plague would decimate Europe's population. First, in Italy and then along the various trade routes into northern Europe. The Black Death probably was actually several related diseases, but it had a very high mortality rate. In some communities upwards of 30-40% of the people died.

When people die, they leave behind their worldly wealth and so some Europeans found themselves with much more disposable income than prior to the Plague. Since life was precarious, many chose to focus their attention on the present rather than some life in heaven. Spend it now for wine, women and song, for tomorrow ye may die. Many saw the Plague as God's punishment and believed that the world was coming to an end. Some became even more religious, but many more came to question a religion that had failed them. Peasants who survived suddenly found that their labor was a valuable commodity, and feudal ties were loosened. Towns and cities began to grow as wealth from the countryside sought markets to purchase "luxury" items, and artisans turned their efforts to meet the neuvo-riche. Secular life was becoming a real alternative to the stagnation of the previous thousand years.

This is the time that the printing press came on the scene, and literacy soared. Ideas could now be communicated to large audiences at great distances. One idea gave rise to another, and the pace of invention and change began to increase.

The impact of ideas and luxury items brought back from the Cursades certainly whetted the European appetites. Ancient literature and science was rediscovered, or at any rate revalued. Texts long hidden in monasteries were suddenly in demand. At the court of Fredrick Barbarosa in Sicily foriegn scholars, both Jewish and Islamic formed one of the first "think tanks", and earned Freddy the hatred of the Pope.

Ultimately a number of factors worked together to change forever the face of Europe. The Rennaisance in turn gave birth to Reformation, Counter-Reformation and hundreds of years of bloody religious war. In the 17th century we see the modern beginnings of the Scientific Method. The cost of guns was so great that kings came to dominate the local aristocaracy, and often declared themselves independant of the Church. Out of the chaos came a middle-class, money economy that valued political and economic stability, and peace. By the end of the 18th century nationalism was well established in Britain and France.

History is a gas.
0 Replies
 
hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 06:47 pm
Asherman wrote:
Christianity dominated the life of Europe for about a thousand years. The social order was entrenched, and everyones place in that world was divinely ordered. It was a stable system, but change was very slow and individualism was discouraged. For a thousand years the church decided what people would think, and feudal lords sat atop the social hierarchy. Almost without exception, peoples eyes were turned to God, to a redress of wrongs and rewards for faith after death. This was a largely an agricultural time with a barter economy. Trade existed, but the real center of life was within the fief. To call the period the "Dark Ages" isn't quite right, but it certainly wasn't dynamic.

Well, no again. This is the Will and Ariel Durant picutre, but it is in fact very innacurrate. There was a great upheavla in social order from the later 9th through the 14th centuries as more and more people left the manors and moved to towns. In addition, the growth of the guild system led to increased power of "burghers" compared to their rural conterparts. Monetary economy never really dissapeared.

Quote:
What upset the stasis of Medieval life? During the late medieval period population was growing, and a number of changes were in the air. New ideas were beginning to form, but they never really took off.

The idea of a medieval "stasis" is also incorrect. A brief perusal of parish and court records from this period refelct continuous change.

Quote:
Then a ship arrived in Sicily from the eastern mediterranean. The ship carried refugees from an advancing and militant Islam. Below the decks the ship also carried rats infested with plague carrying lice. The Black Death had arrived in Europe, and for several hundred years afterward the Plague would decimate Europe's population. First, in Italy and then along the various trade routes into northern Europe. The Black Death probably was actually several related diseases, but it had a very high mortality rate. In some communities upwards of 30-40% of the people died.

But the plague occured so late that giving it credit for change as you seem to do, raises more questions than it answers,a nd requires one to ignore the innovations of the 12th century, like the university system, and the re-introduction of aristotelianism.

Quote:
When people die, they leave behind their worldly wealth and so some Europeans found themselves with much more disposable income than prior to the Plague.

Well, no. Price increases, famines, and peasant revolts actually led to a lower standard of living in the 14th century


Quote:
Since life was precarious, many chose to focus their attention on the present rather than some life in heaven. Spend it now for wine, women and song, for tomorrow ye may die.

Again, this was nothing new. Proscriptions against luxuria are ever-present.

Quote:
Many saw the Plague as God's punishment and believed that the world was coming to an end. Some became even more religious, but many more came to question a religion that had failed them.

The monolithic structure of medieval Christianity has been thoroughly dismissed. Read Peter Brown for a good look at religipn in later antiquity. For an overview of religion in the later middle ages, PEter BRown is also a good source.



Quote:
Peasants who survived suddenly found that their labor was a valuable commodity, and feudal ties were loosened. Towns and cities began to grow as wealth from the countryside sought markets to purchase "luxury" items, and artisans turned their efforts to meet the neuvo-riche. Secular life was becoming a real alternative to the stagnation of the previous thousand years.

Again, this "innovation" really wasn't one. Urbanization began in the later 9th century.

Quote:
This is the time that the printing press came on the scene, and literacy soared. Ideas could now be communicated to large audiences at great distances. One idea gave rise to another, and the pace of invention and change began to increase.

Yes, in the 15th century. Long after the events you have described above. The advent of priniting is important in the phenomenon of lay literacy.

Quote:
The impact of ideas and luxury items brought back from the Cursades certainly whetted the European appetites. Ancient literature and science was rediscovered, or at any rate revalued. Texts long hidden in monasteries were suddenly in demand. At the court of Fredrick Barbarosa in Sicily foriegn scholars, both Jewish and Islamic formed one of the first "think tanks", and earned Freddy the hatred of the Pope.

Well, no. Taste for luxury items never abated, and therefore survived the downfall of the western Roman empire. As for Barabarossa's fights wiht the popoe, they were more political than ideological. I wonder if you are in fact referring to Frederick II's frequent ex-communications?

Quote:
Ultimately a number of factors worked together to change forever the face of Europe. The Rennaisance in turn gave birth to Reformation, Counter-Reformation and hundreds of years of bloody religious war.

Except that the Reformation (and the now discounted idea of a "counter-reformation") was contiguous with the period commonly referred to as the renaissance.

Quote:
In the 17th century we see the modern beginnings of the Scientific Method.

Nope. The "Scientific method" is based on aristotelian logic, and therefore was in wide use as early as the 12th century.


Quote:
The cost of guns was so great that kings came to dominate the local aristocaracy, and often declared themselves independant of the Church.

The rise of absolutism has little to do with the cost of guns, and more to do with the consolidation of powers in France and England. As for independence from the church, secular and religious authority had clashed since the 8th century.


Quote:
Out of the chaos came a middle-class, money economy that valued political and economic stability, and peace. By the end of the 18th century nationalism was well established in Britain and France.

History is a gas.

Again, this is the popular Durant inspired model, but it is unfortunately not supported by modern scholarship. this isn't meant to be a dig at you, but just a suggestion to do a little more research with more recent work.

Let me add the discalimer that I am a graduate student in medieval history, and work on the 14th and 15th century generally, with religious and intellectual history in specific. Smile
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 08:14 pm
Well, my views on this topic were formed over thirty years ago, and since then my focus has lain elsewhere. Its so easy to get out of date.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 08:33 pm
hobitbob wrote:
Set, the problem with this argument is that such works were readily available in Europe from the 12th century onwards. The military campaigns, and religious persecutions that occurred as aspects of reconquista were more likely to result in this imformation's supression and destruction than their popularization.


I acknowledge your specialist knowledge, but i would point out both that i have read that there was much which was unknown which was found in Andalusia, much new to European scholars, and i would point out that the upheaval of the times also offered escape to those who might otherwise be the object of persecution as it did the persecution itself. Even were one to posit that absolutely nothing new was found in Anatolia, Palestine and Andalusia, one is still left with the necessity of explaining why there was suddenly such a focus on this material, if it were available all along, but had theretofore been ignored. When Petr Alexeevitch visited France (1717? -18?), he was shown a book in a strange and undecipherable language by the churchmen at St. Denis--and immediately identified it as a missal in Old Church Slavonic. It had been brought to France by a Kievan princess who had married one of the early King Louis' (don't recall which). It is just as likely that many of the texts unearthed in the Reconquista and the Crusades were novel to those encountering them, for all that copies of those documents mouldered in ecclesiastic libraries somewhere else in Europe--like the missal at St. Denis, they simply awaited someone who could read and understand them. I acknowledge that there were more factors than just those two passages in European history--the Hundred Years war actually eventually produced a more vigorous, and more effective monarchy than the previous relict of the Capetian/Carolinian form. The great "restlessness" of the European world, in the events already mentioned, and in for example, the wars of the condottieri in northern Italy, and the significant political upheavals which resulted from the effects of the Mongol/Tatar invasions in eastern Europe would all have made for a more fluid society, with long periods of a lack of a controlling authority in many places. The "Black Death" had this same effect throughout Europe--entire villages disappeared, and labor suddenly became a sellers market, which significant change was not lost on the peasantry.

In The World Turned Upsidedown, by Christopher Hill, he refers to the texts of broadsides and pamphlets in civil war England in the 17th century, making the point that the breakdown in central authority had a concommitant breakdown of censorship. Certainly one could make a great case for suffering due to those wars (especially among the Irish and the Scots), but one can also point out the ferment of ideas and styles of behavior which arose in the void left by the breakdown of authority. I would posit that the Renaissance saw the rapid proliferation of ancient texts--whatever one adduces as the source--combined with frequent power vacuums throughout the continent, and the resultant freedom from the old order and its restraints meant a vastly greater opportunity for innovation.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 08:40 pm
By the by, Hobit, there is also a climatalogical case to be made, as well. From the end of the 12th century onward, Europe began to get colder, and many adaptations to changing conditions were needed as the years progressed. Kennedy's thesis is that the geography of Europe made for political and military division, and commercial communication--a river can be a barrier to an army, while it is a highway for trade. On that basis, he contends that because the same problems would require solution in many places, many solutions would be forthcoming, and commerce would disseminate them fairly rapidly. I perhaps do not make his case fully or well, but the idea is intriguing.

With the climate getting colder and requiring significant change in building, textile production, food production, and the possibility of this thesis of Kennedy's considered--it would not be unreasonable to suggest that wide-spread change became inevitable, and the isolation/communication dichotomy of many small European communities assured a great diversity.
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hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 10:35 pm
Set, again, not trying to sound pompous or mean (which I excel at, unfortunately Sad ) but take works like the one by Hill, Tuchmann, Erdoes, and other similar texts cum magnum granum saltis. While certainly not fabrications, they do make errors in interperetation, due to being based upon secondary source material. On the whole, however, your knowledge of most periods far surpasses mine.
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hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2004 10:38 pm
Setanta wrote:
By the by, Hobit, there is also a climatalogical case to be made, as well. From the end of the 12th century onward, Europe began to get colder, and many adaptations to changing conditions were needed as the years progressed. Kennedy's thesis is that the geography of Europe made for political and military division, and commercial communication--a river can be a barrier to an army, while it is a highway for trade. On that basis, he contends that because the same problems would require solution in many places, many solutions would be forthcoming, and commerce would disseminate them fairly rapidly. I perhaps do not make his case fully or well, but the idea is intriguing.

With the climate getting colder and requiring significant change in building, textile production, food production, and the possibility of this thesis of Kennedy's considered--it would not be unreasonable to suggest that wide-spread change became inevitable, and the isolation/communication dichotomy of many small European communities assured a great diversity.

The problem here is that the isolation he refers to has been shown to be incorrect. Medieval society was very mobile. Traveling to different counties/duchies was not unusual, and sea voyages were, if not routine, certainly not out of the ordinary. Barabra Hanawalt has written on travel in the high middle ages, and is a useful source.
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tycoon
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 May, 2004 01:28 pm
Well, thanks to all contributors. My favorite? Asherman's explanation. And seeing I'm a reductionist at heart I take with me the knowledge necessary to understand what caused the Renaissance: lice. Very Happy
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2004 03:00 am
Hobit, the isolation to which Kennedy refers is a military and political isolation, in fact Miss Hanawalt's work would underline that portion of his thesis concerned with a lack of commercial isolation. My use of the term isolation may not adequately describe his thesis--his point is that there was relative military security, assuring many small polities; that problem-solving within those regions resulted in many solutions to the same problems; and that the ease of communications afforded by the rivers and mountain passes meant precisely that travel and commerce would spread new ideas throughout Europe.

However one looks at this topic, it is undeniable that the pace of change in European life in all its aspects was glacial between 500 and 1200 CE; but from 1200 to 1500 CE, profound change occurred--from a varitety of causes.
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hobitbob
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2004 07:10 am
Ah.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2004 07:27 am
This is not an answer to the question but some thoughts on context. The Renaissance is a culmination of a process. It is a point when people could suddenly look back and realized that things had dramatically and irrevocability changed. That did not occur until the 15th century but the process began in the 11th century, with the crusades. Europe at the beginning of the second millennium operated under what to us seems and odd assumption that the Mediterranean world was somehow still a cultural and political whole. That in a very real sense the Roman Empire was still there. Changed of course but still a vital force. Thus the simi barbarian state of western Europe derived their political legitimacy from the Roman Empire. The Emperor was still there (now in Constantinople) and he could if necessary call on these states for support. Which he did in 1095 through his supposed western representative the Pope, Urban II. This was a dramatic reversal of outlook on Western Europe's part. For the 600 years previous it had been on the defensive, Western Europe was invaded (repeatedly) it did not project power. But now, in the context of someone else's power (Byzantine) it did. It would take 400 years for Europe to feel secure with in it's territories (the Mongols were the last major threat) To decide that it's political legitimacy was a product of its own efforts, not derivative of someone else's, and to recover an intellectual tradition that probably had rested very lightly on the western Roman Empire to begin with. But by 1453 the Emperor, the empire, and even the residual political legitimacy it had once provided was no longer there and people such as Ciracon de Pizzicolli, Lorenzo Valla, and Biondo Flavio were pointed out that things were very different from what they had been 1000 years earlier.
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tycoon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 12:19 pm
What role did the Medici family have in all this known as the Renaissance period? I've heard they were pivotal.
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Peggy Hayden
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 02:10 pm
Luca Pastioli's contribution
What about Pastioli's contribution to the Renaissance of accounting? I know that he didn't invent the actual methods, but I believe that his 5th book allowed others the insight on how to account for their business' financially. Am I right on or way off?
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