Social 8: Chapter 1 What were the factors that shaped the renaissance worldview?
Factors That Shaped the RenaissanceWorldview The Renaissance began to flourish in the 14th century in the cities of the Italian Peninsula in southern Europe. Developments in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and education were all supported by the changing worldview and the great wealth of Italy. The factors that led to the Renaissance worldview were also the basis for today’s Western worldview.
The Impact of the Crusades You may have heard about the Crusades of the medieval period (the Middle Ages). The Crusades were a series of military campaigns launched by Europe in the medieval period (the Middle Ages) to recapture the Holy Lands (Israel of today) from the Islamic Empire. Read Handout: “The Crusades”. View video clip “Crusades to the Middle East”
The Crusades If you’re familiar with stories of King Richard the Lionhearted of England or the tales of Robin Hood, you’ve heard about the Crusades. Today many people see the Crusades as misguided and brutal campaigns to extend the power of Europe into the Muslim world. However, it’s always important not to judge past ages by modern standards. But whether the Crusades were a noble attempt to reclaim the lands of the Bible or a crude power play, they had a huge impact on the worldview of people in western Europe.
Results of the Crusades Though the Crusades of the Middle Ages caused great human suffering, they did continue the process started by the Silk Road of bringing Europeans into contact with other cultures and other worldviews. Through trade, military campaigns, religious pilgrimages, and the contributions of exceptional people like Fibonacci, the groundwork was being laid in Europe for the rebirth in ideas that would become the Renaissance.
The Social Structure of the Middle Ages Most of us assume it’s possible to climb the social and economic ladder if we make the effort. But that wasn’t exactly true in medieval society. There was some social mobility in that society; for example, very scholarly young men might make it into the lower clergy from the peasant class. But for the most part—especially if you were born a serf—you stayed in the class in which you were born. And most people didn’t question this system; after all, it was part of their worldview that the class you were born into was where God wanted you to be
The Black Death of 1347 The Black Death was a horrendous epidemic that swept much of Europe from 1347 to 1350. The disease was the bubonic plague, but at the time no one knew that. They just knew that people were falling ill and dying in droves around them. And they were terrified. *Edhelper, “Black Death”
Summary so far! We’ve seen how geography exposed Europe to the more advanced Islamic and Byzantine Empires— and how that same geography played a major role in trade, the Crusades, and the Black Death—all factors that ultimately played a role in changing the worldview of the Middle Ages. We’ve also seen how contact with other groups—the Muslim and Byzantine worlds in particular—opened up the thinking in the West. We’ve seen how the ideas and knowledge from contact with these other cultures—and from cultures farther east—set the stage for the Renaissance.
Cities and the Renaissance In the Middle Ages, most people did live in rural areas and were somehow connected to the land. However, there were towns in Medieval Europe, and in them you’d have found crafts persons and a few merchants. The rise of the great cities of Europe was something that began during the Renaissance and as they did so, cracks began to appear in the feudal system. It began first in Italy as that was where the changes that marked the Renaissance originally occurred.
Why The Growth of Cities? Peasants could find work in the city. Merchants in cities who owned no land could make enough money in their businesses to rival the feudal lords in wealth. Crusading soldiers were all funneled through a few ports. This brought wealth to the people there who could provide the soldiers with food, transportation, and other necessities.
City-States Many of the cities that began to flourish in Italy during the Renaissance became city-states. That means they governed themselves (along with the surrounding countryside). City-states were really small independent countries, growing in wealth and importance all the time.
Florence and the Renaissance Florence—or Firenza in Italian—became the wealthiest of all the Renaissance city-states.
The Medici Family The Medici family of Florence played a large part in Florence’s rise to greatness. Throughout much of European history, it wasn’t unusual for great ruling families to control countries for generations—and sometimes to lead their countries to greatness. But today in the Western world most people believe in democracy. A democratic system can certainly produce great individual leaders—but can families play a role like the Medici did in Renaissance Florence? *Edhelper reading.
The Importance of Venice In Venice, some of its streets are, in fact, canals. You’ve also likely seen photos and films of romantic-looking gondolas, operated by equally romantic-looking gondoliers. These gondolas take people through the canal network just as taxis take them through regular city streets. The reason for all those canals is that Venice is built on a group of low-lying islands off the coast of the Adriatic Sea?
Geographic Advantage! Venice was perfectly located to benefit from trade with the Byzantine Empire. The city also benefited from the exchange of ideas that goes along with trade. And the Byzantine Empire was a channel for these goods and ideas from the Islamic world. Venice became, in fact, the main centre of trade between the Islamic Empire and Europe. Just imagine all the new and fascinating items—and all the new and fascinating ideas—that arrived in Europe first in Venice!
The Scuole The scuole of Venice were organizations that performed many good works for the people of the city. They collected money and spent it on worthy causes—such as supporting the sick and the elderly and providing financial aid for others in need. The largest scuole—the scuolegrandi—provided much charitable aid and enriched Venice with beautiful public buildings that everyone could enjoy. Every society has some people who are needier than others. Every society has people who are relatively poor, who are unwell, who are elderly, and who can’t earn much money. In Renaissance Venice, the scuole stepped in to help such people.
Summary of Venice Unlike Florence, Venice became an oligarchy, and because of its location it became the richest trading centre in Europe. Yet, like Florence, Venice was a bustling city full of new ideas where the social structures, values, and attitudes of the Middle Ages were being replaced by far more modern ways of thinking. As in Florence, artists flocked to Venice because its wealthy citizens valued and supported the arts. Venice also became the centre of the European book trade.
Genoa and the Renaissance The word comes from the French word Gênes—the French name for the Italian City of Genoa. Bales of blue cotton cloth, a specialty of Genoa weavers, used to come to France in bales marked Gênes—to show where they’d come from. Eventually people began applying the name to the cloth itself.
Trade in Genoa During the Renaissance, Genoa was a competitor in trade with another city-state in particular - Venice. In fact, the competition was so fierce the two cities sometimes went to war.
Summary of Genoa As the great trade rival of Venice, Genoa was for a time a powerful and wealthy city indeed; and with its trading empire, it helped spread Renaissance ideas and values through large parts of western Europe. There were, of course, other city-states in Italy that rivaled the three you’ve studied in wealth, grandeur, and power. But these three studies should have given you a flavour of what sorts of things were happening in the Renaissance and how the worldview of Europe was changing. Next, we’ll be looking at the spread of these changes across Europe.
Chapter 1 Summary In our modern world, it often doesn’t matter much in some ways whether or not you live in an urban or a rural area. With modern mass communications— like satellite TV, the Internet, and cell phones—and rapid means of transportation, in many important respects rural people and urbanites today share the same basic culture. Several hundred years ago, things were rather different. As cities began to grow and become important, they revolutionized people’s lives. Cities meant vastly increased opportunity. They meant a ferment of new ideas. They meant exposure to foreign goods and foreign culture. And they meant freedom from the old feudal system. It was in the cities of Renaissance Italy that the ways of looking at the world that we now call the Western worldview first began to evolve.
Chap 1 summary con’t… In this chapter we looked at three cities. But what’s most important isn’t that you remember many details about each of these cities. What’s important is that you understand the importance of the rise of cities in forming the way of looking at the world that you probably just take for granted today. If the urbanization of the Renaissance hadn’t occurred, you’d probably be a very different person from the one you are.