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Renaissance in the North.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Kenneth Bartlett

Renaissance in the North Desiderius Erasmus 1466? – 1536 Thomas More 1478 – 1535  Model of humanism as a kind of ideology adopted by the wealthy urban merchants as a guide to life apply as well in the North, but a bit differently. The world of the feudal middle ages, fighting on the horseback as a single source of life wasn’t sufficient, the people developed the urban civilization based on trade and gov’t systems were people who live secular lives, who made money from interests, which was prohibited by the Old Testaments.  Humanism, therefore, the models of secular behavior and moral philosophy based on ethic was a natural attraction to them. It was also a guide to those who were born to certain positions, and to those who adopted a certain position, like priests.  Italy (the south) was where the humanism ideas developed first and most fully, because Italy was the most civilized and sophisticated society in Europe.  Same issues obtained in the North; because there was the same class who rise in authority and influence—challenge the old feudal nobility for control, challenge their prestige, and make alliance with the central gov’t who wished to undo the feudal system by which merchants and workers can make profit so that princes and nobles would not need to rely on the feudal levies to against their interests.  In the North, there was the similar condition, but the diff culture and society created a diff form of humanism—called Northern Humanism or Christian humanism. The reason had to do with education.  Because in Italy there has always been secular education, it was easier to associate with Pagan Rome and the city of Italy.  The North was different.  Urban life was ceased during the dark age, right after the collapse of the HRE—during the years, education was the function of those who needed to have education. They were not the merchants or townsman (because there were so few of them), but people who were in the church.  Christianity is a religion of the book, that means those who are responsible to sustain this religion must be able to read the book. So literacy, was needed among the clergy.  So in the Northern Italy, education was a almost a monopoly of the clerical class. Noble who fought on the horseback didn’t need literacy, in fact it was seen as inappropriate to them.  But the clergy needed it. Monasteries were where education sustained. In monasteries it was useful because the monks had the responsibility of sustaining Christianity by copying manuscript. Thereby collected vast library that made education available to others.  But his education was clerical, it had to do with almost only Christianity at the point. The same was true even among the schools that began to develop even it did exist, those schools were not really directed to the urban mercantile class, because it was so small. It was directed to those who would be trained to secular priests. Education was almost exclusive among the clergy—the 1 state of class in Northern Europe.  The consequence of this is that the attitude toward learning was very much seen through a clerical filter, what was considered important were books had to do with religion, books help with salvation, or the sustaining the monopoly that clergy have on learning and education.  Learning had a very different function.  With the change—the rise of the urban class challenging the noble classes and alliance with the central gov’t, the role of learning began to expand. We need lawyers—to do trade, we need contracts; therefore as trade expands, so does law. So secular structures of education like law began to grow.  Universities that initially were clerical institutions that train monks and priests began to establish professional schools like law and medical school to train secular individuals for secular professions.  The coming of the Renaissance in the north must be looked in this context. The Renaissance was largely imported into the North as a result of cultural contact. Cultural contact took place in many places and ways— merchants and pilgrims traveled and brought back ideas from Italy, but these were small numbers.  What you really need was major contacts that would allow ideas to flow into a almost hostile and different environment. This happen with the France invade to Italy in 1494.  In 1494, Charles VIII of France. The largest army collected since antiquity in order to claim the kingdom of Naples.  In order to do this, Charles VIII had to cross the entire Italian peninsular, and he stayed there for almost 2 years. Many French soldiers saw the Italian culture and were amazed, they wanted to bring something back.  Those who brought things back were artists, architectures, writers and thinkers.  Increasingly, the French began to have an interest in Italy, and they came directly in contact of another Northern power who also had claims in Italy, especially the House of Hapsburg.  So, these northern Europeans began to fight in Italy—who would be in charge, who was the most powerful one—House of Hapsburg or France.  This long period of war lasted from 1494 to 1559 meant that very large numbers of northern Europeans spend a lot of time in Italy, and they began to observe the principle and ideas floating in Italy, and they began to make them their own.  But these are only from personal interests, to keep the ideas you have to institutionalize them, you have to establish schools or a group of individuals who can sustain this wisdom.  This corresponded exactly with the explosion of long distant trade and urban life in Northern Europe. It had to be admitted that one reason Italy grew wealthy was because of the trade, so the fight was also about an economic competition.  So there was a growth of towns and cities, as well as a growth need of secular people—lawyers, doctors, etc.  The for the new ideas started to come out of Italian towns, but the issue was that the Northern Italian universities were still clerically dominated. With the idea that Petrarch developed in Italy, there was a shift, the shift was that not looking at Cicero as the ultimate model and Pagans writers as the hero of classical minds, but looking at the early fathers of church.  When these ideas went into the North, Northern humanist writers began to see that there was a continual of power that could be sustain and used to change the nature of the European society in the North.  The difference was that in Italy, the desire was to recover the grand of ancie
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