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
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
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
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