AN INTRODUCTION TO EARLY MODERN EUROPE
Part One: From "Ren/Ref" to "Early Modern...
o Often the "Renaissance" and the "Reformation" designate not just historical events, but THE great turning points in European
From medieval to modern...
From alien "them" to familiar "us"
A time of dawn! Of liberation! From blight and ignorance
o Ex.: Jacob Burkhardt; a 19 C. historian of art and culture
o Ex.: John Lothrop Mottey; a 19 C. historian of the Netherlands
o Echoes of these views still resounding today! Why so popular??
Propaganda of Ren/Ref writers themselves!...They definitely portrayed themselves as being the dawn of civilization
And for historians, it's fun to make HUGE claims too! Especially when it justifies your work!
o But most historians are now comfortable with seeing the Ren/Ref as the fulcrum between a "medieval" and a "modern" world
o From today's stand-point, Ren/Ref thinkers no longer seem too familiar
Protestant/Catholic differences also seem less stark today
o And the medieval world doesn't seem as dark!
Not just a millennium without a bath!
Historians see more and more continuities from the medieval into the Ren/Ref.
o If forced, historians are now more likely to see THE major turning point around 1750, or even 1000.
More economic, environmental, and social view of history
o Thus! Instead of thinking/terming this period as "Ren/Ref", now call it "Early Modern" (roughly the period from 1400 - 1600)
Note: "Early Modern" suggests more distance between us and them.
Note: "Early Modern" suggests a much wider scope of historical analysis.
o Not just culture or religion, but demography, environment, politics, warfare, gender, and sexuality, etc.
o Historians ESPECIALLY more conscious of beginnings of European overseas trade and conquest in this period.
o There were horrors as well as splendours during this period
Part Two: Defining the Renaissance...
o NOT the recovery or invention of all that is good about western culture!
o IS an international cultural movement that began in the 14 C. Italy and left a rich legacy shaping European education and
tastes for generations
o ALSO the literate, classicizing and urban-based culture of lay-elites in the early modern period
!!! HUMANISM !!!
o An obsession with the recovery, study, interpretation, and transmission of the cultural heritage of Ancient Rome and Greece
Ex.: Machiavelli's famous comment (from "The Prince" =, about studying the classics... see hand-out?)
o A sense that the "Food of Wisdom" is to be found in the Classics
o Will see how ancient models influenced sculptors, architects, and painters
o We especially see this with LANGUAGE!
Write like the Ancients!
Latin is already the language of the learned, and will continue to be even after the early modern period.
But now, the idea is to imitate Latin style of writers like CICERO
And! They want to learn GREEK!
So, let's find as much ancient writing as we can!
Huge search on for texts by classical authors (not just Aristotle now!)
Poggio Bracciolini (1380 - 1459) was an especially good book hunter
In 1415, Poggio goes to Cluny and discovers new orations of Cicero! Wow!
He also finds Quintilian's "Institutes of Oratory" at St. Ball
Lets SPEAK like the ancients too!
Mastery of oral rhetoric the "polish" you need to shine at the court in politics!
o To do all of this you need a "Humanist Education" in the "Liberal Arts"
o New schools are set up! Universities won't change much until the 16 /17 C.
o Instead of logic, focus on language, literature, and rhetoric
o What to do: READ classical texts, IMITATE their style, LEARN from them how to live
o An education for RICH YOUNG MEN! (Some poor boys could get scholarships and a TINY number of girls get a humanist
education at home) o But, the general idea was to educate the men who would have political positions in the future
o Idea of "civic humanism", putting knowledge of the classics to practical use in the service of our community
ITALY AND THE BEGINNINGS OF THE RENAISSANCE
Why did the Renaissance start in Italy?
How are politics, economies, and culture intertwined in the Renaissance?
Part One: Why Italy? Thoughts and Three Reasons...
o Reason # 1:
Remember, "Renaissance Humanism" - an obsession with the ancients
Nowhere is the ancient past so present in Western Europe as it is in Italy
Thinking: "We are descendants of them, we can be great like them too!"
o Reason # 2:
A lot of Italians are RICH in the 14 /15 C. (richest region in Europe)
They have dominated the trade of the Eastern Mediterranean for generations by this time
Spices, silks, and luxuries trade with Byzantines and Arabs
Lots of merchants - lay-elites and non-noble elites have pockets stuffed with cash!
Black death concentrates this wealth even more
Money for books, pictures, portraits, sculptures, buildings, etc...
o Reason # 3:
Most of these rich Italians live in CITIES - Italy is the most urbanized as well as the most prosperous region in Europe
Not just one big city, but MANY!
Ancient Roman civilization was also a city based culture! Ancient Roman civic ideas make a lot of sense and resonate
with Renaissance Italians.
Part Two: The Renaissance and the Italian States...
o Italy is not the unified state we know until the 19 C.
o Instead, peninsula is divided up into a "series of independent city-states and principalities of varying size and culture"
o Looks a lot like Germany... some of Italy supposed to be under control of the Emperor, but effectively independent
o Most city-states controlled by a single ruler (a "prince") but there are two "republics"; Florence and Venice
o Note: Renaissance culture flourishes in Florence and Venice, but it also found a happy home in Italian cities ruled by dukes,
kings, or popes... and later on, in countries beyond Italy too!
Often considered the birthplace of Renaissance Humanism
No ports! So, wealth is based on woollen cloth industry and on banking
A republic with remarkably broad participation for the times (kind of like a "pre-democracy")
About 3000 to 5000 men from "Seven Greater Guilds" (i.e. the wealthiest merchants and bankers eligible
for public office - only about 3% of the population, however...)
By the 15 C., often one man controlling everything behind the scenes though...
The Medici are bankers with very deep pockets
Lorenzo de Medici (1449 - 1492) "The Magnificent" -- perhaps the greatest of all Renaissance patrons
Machiavelli was a Florentine too!
Government official (1502 - 1512) when the Medici's were not in power
Medici's return in 1512 and kick Machiavelli out!
"The Prince" is dedicated to ANOTHER Lorenzo de Medici (died 1519, NOT 1492)
Many famous Renaissance thinkers and artists come from or work in Florence (remember Poggio!)
Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc
The city of Florence itself becomes a work of art...
The "Goliath of the North" - a major power in Italian politics
Wealth from making tools for cloth trade and from tolls
Control routes through the Alps
Later, they manufacture silk
A dictatorship, no pretences!
Visconti family want to create a Milanese Empire in Italy (this failed.)
Sforza family takes over in mid 15 C.o They embrace Renaissance culture
o Francesco Sforza (1450 - 1466) gets Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Last Supper in Milan
The most powerful port city in I