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Renaissance & Exploration

AP Euro 1.1-1.5


Origin of the Term:

  • 15th and 16th-century intellectuals and artists believed they were in a new golden age.
  • Georgio Vasari, a 16th-century figure, used the term "rinascita" (meaning "rebirth") to describe the era.
Influence from Antiquity:
  • Renaissance figures believed their achievements were directly linked to Greek and Roman glories.
Renaissance vs. Middle Ages:
  • Historically, the Renaissance owed much to the intellectual and cultural achievements of the medieval era.
  • Despite its debts to the medieval period, Renaissance was distinguished by its unique contributions.


Contributions of the Renaissance:

  • Notable advancements in literature, art, philosophy, political, and historical thought.
  • Birth of modern individualism; emphasis on personal achievements versus medieval attributions to God.
Centers of Renaissance:
  • Initially began in the Italian city-states.
  • The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century facilitated the spread to other parts of Europe, giving rise to the Northern Renaissance.
Cultural Distinctions:
  • Italian Renaissance: Primarily focused on secular concerns.
  • Northern Renaissance: Dealt with religious matters, laying the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation.

The Italian City-States
  • Center of Europe's economic, political, and cultural life during the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • During the Middle Ages, under nominal control of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Residents largely decided their own fate, leading to vibrant and at times violent politics.
  • Conflict between old nobility (land-based wealth) and merchant families (wealth from 12th and 13th-century economic boom).
  • Presence of an urban underclass, the popolo, who sought wealth and political power.

Italian Renaissance (1.2)

  • Ciompi Revolt in Florence in 1378: popolo's violent challenge to the existing order.
  • Milan saw the rise of a tyrant (signor) due to social tensions; dominated by the Sforza family.
  • Florence and Venice remained republics, dominated by few wealthy families like the Medici.
  • City-states engaged in wars among themselves; by mid-15th century dominance of Florence, Milan, Venice, the papal states, and the Kingdom of Naples.

The Italian City-States

  • Economic vibrancy: merchants and bankers played significant roles.
  • Italy's geography facilitated links between Greek and Latin cultures.
  • Influence of classical civilization remained even after the western Roman Empire's collapse.

The Italian City-States


  • Humanism stressed the value and potential of the individual, leading to a focus on individual achievement and self-expression.
  • Francesco Petrarch considered the founder of humanism.
  • Petrarch's coined term “Dark Ages” for post-Roman cultural decline.
  • Rediscovery and direct reading of classical texts.
  • Civic humanists in Florence inspired by Petrarch.
  • Study of classical Greek reintroduced.
  • Revival of Greek essential to Renaissance: focus on works like Plato's.


  • Merging of platonic philosophy with Christianity to form Neoplatonism.
  • Emergence of hermeticism with connections to astrology, alchemy, and the Kabbalah.
  • Definition and exploration of the "Renaissance Man".
  • Critical textual analysis: Lorenzo Valla's debunking of the Donation of Constantine.
  • Women in humanism: e.g., Christine de Pisan's "The City of Ladies".

Renaissance Art

  • Noted for its significant contribution to Western culture.
  • Shift towards individualism: artists seen as significant individuals.
  • Influence of classical motifs in architecture.
  • Introduction of naturalistic styles and techniques.
  • Discovery of single-point perspective in the 1420s.
  • Transition from Early Renaissance to High Renaissance around the end of the 15th century.
  • Focus on three High Renaissance artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
  • Mona Lisa
  • Last Supper
  • Vitruvian Man
  • Self Portrait
  • The Virgin of the Rocks

Leonardo da Vinci

  • Noted for his multifaceted talents including inventions, scientific sketches, and artworks like the Mona Lisa.
  • Distinguished by his harmonious personality and outstanding works despite his short life.


  • The School of Athens
  • Sistine Madonna
  • Disputation of the Holy Sacrament
  • Transfiguration
  • The Triumph of Galatea
  • The Torment of Saint Anthony
  • Bacchus
  • Pietà
  • David
  • Doni Tondo


  • Master Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet

The Northern Renaissance (1.3)

Spread of Italian Renaissance Humanism:

  • Italian Renaissance humanism starts influencing Europe by the late 15th century.
  • While Italian Renaissance writers were Christian, they were less focused on religious questions than their northern counterparts.
Religious Focus of the Northern Renaissance:
  • The north had a later introduction to Christianity than the south.
  • Northern humanists sought to deepen their Christian understanding by studying early Christian authors.
  • Northern Renaissance was more religious in nature than its Italian counterpart.

Christian Humanists

  • Northern writers, referred to as "Christian Humanists," began to criticize the Catholic Church.
  • Erasmus and More were alarmed that radical voices like Martin Luther didn't seek to better the Church but to show its deviation from God's will.
Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536):
  • Recognized for collecting various proverbs in his "Adages".
  • Criticized Church problems through satire in "In Praise of Folly".
  • Emphasized inner faith over external worship forms in "Handbook of the Christian Knight".
  • Contributed a Latin translation of the New Testament, aiding the movement to better understand early Christians.
  • Had disagreements with Luther on Church reform and the concept of free will.

Sir Thomas More (1478–1535):

  • Coined the term "utopia," meaning "nowhere" in Greek.
  • Authored "Utopia" (1516) to depict a civilization with limited political and economic injustices.
  • Executed by Henry VIII for refusing to recognize Henry as Head of the Church of England.

Northern Renaissance Culture:

  • More than just Christian humanism; also showcased unique art forms.
  • Northern painters, influenced by Italian Renaissance artists, developed their own styles.
  • Albrecht Dürer, a brilliant draftsman, supported Martin Luther's revolution through his art (Apocalypse Woodcuts).

England’s Cultural Rise

  • The 16th and early 17th centuries saw major artistic achievements in England.
  • Notable English literary work before this included Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales".
  • This cultural awakening is not solely credited to Queen Elizabeth, as much occurred under James I.
Prominent Writers of the Period:
  • Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson were significant writers of the era.
  • William Shakespeare (1564–1616) emerged as an unrivaled genius:
  • Authored masterpieces like "Hamlet" and "King Lear".
  • Demonstrated profound understanding of the human psyche and a flair for dramatic intensity.

Printing Press (1.4)

  • Emergence due to increased literacy rates and demand from European universities.
  • Traditional book production by monks insufficient.
  • Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz introduced movable type to Western Europe.
  • Gutenberg printed approximately 200 ornate Bibles between 1452 and 1453, leading to his bankruptcy.
  • The 16th-century literacy boom underlines the printing press's significant impact.
  • Reformation's rapid spread attributed to the distribution of books.
Power of the Printing Press:
  • Recognized as one of history's most culturally significant inventions.
  • Facilitated the Reformation's spread among other historical events.

On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther published the 95 these, starting the Reformation in the German states

Protestant Reformation

  • Western Europe in 1500 had a singular church under the Pope's authority.
  • The Protestant Reformation resulted in a split, diminishing the Pope's sole religious authority.
  • The Reformation was partly a response to changes in Europe:
  • Renaissance humanism led to questioning religious practices.
  • Increased Bible availability challenged the Church's exclusive interpretation rights.
  • Rising monarchical powers questioned the need for distant religious authorities.

Additional problems:

  • Poorly educated lower clergy.
  • Simony (selling of church offices).
  • Clergy holding multiple positions.

Problems Facing the Church Pre-Reformation:

  • The Reformation is more than Martin Luther's story.
Church faced challenges like:
  • Growing anticlericalism after the Black Death.
  • Literary works, like Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," depicted clergy satirically.
  • Increased pietism reduced the hierarchical Church's significance.
  • 14th century marked by papacy's French dominance in Avignon.
  • The early 15th century's Great Schism saw three competing popes.

Religious Hostility

Reform Movements Declared Heretical:John Wycliffe of England:

  • Questioned Church's wealth, teachings of penance, transubstantiation, and selling of indulgences.
  • Urged followers (Lollards) to read and interpret the Bible.
  • Translated Bible into English.
Jan Hus of Bohemia:
  • Rector of the University of Prague.
  • Prioritized Bible's authority over the institutional church.
  • Criticized clergy's immoral behavior.
  • Advocated for congregational participation in sacraments.
  • Condemned as a heretic at the Council of Constance in 1415 and executed.
  • Hus's execution led to a rebellion in Bohemia.

New Monarchies

European Power Dynamics and Religion

  • Craving for power and its influence on European political institutions.
  • Three major changes in political development during the early modern period:
  1. Shift from decentralized to centralized power.
  2. Influence transitioned from landed nobility to educated, skilled, and wealthy individuals.
  3. Transition from religious to secular systems for law and justice.
  • Role of religious changes during the Reformation:
  • Promotion of political unity in some areas.
  • Partisan turmoil and challenges to leadership in others.


Religious Reform in England

  • Religious reforms in Central Europe started from the grassroots, affecting upper society over time.
  • In contrast, England’s reform was top-down, led by the king.
Henry VIII and the Break with the Pope
  • Henry VIII’s initial support for the papacy.
  • Desire for annulment from Katherine of Aragon.
  • Political and familial complications surrounding the annulment.
  • Divorce from Katherine, marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Pope Clement VII's objection.
  • England's break from Catholicism with the Act of Supremacy in 1534.
  • Execution of Anne Boleyn and subsequent marriages of Henry VIII.


Consequences of Breaking with Rome

  • The creation of the Church of England.
  • The Treason Act's establishment and execution of Sir Thomas More.
  • The Church of England reaffirmed certain Catholic doctrines.
  • Distinctions within the Anglican Church: High Church vs. Low Church.
Brief Successions and Their Impact
  • Reign of Edward, promoting Low Church.
  • Mary Tudor’s Catholic restoration attempts and the nickname “Bloody Mary”.
  • Elizabeth I's middle ground approach, the Elizabethan Settlement.

Elizabeth Period

  • Elizabeth’s efforts to restore the Anglican Church and maintain religious balance.
  • The rise of the Puritans and their challenges to the Church and crown.
  • Acts established under Elizabeth I to solidify the Church of England's control:
  • Act of Supremacy, 1558.
  • Act of Uniformity, 1559.
  • Thirty-Nine Articles, 1571.
  • Elizabeth I's iconic speech, emphasizing her strength and resolve as a ruler.


  • In the 15th century, the regions of Aragon and Castile, represented by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella respectively, were major powers in Europe.
  • Their marriage in 1469 was crucial for Spain's unification and power centralization.
  • They utilized taxes like the alcabala and officials like coreregidores to reinforce royal control.
  • The Spanish Inquisition, targeting especially the Jewish population, was another instrument of power for Ferdinand and Isabella.
  • In 1492, the completion of the Reconquista led to the driving out of Muslims from Spain. Jews, unless converted to Christianity, were also expelled.
  • Their military consolidation was pivotal, especially after their victory in Granada. This military strength permitted them to sponsor explorations, like that of Christopher Columbus.


  • The aftermath of the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) between England and France gave French kings an opportunity to centralize power.
  • King Charles VII's land tax, the taille, facilitated the establishment of a royal army. Other territories were also added to the crown's control.
  • Louis XI, Charles VII's son, played a role in France's recovery and reduced the aristocracy's influence.
  • The Concordat of Bologna in 1516 strengthened the French king's authority over the country's Catholic institutions.
  • The Edict of Nantes in 1598 granted rights to the Huguenots, ending religious wars of the 16th century.

German Territories

  • The Holy Roman Empire was a conglomerate of different kingdoms, principalities, and cities.
  • Differences between Catholic and Protestant regions led to the formation of the Schmalkaldic League, a defensive Protestant alliance.
  • While Emperor Charles V initially defeated the league, he couldn't force Catholicism onto Protestant subjects.
  • The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 permitted rulers to decide whether their subjects would follow the Lutheran or Roman Catholic form of Christianity.
  • Guilds' Dominance: Merchant guilds from the Middle Ages maintained significant local control and loyalty to monarchs.
  • Medici Family's Power: The Medicis of Florence emerged as major art patrons and political influencers in Renaissance Italy.
  • English Gentry's Ascendancy: The gentry in England, prospering from commerce, became influential political allies of the monarch.
  • French Nobility's Transition: France saw the rise of 'nobles of the robe', officials who gained power through state roles, contrasting with traditional military nobles.

Merchants, Lawyers, and Nobles Increase Power

  • Church Influence: The Catholic Church, under the Holy Roman Empire, dominated daily life and art due to its vast wealth.
  • Economic Evolution: Innovations in banking shifted societies from bartering to a money-based economy.
  • Professional Groups Rise: Merchants and lawyers grew in influence, with expertise becoming as vital as land ownership for power.
  • Artistic Diversification in Northern Europe: In places like the Netherlands, artists expanded their themes and patrons, moving beyond just Church commissions.

Secular Political Theories

  • Shift in Power: As the Catholic Church's influence waned, monarchs, nobles, and merchants rose in prominence. The Holy Roman Empire's territory and influence shrank, and Italian city-states vied for power.
  • Emergence of Secular States: This political upheaval led to the birth of secular political ideas across Europe. Writers formulated theories backing the rise of states not rooted in religious doctrines.
  • Theories on State-Individual Relationships: New political ideas concentrated on the relationship dynamics between individuals and between individuals and the state. They addressed the responsibilities that came with these relationships.

Notable Theorists and Their Ideas:

  • Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527): Introduced "Machiavellianism" - rulers should use cunning and deceit for stability and society's welfare. Known for "The Prince," he’s deemed the father of modern political science and advocated republicanism.
  • Jean Bodin (1530–1596): Advocated "Absolute Sovereignty" - rulers have the divine right to issue laws and determine religion, irrespective of people's consent. Bodin highlighted the distinction between a state and a monarch's personal assets, and supported religious tolerance.
  • Hugo Grotius (1583–1645): Introduced "Natural Law" - humans possess inherent rights and leaders should govern via logical and ethical principles. He is foundational to international law, emphasizing the principles of diplomacy, freedom of the seas, and humane war conduct. Grotius' ideas influenced the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.