The Renaissance17 minutes read


Renaissance- a cultural movement that lasted from the 14th to 16th century in Europe that originated in Italy and then later spread north.

Petrarch- (1304-1374) Francesco Petrarca also known as Petrarch is considered the “father of humanism.” Petrarch was a writer and poet known for his Italian poetry.

popolo grosso- (big people) the wealthy merchant class of Florence.

Cosimo de’ Medici- (1389-1464) was the wealthiest Florentine. Cosimo de’ Medici controlled the government of Florence behind the scenes. He was the first of the Medici political dynasty.

Humanism- An intellectual movement of the Renaissance which focused on secular thoughts. In Humanistic thought is a theory that often times rejects the belief in god. Scholars still debate the true definition of Humanism.

studia humanitatis- an area of liberal arts that embraced grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, philosophy, and politics.

Leonardo Bruni- an Italian humanist who gave the name “humanitas”, or “humanity” to the humanistic writings and thoughts of the Renaissance.

Dante- Dante Alighieri was one of the most well known poets of the Renaissance. His most well known literary work called the Divine Comedy is one of the great works to emerge from the Renaissance.

Pico della Mirandola- Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was a philosopher during the Renaissance. He was a humanist philosopher who wrote the famous work On the Dignity of Man.

Civic Humanism- refers to the development of moral, social, and political philosophy that developed in fourteenth and fifteenth century Italy.

chiaroscuro- the technique in painting when the artist uses lighting and shading in a work to give it perspective and a sense of volume to objects and figures.

Leonardo da Vinci- (1452-1519) was a painter, engineer, mathematician, inventor, and sculptor. Leonardo is best known for his paintings Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper. Leonardo was a true Renaissance man he harbored all the qualities of one.

Raphael- (1483-1520) Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was an Italian Renaissance painter. Raphael is best known for his painting The School of Athens.

Michelangelo- (1475-1564) was a sculptor and painter during the Italian Renaissance. He is best known for painting the Sistine Chapel Cieling and sculpting the sculpture David.

Slavery in the Renaissance- when we think of the Renaissance we usually do not think of slavery. During the Renaissance most slaves were domestic house servants. Owners of the slave had full rights of the slave.

Treaty of Lodi- the treaty of Lodi was a peace agreement between the three Italian city states of Milan, Naples, and Florence. The treaty was inacted on April 9, 1454; it put to an end the long struggles of power between the city states.

Charles VIII- (1470-1498) ruled France from 1483 to 1498. Charles VIII entered Italy in 1494 and entered Florence without resistance.

Pope Alexander VI & the Borgias- Pope Alexander VI was known to be the most corrupt pope ever to be in Papal office. Pope Alexander used his power and wealth to help his son Cesar Borgia become the Duke of Romagna.

Pope Julius II- The Warrior Pope- succeeded Alexander VI to the Papal throne in 1503. Pope Julius II used his power as the pope to make the Catholic Church one of the most powerful diplomatic and militaristic powers in Italy during the time. He was one of the most secular and militaristic popes which branded him the name “The Warrior Pope”.

Niccolo Machiavelli- was born on May 3, 1469 in Florence. Machiavelli was a diplomat and humanism philosopher. Machiavelli is best known for his political work The Prince. In the his book The Prince, Machiavelli describes how to be a successful ruler. He writes that a ruler must be ruthless to stay in power and the end justifies the means.

Estates General- Estates General was the medieval French parliament that was a general assembly of the three classes in France. The Estates General was comprised of three groups; clergy, nobility, and the commoners. The last meeting of the Estates General was in 1789.

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain- the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in October of 1469 unified Spain and made it one of the powerful monarchies in Europe during the Renaissance. The marriage between the two led to the emergence of exploration in the late 15th century to early to mid 16th century.

The Inquisition- the inquisition was responsible for the jailing, tourture, and execution of “heretics” in Spain. The inquisition helped end the feudal monarchy and helped jumpstart the emergence of Spain as a monarchy in Europe.

Richard III- was king of England for two years from 1483 to 1485. Richard III usurped the throne from Edward’s son who was 12 years old at the time. Richard III was highly protested by the Tudor dynasty.

Henry Tudor – Henry VII- was the first of the new Tudor dynasty that would rule england throughout the 16th century. Henry VII married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. This brought the two royal families together. Henry VII also figured out a way to discipline the nobility through a special instrument of the royal will known as the Court of Star Chamber. The Court was much more regulated because the nobility could not bribe the judges of the court any more.

The Golden Bull 1356- was an agreement that established a seven member electoral college consisting of the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne. The group also functioned as an administrative group that elected the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Northern Renaissance- was stimulated by the Italian Renaissance. There were a variety of influences that contributed to the Northern Renaissance. One of them was the printing press. Created by Johann Gutenberg in 1468, the printing press allowed for a cheap and quick way to print books. The Northern Renaissance occurred in the European countries north of the alps. Universities and the printing press helped spread knowledge and learning in the northern European countries.

Printing Press- the printing press was created in 1468 by Johann Gutenberg. The printing press allowed for the cheap and efficient printing of books during the Renaissance. The printing press allowed knowledge and learning be more accessible to the people during this time. When the printing press was created literacy rates in Europe increased this led to more people being able to read the bible in their own vernacular. This led to the Reformation.

Erasmus- was one of the most well known humanists of the Northern Renaissance. Erasmus was a dutch humanist, priest, teacher, and writer. Erasmus made clear that many loyal Catholics wanted major reforms in the church. Erasmus was highly critical of the corruption in the Catholic Church.

Thomas More’s Utopia- in 1516 Thomas More wrote Utopia a work of fiction and political philosophy.

Index of Forbidden Books- the index of forbidden books was a list of books that were heretical or against the Catholic church and therefore banned by the Church. At one point all of Thomas More’s books were banned by the Catholic Church.

Prince Henry the Navigator- before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas Prince Henry the Navigator captured, Ceuta, a North African city. He wanted to spread Catholicism and he was also on a quest for gold. This started the Portuguese exploration of the African coast.

Columbus’s voyage- after departing the Canary islands Columbus arrived at Watling’s Island in the caribbean. Columbus thought he had landed at an outer island of Japan. Columbus’s voyages marked the beginning of more that three centuries of a vaster Spanish empire in the Americas.

Las Casas- Bartolome de Las Casas was a clerical critic of the Spanish conquerors. He said to the Spanish that the religious conversion of the natives was possible without the conquering of their land. The result of Las Casas was that in 1550 new royal regulations were enacted to protect the native indians.

Conquistadors- Conquistadores were the Spanish conquerers of the New World. The two most famous of Conquistadores were Francisco Pizarro who conquered the Incan Empire and Hernán Cortés who conquered the Aztec Empire.

Encomienda- was a grant given by the Spanish crown to colonists in the New World of a certain amount of indian laborers. The encomienda then went into decline by the mid 16th century because the Spanish crown feared that the colonists might become too powerful.

Inflation- a situation in which more money becomes available without an increase in production and services, causing prices to rise. Inflation happened in Europe after the voyages of discovery because the influx of spices and precious metals. Prices in Spain doubled by 1550, and then quadrupled by 1600.

Fuggers/Medicis/Habsburg/Bardi/Peruzzi- the Fuggers, Medicis, Habserg, Bardi, Peruzzi families were all powerful, capitalistic families in Europe during the Renaissance. All were very wealthy and controlled controlled the governments in Europe.


1. Explain why the Renaissance began in Italy.

The Renaissance began in Italy because of Italy’s central location. As we know from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, we know that cultures get ahead of one another because of their geography. Italy was at the crossroads of trade between Europe and the Middle East. Italy is between the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas thus giving it the central location. Italy had a constant flow of money because of it location for trade. Since Italy is a central location, people from different cultures and countries came to Italy. Ideas of mathematics, astronomy, art, and medicine came to Italy before and during the Renaissance. The new ideas that people brought through cultural interaction ignited the Renaissance. Many merchants in Italy became wealthy because of trade. With the extra money the merchants made from trade they could now fund the artists that lived in Italy. Because of Italy’s central location and wealth, the Renaissance began in Italy.

2. Describe Renaissance humanism.

Renaissance humanism is a collection of secular ideas and teachings. Renaissance humanism was a movement during the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. Humanism writers and philosophers broke the medieval tradition that thought that all works of literature and art should have religious themes. Humanism writers and philosophers thought more of secular and worldly subjects instead of more religious ones. Humanism writers treasured the individual. Renaissance humanism spread throughout Europe. Humanism writers were more secular and their writings did not have religious bias. The ideas of humanism improved education in Europe. Humanism valued education because humanism writers believed that education helped the individual by giving him more power. Baldasar Castiglione was a Renaissance humanist writer who wrote The Courtier, which discussed how to be a “perfect courtier” or Renaissance man. According to Castiglione one must be well educated, well mannered, and must have a certain nonchalance [sprezzatura]. Renaissance humanism was the congregation of secular ideas and thoughts that many philosophers and writers during the Renaissance would write about and discuss.

3. Is the Renaissance a break with the Medieval past?

The Renaissance was a time of change between the ideas and thoughts of Medieval Europe and the new and emerging ones of the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of innovation, art, and learning. The introduction of the printing press in Europe rose literacy rates in Europe. The humanism thinkers valued education and learning. Before the Renaissance in Europe, and during the Middle Ages education was not as valued as it became during the Renaissance. Books were not as plentiful as they became after the conception of the printing press. The Middle Ages was a time of doldrums in Europe compared to the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a revival of culture in Europe. The contrast between the period of the Medieval Middle Ages to the period of the Renaissance is so stark that the Renaissance is known as the distinguishing break between that ended the Middle Ages.

4. Evaluate the achievements of two or more Renaissance artists and characterize their work.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a painter, engineer, mathematician, inventor, and sculptor. Leonardo is best known for his paintings Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper. Many of Leonardo’s paintings either had a religious theme because the Catholic Church had commissioned Leonardo to paint a religious painting, or did not have a theme at all and only focused on a figure. Most historians believe that Leonardo was atheist and did not believe in a god but Leonardo knew that if he was openly atheist he would be labeled a “heretic” by the Catholic Church. This is why historians believe Leonardo painted many religious works. Sandro Botticelli was a painter during the Renaissance who lived and worked in Florence, Italy. Botticelli’s work is more focused on the pagan mythology of Ancient Rome. For the time Botticelli’s work was audacious and radical because at the time most artists were painting religious pieces for the church. Botticelli is best known for painting pagan mythology. His paintings seemed to bring back to life the gods and goddesses of pagan mythology. The reason why Botticelli could paint such radical pieces was because he had the backing of the powerful ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de Medici. During the rule of Lorenzo de Medici, Lorenzo helped finance the artists and sculptors in Florence. Botticelli was more radical because he didn’t paint religious scenes but instead mythological ones. Botticelli was in a city were these types of paintings were more accepted whereas Leonardo da Vinci was not in such a city and had to paint more religious themes to not be labeled as a “heritic”.

5. Explain the reasons and the results of the French invasion of Italy in 1494.

There were many reasons for the French invasion of Italy in 1494 and results of it as well. The war began in 1494 when the French king Charles VIII invaded Italy shattering the Peace of Lodi. Before that tensions between Papal States and the city states of Italy were on the rise. The causes of the war were that there was hostility between France and the Holy Roman Empire. When the French invaded Italy it brought the Italian Renaissance to France. The invasion instigated educational and religious reform in France. The humanism thoughts of Italy were brought to France after the invasion of Italy in 1494. These thoughts and ideas that were spread from Italy to France led to the beginning of the reformation in the Catholic Church.

6. Summarize the political theory of Machiavelli in The Prince. Explain the historical context.

Machiavelli’s The Prince is a political guide for a ruler. The political philosophy of The Prince is that the ends justify the means. Machiavelli writes that a ruler must do anything in his power to retain power, even if this means to lie, cheat, steal, or murder. Machiavelli wrote The Prince from experiences he saw. Machiavelli was a diplomat during the Renaissance and he was in close contact with one of the most powerful men at the time Cesar Borgia. Cesare Borgia was a real threat to the city states of Italy because he had a strong military and he also had the powerful political backing of pope Alexander VI. After Cesare died in 1507, and failed to unite all of Italy (which wouldn’t be done until 1861), Machiavelli wrote the prince, which is almost a how to guide for a ruler. Machiavelli writes that it is better to be feared than to be loved because fear of survival is a much reliable way to control a population, where as having a population who is loyal to you. The Prince written because Machiavelli saw the things Borgia did wrong and wrote a book for rulers on how to stay in power and how to gain it. The Prince is a work of political philosophy, which obtained it’s inspiration through the political mistakes of Cesare Borgia.

7. Compare and contrast the Italian and Northern renaissances.

There were significant differences between the Italian and Northern renaissances. The Italian Renaissance began in the 14th century and lasted until the 16th century. The Northern Renaissance began soon thereafter the Italian Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance had more of a classical influence; the paintings and sculptures showed what life was life during the Ancient days of Rome or Greece. The painting by Raphael “The School of Athens” is a prime example of this. Raphael showed the classical architecture of Ancient Greece. The Italian Renaissance painters focused more on classical and aristocratic themes.

A painting, by the Northern Renaissance artist Peter Brugal, called “Haymaking” showed the day to day lives of Northern European people. The paintings of the Northern Renaissance were more focused on portraits, and home interiors whereas the Italian Renaissance paintings were focused on classical mythology and religious scenes. The Northern Renaissance was fueled by the many universities that were being founded and the efficiency of the printing press. The Italian Renaissance was fueled by the humanist ideas and teachings that were brought to Italy through cultural interaction by trade.

8. Assess the rule of two or more Renaissance monarchs. What were their goals? How far did they succeed in creating a nation-state?

The goals of Charles VII and Henry VII were both similar in that fact that they were both striving to end the feudal monarchies in their countries and trying to achieve a unified nation state. In France, Charles VII created a permanent professional army. This helped drive out the English during the 100 Years War and also gave more power to Charles and helped him achieve more power in France against the nobles. When Charles drove out the English from France this gave the French people a sense of nationalism. Charles came close to creating a nation-state but still did not completely unify France. Not until Charles’s son Louis XI would France gain power of Burgundy, which was one of the last steps to achieving a nation-state, would France become a true nation-state. In England Henry VI was also following the same similar steps to try to gain control over the nobles to achieve a nation-state. Henry VII married Elizabeth of York which brought together the two rival families of The War of Roses. This unified England and also made sure Henry VII had a uncontested heir to the throne. Henry VII implemented a new court system called the Court of Star Chamber which cracked down on the nobility who would bribe and intimidate to receive favorable court rulings. This let Henry VII gain more control over the nobility. Both Renaissance monarchs Charles VII and Henry VII both redirected their countries onto the paths to becoming powerful nation-states.

9. Why is the Holy Roman Empire an exception to the norm when it comes to the rise of nation-states? Long-term consequences for Germany?

The Holy Roman Empire was and exception to the rise of the nation-state compared to England and France because it saw the power of the many outweigh the power of the one. The Holy Roman Empire unlike England or France was separated by many small sovereign territories. By the 15th century the Holy Roman Empire was separated by many small territories. In 1356 there was an agreement between the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, Cologne, the duke of Saxony, margrave of Brandenburg, court of Palatine, and the king of Bohemia to create a system where the seven would elect a single governing emperor. It may have seemed that the emperor would have more power against the seven members but during each election of the emperor his powers were renegotiated. Once again the powers of the many outweighed the one.

10.What factors led to the voyages of discovery?

There were several factors that led to the voyages of discovery; many of them originating in Spain. The marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon unified Spain. The union made Spain a wealthier and more powerful nation-state. To gain more power and a larger sphere of influence both Spain and Portugal increased trade and began the conquering of foreign lands. Slowly, Spain and Portugal shifted their eyes away from the Mediterranean. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas landing at Watling’s island in the Caribbean. The voyages of discovery soon became voyages of conquest and plunder. During this time spices were a valuable commodity and in the Americas spices were easily grown. In the Americas the Spanish could easily enslave the population. Also in America there were significant precious metal deposits. The financial benefit that Spain received during the conquests of America led to other countries starting their own campaigns in the Americas.


Kagan, Donald, Steven E. Ozment, and Frank M. Turner. The Western Heritage: Since 1300. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

“English Definition of “currency Inflation”” Currency Inflation. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

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