The Renaissance was a time of creativity and change
in Europe. It was a rebirth of cultural and intellectual
pursuits after the stagnation of the Middle Ages. The
Renaissance produced a golden age with many achievements
in art, literature, and science, but most importantly,
it produced a new concept of how people thought of
themselves, each other, and the world around them.
The Renaissance was centered in Italy during the 1300s,
before spreading throughout Europe in the 1500 and
Humanism was an intellectual movement where people began
to focus on life in the present, which was in
contrast to the Middle Ages' focus on the after life.
Humanism stressed the importance of education,
with the study of ancient Greek and Roman texts becoming
the learning standard. Humanism also stressed the
importance of the individual. This movement
was the driving force of the Renaissance and is
reflected in the period's artistic, literary, and
Renaissance artists and architects produced some of the
finest works in all the world. While religious art was still very
prominent, new styles were developed. Humanist
ideas, and the concept of realism, was
reflected in many art forms. Artists such as
Leonardo Da Vinci studied anatomy,
while others used live models to better
catch the human form. Artists also learned the
rules of perspective allowing them to give their
works a 3 dimensional appearance.
Architects revived many ancient Greek and Roman styles,
such as the use of columns, domes, and arches.
Michelangelo: Sculptor, painter, poet,
engineer, and architect. Famous
works include the mural on the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel, and the sculpture of the
biblical character David.
Leonardo Da Vinci: A true
Renaissance man interested in a variety of
subjects. He was a painter, sculptor,
engineer, and inventor. Famous works
include paintings Mona Lisa
and The Last Supper. Also left a
variety of sketches showing flying machines
and underwater boats centuries before the
invention of planes and submarines.
Humanist ideas are reflected in works of Renaissance
literature. The most famous writer
of the time, William Shakespeare, wrote 37
plays between 1590 and 1613. His plays reflect the
ideas of individualism and the unconquerable human
spirit, and most of them are still performed
today. Other important Renaissance authors include
Dante, who wrote The Divine
Comedy, and Miguel de Cervantes who wrote
the comedic tale Don Quixote.
Besides works of fiction, writings on political philosophy
reappeared during this time period. the most well
know political philosopher of the Renaissance was Niccolo
Machiavelli, whose book The Prince,
reads as a "how to" guide for successful rule.
The most important technological innovation of the time
was the printing press. The
technology to make this possible was introduced from
China in the 1300s. By the 1400s, movable type was
being used in Europe as Johann Gutenberg
began printing the Bible in everyday language.
Soon millions of books were in circulation. This
invention led to a higher literacy rate
among people, and helped with the spreading of
The Scientific Revolution develops as a offshoot of the
Renaissance. The same spirit of inquiry that
fueled the Renaissance, led scientists to question traditional
beliefs about the workings of the universe. One of
the main ideas to come out of the Scientific Revolution
was the use of the Scientific Method.
The Scientific Method uses observation and experimentation
to explain theories on how the universe works.
Nicolaus Copernicus developed the heliocentric model
of the universe. This states that
the sun is the center, and that the earth revolves
around it. Despite his calculations, many scholars
disagree with his theories and continue to believe in
the geocentric model proposed by the
ancient Greek Ptolemy 1500 years earlier.
Galileo continues Copernicus' work by observing the
skies with a homemade
telescope. Although he was able to prove
Copernicus correct, his work was rejected by the Church
and he was forced to recant (take back) or face
Newton built upon the earlier work of Copernicus and
Galileo and used mathematics to describe gravity
as the force that keeps planets revolving around the
sun. He also explained that this same force is
what causes objects to fall to earth.
Rene Descartes was a French intellectual who challenged
traditional ideas. He said that human reason
was capable of discovering and explaining the laws of
nature and man. The idea of human reason being
superior to tradition would lead to the beginning of the
Enlightenment, a time of political awakening that