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HIST302: Medieval Europe

Unit 8: Origins of the Renaissance   In Italy during the late Middle Ages, the contours of a new cultural movement—the Renaissance—began to emerge in urban centers such as Rome, Venice, Florence, and Milan.  Meaning “rebirth” in French, “the Renaissance” refers to a growing interest in classical Greek and Roman sources, an emphasis on realism in art, and educational reform.  Renaissance thinkers emphasized humanism—a moral philosophy that considers humans to be of primary importance—in art, philosophy, politics, science, and religion.   This new interest in humanism represented a gradual shift away from the focus on theology and philosophy that had dominated European thought for centuries.  By the sixteenth century, Renaissance culture had spread to other regions of Europe.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3: 3.5 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Discuss the medieval origins of the Renaissance.
  • Describe the social, political, and economic setting in Italy in the fifteenth century and some of the developments that historians count as especially important in encouraging the artistic and cultural innovations associated with the Renaissance.
  • Explain and assess the arguments given by historians concerning the influence of events such as the Great Plague and fall of Constantinople on European culture and politics.
  • Identify the major achievements of the early Renaissance in Italy and describe its spread to northern Europe.
  • Identify major themes in the work of important figures such as Durer and Erasmus and explain how these reflect the spread of Renaissance values and ideas.

8.1 Origins   8.1.1 Northern Italian Cities   - Web Media: CosmoLearning: Perry-Castaneda Library, Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin’s “Italy (1490)” Link: CosmoLearning: Perry-Castaneda Library, Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin’s “Italy (1490)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: View the above map in conjunction with the lecture above.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: University of California, Berkeley: Thomas Laqueur’s “The Renaissance in Western History” Link: University of California, Berkeley: Thomas Laqueur’s “The Renaissance in Western History” (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch Thomas Laqueur’s “The Renaissance in Western History” for an overview of the places where the Italian renaissance began.  What were the political and social elements in medieval Italy that led to the origins of the Renaissance?
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.2 Commercial Exchange   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Commercial Exchange" Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Commercial Exchange” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Commercial Exchange."  As you read, answer the following questions: what developments contributed to the rise of a profit-based economy?  How are these developments reflected in new types of business associations and new industries?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. 

8.1.3 Communes and Republics   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Bartolo of Sassoferrato’s “Treatise on City Government” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook:Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Bartolo of Sassoferrato’s “Treatise on City Government” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Bartolo of Sassoferrato’s “Treatise on City Government” to understand how Italians thought about urban centers and governments at the beginning of the renaissance.
 Bartolo of Sassoferrato (1313–57) taught law at the University of Perugia, and he was one of the fourteenth century’s most important legal theorists.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.4 City-States   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Discourses: Republics and Monarchies” and “The Prince” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Discourses: Republics and Monarchies” (HTML) and “The Prince” (HTML)
 
“The Prince” is also available in:
 ePub format on Google Books
 PDF
 
Instructions: Read Machiavelli's "The Discourses" and "The Prince" to learn about his theories about republican and princely governments.  Think about why he changed so much between the two works.
 
"The Prince" is a political treatise written by Niccolò Machiavelli, a Florentine political theorist, in the sixteenth century.  In an era of constant conflict among Italian city-states, Machiavelli asserts that the greatest moral good is a virtuous and stable state.  Even if actions taken to preserve the state are immoral, Machiavelli argues, they remain justified.  The text, with its “end justifies the means” pragmatism, had a deep impact on Western philosophy.
 
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8.2 Causes   8.2.1 Response to Middle Ages?   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Responses to the Middle Ages” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Responses to the Middle Ages” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Responses to the Middle Ages.”  As you read, consider the following questions: what does the term “renaissance” mean, and how has it been used to describe periods in European history?  What are the distinguishing features of the period known as the Renaissance that began in Italy around 1350?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. 

8.2.2 Fall of Byzantium   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Fall of Byzantium” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Fall of Byzantium” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Fall of Byzantium”  As you read, answer the following questions: how did the Byzantine Empire come to an end?  In what ways did Byzantine culture survive in Europe?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. 

8.2.3 New Emphasis on Latin and Greek Texts   - Reading: Fordham University's Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Francesco Petrarch's "Letter to Homer" Link: Fordham University's Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Francesco Petrarch's "Letter to Homer" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Petrarch's "Letter to Homer" for an explanation of Petrarch's view of the relationship between renaissance humanism and ancient authors.
 
Francesco Petrarch lived in the fourteenth century, but he wrote many letters to famous Greeks and Romans who had been dead for centuries.  Homer wrote the Greek epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey by the middle of the eighth century BCE.
 
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8.2.4 Unique Political and Social Climate in Italy   - Lecture: University of California, Berkeley: Thomas Laqueur’s “The State as a Work of Art” Link: University of California, Berkeley: Thomas Laqueur’s “The State as a Work of Art” (Flash)
 
Instructions: View Thomas Laqueur’s “The State as a Work of Art” for an overview of the development of renaissance political thought in Italy.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.5 Black Death   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Black Death” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Black Death” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Black Death."  As you read, answer the following questions: what was the Black Death, and how did it affect the body?  What were some of the immediate responses to the pandemic?  What long-term effects did it have on the population and Europe?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. 

8.2.6 French and English Exploration   - Reading: Fordham University's Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Francis Petty's "Sir Francis Drake's Famous Voyage Round the World" Link: Fordham University's Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Francis Petty's "Sir Francis Drake's Famous Voyage Round the World" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Petty's "Sir Francis Drake's Famous Voyage Round the World" for an example of an English explorer and compare Drake to the Spanish and Portuguese explorers discussed above.
 
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8.3 The Renaissance in Northern Europe   8.3.1 The Northern Renaissance   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Northern Renaissance” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Northern Renaissance” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read “Northern Renaissance.” As you read, answer the following questions: which ideas traveled from Italy to the rest of Europe during the period known as the Renaissance, and how?  In what ways were these ideas adapted to new contexts?  What are the main characteristics of the Northern Renaissance?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. 

8.3.2 Christian Humanism   - Reading: State University of New York, Suffolk, HS 101 Readings: Desiderius Erasmus’ “Julius Excluded from Heaven” Link: State University of New York, Suffolk, HS 101 Readings: Desiderius Erasmus’ “Julius Excluded from Heaven” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Erasmus’ “Julius Excluded from Heaven” to learn about the foundations and ideals of Christian humanism.  Think about what criteria Erasmus/Peter is using to judge Pope Julius II.
 
Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was a Dutch Catholic priest who took issue with what he saw as corruption within the Catholic hierarchy.  He applied the humanist ideals of classical learning to Christian texts and even created a new Greek edition of the New Testament.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.3 Art and Architecture   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Art and Architecture” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Art and Architecture” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Art and Architecture.”  As you read, answer the following questions: which characteristics of the Italian artistic style influenced northern artists?  In what ways did Albrecht Dürer adhere to the Italian model and ideas about the fine arts and the artist?  In what ways does he move beyond the Italian model?

 Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately
20 minutes to complete. 
  • Web Media: Mark Harden's Artchive: Albrecht Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" Link: Mark Harden's Artchive: Albrecht Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: View Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" in conjunction with the reading above.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.4 Politics and State-building   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Politics and State-building” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Politics and State-building” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Politics and State-building.”  As you read, answer the following questions: what are the characteristics of a sovereign state?  In what ways did monarch try to merge their person with the state?  How did monarchs and governing assemblies maintain and reinforce their authority?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 20 minutes to complete.