The Renaissance

Introduction to
The Renaissance
Text Chapter 12 (pages 375-381)
The Italian Renaissance
• Renaissance means rebirth
• Many Italians between 1350 and 1550
believed they had witnessed a rebirth of the
ancient Greek and Roman worlds
• Historians later called this the Renaissance
or Italian Renaissance- a period of European
history that began in Italy and spread to the
rest of Europe
Characteristics of the Renaissance
• Urban society
• An age of recovery from the disasters of the
14th century (plague, political instability,
and a decline of church power)
• Emphasis on Individual ability
– The well rounded, universal person was capable
of achievements in many areas of life. For
example, painting, sculpting, architecture,
mathematics, inventor, etc…
The Italian States
• Italy was unable to develop a monarchy
during the Middle Ages.
• Three city states remained independent and
played a critical role in Italian politics
– Milan
– Venice
– Florence
• Located in Northern Italy
• One of the richest city states in Italy
• In the 14th century, members of the Visconti
family established themselves as the dukes
of Milan.
• Sforza the new duke in 1447 was the leader
of a band of mercenaries – soldiers who sold
their services to the highest bidder
A link between Asia and Western Europe
Drew traders from all over the world
A republic with an elected leader called a doge
Venice’s trade empire was tremendously
profitable and made Venice an international
• Dominated the region of Tuscany
• Small but wealthy group of merchants
established control of the government
• The Medici family controlled the politics of
the city.
• Florence was a cultural center of Italy
Machiavelli and the New Statecraft
• Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince
• It is one of the most influential works on
political power in the Western world.
• Central thesis is how to acquire and keep
political power.
• According to Machiavelli, political activity
should not be limited by moral principles
• A prince must act on behalf of the state, even if
that meant abandoning his conscience
• Among the first to abandon morality as the
basis for politics
Renaissance Society
The Nobility
• Only 2-3% of the
• Born not made
• Classical education
& enrich his life with
the arts
• Live gracefullycertain standards of
Peasants & Townspeople
• Peasants made up 85 –
90% of the population
• By 1500, more and more
peasants became legally
• Townspeople made up the
rest of the third estate
• Mostly merchants &
Urban Renaissance Society
• Patricians- wealthy from trade, industry,
and banking
• Burghers- the shopkeepers, artisans, and
guild masters and guild members
• Workers- earned pitiful wages and made up
30-40 % of the urban population
• Late 1300’s and early 1400’s poverty
increased dramatically.
Family and Marriage
• Family bond was a source of great security
• To maintain the family, parents carefully
arranged marriages, often to strengthen
business or family ties
• Details worked out way in advance, sometimes
when children were only 2 or 3 years old
• Father- center of the Italian family; Mothersupervised household- no share in father’s wealth
• Father’s authority absolute until his death or he
formally freed his children in court. Age of
adulthood ranged from early teens to late

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