An Age of Discovery
The Renaissance, also known as ‘An Age of Discovery’ started in Italy in the mid-fourteenth century. The Renaissance served as a transition from the middle ages to modernity. The term comes from the French word for ‘rebirth’, which refers to the cultural, political and scientific development contributed to our society’s reformation. The intellectual and educational movement of the Renaissance started because people got tired of the medieval society, otherwise known as the Dark Ages; which was characterized by wars, diseases, and famine.
These disasters led Italy away from trading of grains and towards selling fine items like oil, wine, leather, and cheese; which made them the center of trade in Europe. Also, during this time period, people in the lower social class finally had a chance to live a life of prosperity- the wealth of a person mattered more than their social rankings.
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Thus, people began to work hard and make money to start their own business and relied on themselves rather than the Catholic church. As humanism develop people began thinking for themselves and started having demands for a more luxurious life, which came the time that new arts, science, and political ideas developed called the Renaissance.
The Renaissance is best known for is its cultural movement; although there were cultural changes, the most recognized one is the development of a new form of art. “The high Renaissance was the culmination and the fulfillment of the aspirations and techniques of the earlier Renaissance artists”( Jensen,133). The artists applied perspectives, light and shade, foreshortening, spacing, and etc to the creation of their masterpieces-creating realism.
These changes in artistic method was a renewed desire to depict the beauty of nature. With the wealth Rome and other Italian city-states had Renaissance artists and builders were able to create any kind of art they could imagine, kinds of arts the ancient Greeks and Romans desired but could not achieve. During this time of intellectual growth, some of the greatest artists of all time were produced; for example, the artistic trio of the Renaissance- Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Each of them was unique in personality, style, and significant.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the earliest among the three artists-known as the true Renaissance Man. Leonardo created some of the most famous paintings ever-the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. He is known for his mysterious unrevealed facial expression “In all their faces are seen love, fear, and wrath, or rather, sorrow, at not being able to understand the meaning of Christ” and having most of the paintings as unfinished pieces. Besides being an artist Leonardo was also an inventor- he designed structures of a wing-flapping device and a tank four hundred years before the machines were invented. He was also “sketched the most detailed study of the human body before the twentieth century”(Anirudh, N/A). Thus, he is considered as one of the greatest minds ever produced.
Despite the fact that the Renaissance is most known for its artistic side; they also hit a milestone on their scientific discoveries. At the beginning “Renaissance humanists were not generally proponents of science or the radical new theories about the universe”(Lerner,187). The humanists saw it as “irrelevant to their aim of making people more eloquent and moral”(Lerner,187). However, certain scientific trends at that time prepared the way for scientific advances.
For example, the philosophy of Neoplatonism-” it helped scientific thinkers to reconsider the older notion that had impeded the progress of medieval science”( Lerner,188). Scientists begun with studying the ancient Greek philosophy then expand upon it. The Renaissance and Scientific Revolution was responsible for the introduction of ideas such as a heliocentric solar system and laws of planetary motion.
The heliocentric system- One of the most important contributions of Copernicus was to the field of astronomy was discovered by Nicholas Copernicus; the theory claims that the earth revolves around the sun. In 1543, in his On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres he published his theory which argued that the earth is one of the seven planets in the solar system around the Sun, and they “move around the sun in concentric circles”( Lerner,190). Another famous Renaissance scientist is Galileo Galilei. Galileo completed Copernicus’s idea; and determined that the Milky Way is a collection of celestial bodies independent of our solar system.
Though Galileo was opposed by many people, his discoveries convinced most of the scientists that the heliocentric system was mostly right. Besides Galileo’s accomplishment in astronomy, he also had major achievements in physics- he discovered that “every weight tends to fall toward the center by the shortest way”( Lerner,191); and demonstrated that falling bodies of similar material but different masses have similar times of descent. In addition, he designed a varying amount of inventions, including a steam engine, a helicopter, an armed tank and etc. Therefore, he is praised as the “Father of Modern Science”.
An important factor that contributed to intellectual and educational development during the Renaissance was the politics of Italian city-states is the fall of Feudalism. Feudalism had been widespread in the Middle Ages, gradually disappeared, and early forms of capitalism emerged. This made the serfs’ free people, this caused peasants in many parts of Europe to face a shortage of open land.
Thus, people moved to the cities to look for jobs; and started capitalism During the Renaissance, the European economy grew dramatically, particularly in the areas of trade-as people had their own business. improvements in banking, expanding trade routes-Spain and Portugal began to increase their territory by colonizing in the Americas, this led to an increase in their wealth as well; new manufacturing systems led to an overall increase in commercial activity. This also made the economy wealthier and made it easier for the people in the lower class to make money.
A person’s wealth began to impact politics more than social class. For example, the Medici family made their fortune by selling cotton and then becoming the master of Florence. During the middle ages people traded goods for other goods, but during the Renaissance, people began using coins to buy goods which created a money economy. Money changers were needed to covert one type of currency into another. Therefore, many craftspeople, merchants, and bankers became more important in the society. Craftspeople produced goods that merchants traded all over Europe. Bankers exchanged currency, loaned money, and financed their own business.