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THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SITUATION IN EUROPE
Transcript of THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SITUATION IN EUROPE
The Catholic Church
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Leonardo da Vinci
DID YOU KNOW?
The Middle Ages
After the fall of Rome, no single state or government united the people who lived on the European continent. Instead, the Catholic Church became the most powerful institution of the medieval period. Kings, queens and other leaders derived much of their power from their alliances with and protection of the Church.
Ordinary people across Europe had to “tithe” 10 percent of their earnings each year to the Church; at the same time, the Church was mostly exempt from taxation. These policies helped it to amass a great deal of money and power.
The period of European history referred to as the Renaissance was a time of great social and cultural change in Europe. Generally speaking, the Renaissance spanned from the 14th to the 16th centuries, spreading across Europe from its birthplace in Italy. During the Middle Ages, Italy was not the unified country that it is today. The Italian Peninsula was instead made up of a number of independent city-states, most of which were ruled by powerful families.
The period of time during which the European Renaissance fell was between the end of the Middle Ages (or medieval period) and the beginning of the Modern Age.
The term 'renaissance' is derived from the French word meaning 'rebirth'. It is used to describe this phase of European history because many of the changes experienced between the 14th and 16th centuries were inspired by a revival of the classical art and intellect of Ancient Greece and Rome. Much of the art, architecture, literature, science and philosophy that surfaced during the Renaissance was so reminiscent of this ancient past, that it seemed as though Europe was indeed reborn during the late Middle Ages.
MONDAY, October 20, 2014
Vol XCIII, No. 311
THE MIDDLE AGES
Economics and Society
The Middle Ages
The phrase “Middle Ages” tells us more about the Renaissance that followed it than it does about the era itself. Starting around the 14th century, European thinkers, writers and artists began to look back and celebrate the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Accordingly, they dismissed the period after the fall of Rome as a “Middle” or even “Dark” age in which no scientific accomplishments had been made, no great art produced, no great leaders born. The people of the Middle Ages had squandered the advancements of their predecessors, this argument went, and mired themselves instead in what 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon called “barbarism and religion.”
In medieval Europe, rural life was governed by a system
scholars call “feudalism.” In a feudal society, the king
granted large pieces of land called fiefs to noblemen and
bishops. Landless peasants known as serfs did most of
the work on the fiefs: They planted and harvested crops
and gave most of the produce to the landowner. In
exchange for their labor, they were allowed to live on the land.
They were also promised protection in case of enemy invasion.
During the 11th century, however, feudal life began to change.
Agricultural innovations such as the heavy plow and three-field crop rotation made farming more efficient and productive, so fewer farm workers were needed–but thanks to the expanded and improved food supply, the population grew. As a result, more and more people were drawn to towns and cities. By 1300, there were some 15 cities in Europe with a population of more than 50,000.
In these cities, a new era was born: the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of great intellectual and economic change, but it was not a complete “rebirth”: It had its roots in the world of the Middle Ages.
THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SITUATION IN EUROPE
After twenty years of traveling, Marco, along with his father and uncle, decided to head home to Venice. They left home in 1271 and finally returned in 1295. A few years after returning home, Venice fought a war with the city of Genoa. Marco was put under arrest. While he was under arrest, Marco told detailed stories of his journeys to a writer named Rustichello who wrote them all down in a book called The Travels of Marco Polo.
The Travels of Marco Polo became a very popular book. It was translated into multiple languages and read throughout Europe.
Marco Polo's remarkable travels triggered other European countries to go to Southeast Asia and colonize the countries.
The Renaissance also represented a break away from the conformist society and culture of medieval Europe. A conformist society is one in which people strictly follow established rules and practices. Breaking away from this mold, the Renaissance was a time during which new and inventive ideas began to spread and gain influence. Gradually, this decreased the dominance previously held by the Catholic Church.
The European Renaissance began in Northern Italy in the 14th century. The Tuscan city of Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Gradually, the movement spread from Italy to other parts of Europe.
Changes and Discoveries
Unlike the artistic styles of the earlier Middle Ages, which placed more importance on symbolism than reality, renaissance art was more life-like and contained perspective. Painters began to depict the human form with increasing accuracy, which was enabled by a better understanding of human anatomy. This anatomical knowledge was gained from advances made in the field of medicine during the Renaissance period. Much of this new knowledge can be attributed to the pioneering Renaissance figure, Leonardo da Vinci.
The Renaissance was also a time of great literary change. Writers and poets looked back to the poems and texts of Ancient Greece and Rome. Renaissance literature dealt much more with human characteristics and behaviors, shifting away from the religious and metaphysical subjects of earlier Medieval books, poems and plays. With the invention of the printing press in the 1440s, information suddenly became much more accessible to the general public, which had a huge impact on the field of education.
Philosophical trends also changed during the Renaissance. New ways of thinking, sparked by a philosophy known as humanism, altered the way in which people thought about human beings and the universe. During medieval times, the Catholic Church had been the major force influencing people's thoughts and beliefs on these matters. Unlike the Catholic faith, however, humanism did not promote the notion that humans are naturally sinful and it also placed a lot of emphasis on finding reason.
With the spread of humanistic thought, the medieval emphasis on spirituality was gradually replaced by a focus on the more physical characteristics of humans. The philosophical changes which occurred during the Renaissance also paved the way for another shift in thinking that was experienced in Europe at the turn of the Modern Age. This later revolution was known as the Enlightenment.
Science and engineering were other fields that experienced major changes during the Renaissance. Many new and exciting discoveries were made, mainly in the areas of anatomy, astronomy and physics. Breakthroughs in engineering also paved the way for many of the world's most significant inventions, such as telescopes, clocks and spectacles. Pioneering Renaissance scientists and inventors included Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci.
Marco Polo was a merchant and explorer who traveled throughout the Far East and China for much of his life. His stories were the basis for what much of Europe knew about Ancient China for many years. He lived from 1254 to 1324.
Marco first left for China when he was 17 years old. His father and uncle decided to return. They had met the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan during their first trip and had told him they would return. Kublai was leader over all of China at the time.
It took Marco Polo three years to get to China. Along the way he visited many great cities and saw many sites including the holy city of Jerusalem, the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Persia, and the Gobi Desert. He met a lot of different types of people and had many adventures.
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