A booming economy along with the communes desire to obtain political power led to the formation of a new class in society which ultimately lead Europe into a period simply known as the Renaissance. Northern Italy s thriving economy was a result of great advances in shipbuilding. Their ships were capable of sailing year round and could travel even greater distances, which meant they could eliminate middle men and make an even greater profit on their goods. Genoa and Venice also increased the size of their ships which allowed them to carry larger quantities of the goods. These factors lead to the development of the Florence wool industry in which thousands were hired to produce exquisite woolen cloth which, in turn, were sold at high prices. Florence bankers had also secured control of papal banking and the resulting profits from loans, investments, and money exchanges flooded into the economy.
The period from 1050 to 1300 was a great time of prosperity so naturally men wanted economic freedom. The Northern Italian cities were communes in which men vowed to obtain political and economic freedom from the higher powers. These men were joined by nobles who saw an opportunity to gain wealth and power via maritime trade and availability of new public offices. This new class formed by feudal nobility and commercial aristocracy, was opposed by the popolo who felt they were being mistreated by the new communal government. They used violence to obtain power and they too mistreated those with less social standing. They were unable to establish social order so signori and constitutional oligarchies took their place. The Italian peninsula was now controlled by 5 powers during the Renaissance. These 5 powers successfully crushed revolts, collected taxes, and used large building programs to employ the masses. For years Italy was at war with itself as city-states battled one another. Eventually the idea of having resident ambassador was brought into action but it was too late an other European powers saw Italy was unable to unite and the invasion of Italy by France shortly followed. Italy would suffer from similar attacks until 1870 when it unified.
During the fifteenth century s rulers began to rebuild their governments by reducing violence and establishing order. Rulers felt fear of them was better than love of them. France took great strides in reorganizing their government. Charles VII reorganized the royal council, which gave greater influence to middle-classmen. He also created taxes such as the gabelle (salt tax) and the taille (land tax). He focused on remodeling the army and eventually was responsible for creating the first permanent army. His son took a different approach and felt money was the answer so he looked for ways to improve France s economy. However it is believed that the Concordat of Bologna, which was drawn up by Francis I and Pope Leo X , strengthened the French monarchy the most.
England suffered greatly during the fifteenth century but Edward VI, his brother Richard III, and Henry VII worked together to restore royal power. They aimed to crush the power of the nobility and establish order by using practices of torture. Henry VII was able to rebuild the monarchy while creating a better economy for his people.
Spain was filled with political turmoil during the time of the Renaissance. Spain unlike England and France didn t unify. Ferdinand and Isabella raised enough money to create an army which in turn ended the reconquista but new problems arose in Spain. Jews held high positions in government and for the country to unite there had to be one religion in Spain. This idea lead to the inquisition which expelled all practicing Jews from Spain. Now with one religion along with the unification of Portugal to the Spanish crown the Iberian Peninsula was finally united.
Europe underwent great social change during the period of the Renaissance. Printing allowed the ideals of the Renaissance to reach the masses. Books on education, such as The Courtier influenced thousands. Written by a man named Baldassare Castiglione, it s purpose was to assist men in becoming gentlemen. He felt men should be familiar with dance, the arts, and music. Another book printed was The Prince written by a man named Niccolo Machiavelli. The issue discussed was political power and how a ruler could gain, maintain, and increase it. He felt that a ruler should not be concerned with they way things aught to be but with the way things are. Printing had the power to stimulate laypeople and have an impact on their private lives. Another advance that stimulated social change was the clock which now was a factor in conducting business.
During this time period the status of women declined. Women lost political power and played little or no role is shaping society. They became objects who were trained to grace their husbands household. Women did however receive a better education during the Renaissance but the knowledge they obtained was used to entertain guest. A man of high stature should have a well dressed, well educated woman. As the book states Men, and men alone, operated in the social sphere; woman belonged in the home . Rape wasn t considered a serious crime. If a nobleman raped a woman of less social stature it was hardly considered a crime but if you weren t a noble and you raped a nobleman s wife you would be punished severely. Once again it shows that women were treated as property. Another social problem was sodomy which was believed to have been common due in part to the fact it expressed distinction between the states. Sodomy was so prevalent an organization called the Office of the Night was set up to obtain and punish these men. Slaves also entered Europe in large numbers during this time period. They became, almost a novelty to Europeans. Blacks filled positions such as maids, valets, and domestic servants. Owning one would be a sign of status during this time period. They were something exotic and a source of entertainment. Some blacks were actors, dancers, and musicians.
Culture also evolved during this time period. Interest in the Latin classics increased, especially by Humanist. Humanist studied Latin classics to understand human nature and how it differed from previous times as apposed to medieval humanist who looked to reveal God. The idea of Individualism also grew in the Renaissance. Individualism stressed personality, genius, and talents as expressed through the arts and literature. People strived to be different and their desire for fame and success made them live up to their full potential. The High Renaissance was rich in culture. It s art was unique and beautiful and became an economic activity as well as a cultural phenomenon. Pieces by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci lead way to one of the greatest periods in the history of art. Owning art showed you had social standing and power. In the middle ages men who had money spent it on arms, but during the Renaissance men of wealth commissioned artist to paint their portraits. The focus of art had changed drastically. Previously the focus of art was religion, but during the Renaissance the individual portrait evolved. Realism was developed and depicted the difference in the human body. Another style that was developed was that of international style, which used rich colors and decorative detail. Artist where respected by all and made a great deal of money, some more than the head of the city.
Economic change was due in big part to Secularism which is a concern for material world instead of the eternal world. Bankers and merchants calculated ways of increasing their money. Italy s new found wealth which sparked the Renaissance was due in big part to it s advancements in shipbuilding and their control of papal funds by Italian bankers. A booming economy gave more time to appreciate to the arts. Woman and slaves showed prestige and power. The entire period of the Renaissance revolved around money, power, and class. The focus shifted from obtaining money to obtaining culture.