The Renaissance was a period in European history marked by a cultural flowering. Numerous conditions combined to spark the Renaissance, and this period in history was marked by huge changes for people living in Europe. Historians continue to unravel the history of this time period centuries later, and many people appreciate the distinctive arts, intellectual achievements, and scientific advances which marked it. The term is also used generically to talk about a sudden explosion in the arts and culture.
It is believed that the Renaissance arose in 14th century Italy, as Europe was slowly emerging from the Middle Ages. Different historians have unique takes on what, exactly, brought about the Renaissance, but they generally agree that it was a revival of Classical learning and the arts. Some have suggested that the proliferation of the Black Death brought about a greater interest in life on Earth, as people were reminded of their mortality.
Culturally, Europe made so many significant advances during the Renaissance that it would be impossible to describe them in this brief article. The advent of printing brought about a much greater breadth of knowledge for citizens, while Europeans began to value education and vigorous scientific training. Numerous scientists, artists, philosophers, poets, and writers flourished during this period, including William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Niccolo Machiavelli, Sandro Botticelli, Erasmus, Martin Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, and Thomas More, among many others.
The revival of Classical learning and values brought many Ancient Greek and Latin texts to light, with translation making them more accessible to all. The arts flourished during the Renaissance, with an established system of patrons and artists becoming much more widespread. New techniques in painting, music, poetry, and theater were developed while scientists pondered the nature of the heavens and put forth theories on the basic workings of the world.
European society also changed dramatically, with the Renaissance reforming attitudes about government, rights, religion, and wealth. Numerous monarchs were forced to adjust to changing world conditions even as they encouraged their nations to explore and innovate. The period was marked by many national “Golden Ages” as countries sent ships to all corners of the world to learn about new places, people, and things.
The Renaissance was followed by the Reformation, a radical period in European history which began around the 16th century. During the Reformation, the Christian Church experienced devastating splits, with many theologians repudiating Roman authority over faith and religious matters. The Reformation also laid the groundwork for social revolutions and struggles for independence through Europe and in various colonies around the world.