The European Renaissance began in Florence, Italy in the 14th century - European Renaissance introduction. No one is sure why it began in Florence, although there are several theories. The Renaissance changed the way literature, art, philosophy; politics, science and religion were viewed and expressed. It was a “rebirth” of learning based on classical ideas and many United States social, cultural and political institutions have been influenced by advances made during the Renaissance. The Renaissance had two main philosophies, humanism and individualism.
Humanism emphasizes the necessity of living in the physical world more than the spiritual or religious and suggested that physical existence was just as important as preparing for the spiritual existence after death. Individualism was highly prized as well, with innovative thinkers and radical artists becoming the examples to follow. One of the cultural institutions in the United States that was and continues to be influenced by the Renaissance is the education system. Before the Renaissance, education was rare and books were too expensive for anyone but the clergy.
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In addition, the books were in Latin or Greek and could not be read by most people. The invention of the printing press, during the Renaissance, changed that forever. Education is a high priority in the United States and it was the invention of the printing press that enabled mass production of printed material. The bible was able to be mass produced and in local languages, not Greek and Latin. This enabled more people to study the Bible for themselves. Mass production also made it cheaper to buy books for education purposes and that increased the interest in better education.
Today’s newspapers and internet follow the example set by the mass production in the Renaissance and our education system reflects a society that stresses knowledge. (“Printing and Thinking” 2007) Another of the current institutions effected by the Renaissance was the Church. As the Bible became widely available and people began to focus more on a good life rather than a good afterlife, people began to question the Church’s authority and other sects began forming. The church became known as the Roman Catholic Church and the sects became modern day Lutherans and Protestants.
The division of the Churches remains today, with even more denominations developing over time. This division became known as the Protestant Reformation and the churches have been separate to this day. (Rex, 2000, p. 51) The Scientific Revolution of the Renaissance was another area that effected modern day science and medicine. The Scientific Revolution was a transformation in scientific ideas in physics, astronomy and biology. Two of the ideas produced during that time affected our science and medicine fields today.
Nicolaus Copernicus put forth the theory of heliocentrism or the idea that the sun is the center of the universe or solar system and published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in 1543. Andreas Vesalius discovered that the circulation of blood resolved from pumping of the heart. He also assembled the first human skeleton from cutting open cadavers. He consequently published De Humani Corporis Fabrica in 1543 explaining his findings. Each of these ideals have influenced modern science and medicine and furthered the exploration of both.
The decline of feudalism during the Renaissance has affected the United States in the matter of church versus state. During feudal times, the church officials would control the population of the manor in exchange for tribute. As the church lost power to govern civil matters, the individual state governments took over; it is a system still upheld today. The Protestant Reformation also had influence in this area since the splitting of the church was also a loss of power to the church. Today’s cultural institution of church governs only the spiritual matters of it’s society and has no hand in the civil government.
This, of course, also affects the political institutions of today since they are still a separate power from the church. Art and music changed in the Renaissance, with many ideas and approaches that were formerly forbidden by the church as improper or unacceptable became not only acceptable but encouraged. The use of the human element, as it did in other areas, influenced the art and music of the times. It provided processes that are still used today and encourage further exploration of the styles. One of the biggest changes in the Renaissance era was the increased use of money rather than land or barter for trade.
Modern banks and corporations owe their roots to the Renaissance and its forward thinking ideals reagrding finance and trade. Due to the invention of ocean going vessels, trade increased dramatically for Europe during the Renaissance due to demand for foreign spices and goods. Europeans also became waelthier with the increase of exports of local goods. It is a financial trade-off that exists today. The medieval commercial revolution was instrumental in bringing about the momentous changes which bequeathed to the Renaissance a society not too different from our own, and was in turn influenced by all of these changes.
It caused the old feudal system to crumble and the old religious structure to weaken. It all but wiped out slavery, it gave liberty to serfs over large large areas, and created a new elite based upon wealth rather than birth (Hall, 1954, p. 217) Common language made one of the largest contributions to the changes of the Renaissance. Up to that point, Masses, books and most educations were conducted in Latin and Greek. This changed when the mass production of printed material began printing in the local language.
It enables people to be more informed as to what was happening and to make more informed decisions. The United States follows this same ideology, using a common lanaguage for all, and ensuring that information is available to the masses in a form they will be able to utilize. Mathematics also made major contributions to both the Renaissance and modern art. By incorporationg mathematics into art, it gave it symmetry and porportion it did not have previously. This is most noticable in architecture where buildings were based on the form of the cross.
During the Renaissance, this changed to the circle due to the inclusion of mathematics. It changed the structure of buildings drastically. (Dannenfeldt, 1959, p. 39) As mentioned, humanism was one of the main ideologies of the Renaissance. As such, the people began looking to more materialistic goals instead of the spiritual goals demanded by the church. Society changed its views on wealth and education, due to an increased availability of both to the lower classes. A middle class began to form from the merchants, artisans and skilled laborers.
This middle class is dominant in the United States today, with the tradesmen and workers stabalizing and building the economy. More people began to advance their educations in order to gain wealth and an easier life for themselves and their families. Humanism is explained as attaining a reasoned interpretation of Nature and man, with the philosopher inquiring into the major branches of the natural sciences, such as chemistry, astronomy and biology, and likewise of the social sciences, such as history, economics and politics.
Moreover, he must study carefully the realms of religion and art and literature; and cast a discerning eye over the day-to-day preoccupations and common-sense attitudes of the average person. (Lamont, 1949, p. 9) As shown, there are many ways in which the Renaissance has influenced the United States and its social, political and cultural institutions. It has helped to shape the lives we live now with advances in architecture, giving us buildings with greater height and strength. It has given medicine advances in understanding the human body and how it works together.
We have a better understanding of our solar system and universe because of the heliocentrism theory and Nicolaus Copernicus. Modern chemistry began with the alchemists of the Renaissance and the chemical experimentation they began during that time. The Renaissance existed from the 14th to the 17th centuries but the effect it had on the world and the modern United States remains and continues to florish. It is because of these free thinkers and inovative scientists and artisans that we have the advances and foreard thinking scientists and artisans of today.