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Foundations of the Renaissance: The AP European History course begins in the mid fifteenth century (1453) and extends into the early twenty first century (2001). When discussing any historical period it is important to understand why the period begins and ends with a certain year. Pertaining to this course, the year 1453 is significant because it is marked by the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks. This year also witnessed some significant changes within Europe that will later be discussed. However, the course ends in the year 2001 because it marks the beginning of a new age in terrorism with the September 11th attacks on the United States and its ill-recognized affects on Europe. The first significant movement that is taught in European history is the Renaissance, or cultural “rebirth”. The Renaissance began in Italy, which was currently the home of major city-states such as Naples, Milan, Venice, and the Papal States. Now why did the Renaissance begin in Italy? Well since Italy was associated with Rome, many of the famous Roman Empires cultural practices and interest in the Greco-roman legacy influenced the forming of the Renaissance. Additionally, northern Italy experienced economic production at a different scale than other European states through their trade and textile production. This allowed more people to have leisure time within Italy leading to an increase in leisure time and subsequently the increase in literacy, social mobility, and the development of patrons like the Medici family. This rebirth began in the city of Florence and was driven by a shift in previous forms of thinking and other forms social influences such as the development of the printing press. The central concept in this new form of thinking was Humanism, characterized by a decrease in the focus on theology and medicine and an increase in the study of humanities like literacy, history, and philosophy. Humanism developed into two branches, which were known as civic humanism and northern Christian humanism. Civic humanism represented the return to Greco-roman legacy by using the ability of reason and logic rather than faith to service the state and not the church, while northern Christian humanism focused on the devotion to God to aid their use of reason and belief in the greatness in man, a commonalty between the two branches. While studying this period it is also important to understand that everything did not just change when the year 1453 came. In fact there were many continuities during this period from the middle ages such as the continued superstition and lack of medical advances but more significantly the belief that the Church (that is the Roman Catholic Church) was still omnipresent. This also leads into a significant change during this period that though the Church was still the center of many lives, people did not have as much faith in it. This would eventually lead to many challenges to the church like Martin Luther, and the overall loss in its power. Finally, the Renaissance was also marked by the cultural advancements in art and literature from people like Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Thomas More whose styles would effect movements to come.
Contributed by Jazz DK