How was the Renaissance different from the Dark Ages?

2 min readdecember 17, 2021

AP European History 🇪🇺

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The Renaissance vs. The Dark Ages

Worldliness 🌍

  • After the first major outbreak Black Death ended (1347-1349), life expectancies became longer.
  • People gained an increased interest in the quality of their lives.
  • This lead to wealthier classes, like merchants, patronizing art, creating more opportunity for secular subjects.
  • Before the Renaissance, life was centered on afterlife concerns.


  • Creators were allowed to take credit for their work (artists, architects, scientists, etc.). 
  • Society moved towards valuing individuals and their ambitious goals.
  • Dark Ages society, modeled after the Church, rarely emphasized the individual. Christian Europe was taught to attribute nearly everything to God and his designs.

Classical Interests 📜

  • Inspired by Petrarch, Greco-Roman texts, art, and literature regained a high level of respect.
  • Much of Renaissance artwork and architecture emulated the classical style, while still incorporating religious subjects.
  • Greco-Roman ideas were largely overlooked and would have been rejected in the Dark Ages because of their paganism, which was irreconcilable with The Bible.

Learning 📚

  • Schooling diversified from the Dark Age canon of language skills and art to encompass classical texts, philosophy, and scientific subjects like astronomy.
  • Both Humanists and later Catholic Counter-Reformists (especially orders like the Jesuits) opened universities and other educational centers dedicated to teaching new ideas.
  • Schooling also became available to more people, although most still remained illiterate and out of reach.

Additional Resources 👉

Browse Study Guides By Unit
🎨Unit 1 – Renaissance & Exploration
⛪️Unit 2 – Reformation
👑Unit 3 – Absolutism & Constitutionalism
🤔Unit 4 – Scientific, Philosophical, & Political Developments
🥖Unit 5 – Conflict, Crisis, & Reaction in the Late 18th Century
🚂Unit 6 – Industrialization & Its Effects
Unit 7 – 19th Century Perspectives & Political Developments
💣Unit 8 – 20th Century Global Conflicts
🥶Unit 9 – Cold War & Contemporary Europe
🚀Thematic Guides
📝Long Essay Questions (LEQ)
📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

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