1.1 Context of the Renaissance

3 min readjanuary 8, 2023


Christine Lin


Isabela Padilha Vilela

AP European History 🇪🇺

335 resources
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The Renaissance

In the late 1400s, the beginning of the Renaissance revolutionized Europe and brought Europe out of the Middle ages. Rather than suffering socially and economically from a widespread plague, the Renaissance was a period known for its advancements in art, architecture and early secular studies, as well as religious discourse, leading to events such as the 100 Years War and the Great Schism.
The Renaissance was a period of time where people began rediscovering classical texts and art from ancient Greece and Rome that changed and arose new values socially, politically, and religiously in Europe. 
This period also promoted European exploration overseas and the establishment of overseas colonies driven by commercial and religious motives. 
During this time, many Europeans adjusted their lives away from agriculture and oriented around manors due to the societal and economic structure changes. These changes occurred because of commercial and agricultural capitalism.

What led to the beginning of the Renaissance?

During the Middle Ages, many of the texts and writings of the ancient scholars got lost. The Renaissance emerged through the rediscovery of ancient Greece and Rome observations. Whereas the Middle Ages were marked by ideas of darkness and fear of life (and the post-life), the emergence of the idea of ancient scholars brought upon ideas of light and enjoyment of life. This completely shifted the perspective on culture and scholarships of the people in the time period. The higher availability to texts written by Aristotle, Plato and Cicero in modern language was what led to this cultural and political revolution.

European Society at the time 👸

It is important to understand that the Renaissance brought upon significant structural changes, but some aspects of Feudal society were still present. Here are some differences and similarities of this period:
  • New social patterns emerged. Now certain individuals, scholars and artists, occupied a different place in society
  • Traditions of hierarchy and status continued, as social class and wealth were still very important to European society in that period
  • Europeans also continued to derive their livelihood from agriculture, and organized their lives based on seasons, the village or the manor. The mean of subsistence of the ordinary European person was not that much affected
  • Agricultural society began to change, and the idea of power in the feudal society was practically dismantled

What led to the beginning of explorations?

The idea of "another word" was daunting but fascinating to Europeans at the time. The religious context of the time was a great motivator, as it served as a sign that Europeans had to go abroad and "conquer the world" and spread their culture and religion. Another crucial factor was economic 💰 as the search for gold and spices could lead to great economic growth in a nation.

Words to Know

SecularismRenaissanceOligarchyCommercial RevolutionDespotism
CapitalismSerfdomColumbian ExchangePrice RevolutionHumanism

Image Courtesy of KCET

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