As we learned in Unit 1, the Renaissance was a re-awakening of learning following about a thousand years of "sleep."
Europe began to experience great change by about 1450. Within one hundred years, Columbus had sailed to America, literacy spread, scientists made great discoveries, and artists created work that still inspires us today.
Historians call the next period of European history the "Renaissance," or the "rebirth." The Renaissance is the beginning of modern history.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the Renaissance is that it was, above all, a kind of rediscovery. The Europeans of the early Renaissance looked back across time to the examples of Greece and Rome. But they wrote their works in their own languages.
Although the Renaissance officially began in the fifteenth century, it "peaked" in the sixteenth. The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life.
The century opened with the discovery of a new continent. The Renaissance, which began in Italy, was peaking and spreading north, even arriving in backwaters like England. Life was largely prosperous for the average person, the economy was growing.
The mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, were all building a recognizably capitalist, money-based economy.
Geniuses were stepping all over each other on the street corners producing scientific innovation after innovation. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society -- the cannon probably had a great deal to do with the rise of the centralized nation state as we know it.
Because the Renaissance was so wide-spread, and involved such a major change in all areas of Europe--and...