How did the Renaissance influence the Reformation?


Martin Luther

The Renaissance placed human beings at the center of life and showed that this world was not just a ‘vale of tears.’ Instead, life on Earth could meaningful on its own and it was possible for people to live without reference to the divine.[1] The Renaissance or ‘rebirth’ was influenced by the ideas of the ancient past and it drew from Roman and Greek civilization in order to provide a solution to current problems.

The Renaissance was a Pan-European phenomenon and changed the mental worldview of the elites in Europe and indeed the emerging middle class across the continent. The cultural movement was to have a profound impression on people’s worldview. The Renaissance produced the Humanists who were a movement of educationalists and scholars, they sought truth and knowledge by re-examining classical texts and the bible. The Humanists ideas, the growth in textual analysis, and the Northern Renaissance changed the intellectual landscape and encouraged many Church reformers, such as Martin Luther and they later broke with Rome and divided Europe into two confessional camps, Protestantism and Catholicism.

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What were the causes of the Northern Renaissance?

Durer Self-Portrait

The Italian Renaissance had placed human beings at the centre of life and had promoted secular values as opposed to religious ones. Influenced by the ideas of the ancient past it conceived of a new way of life and provided a new worldview. The Renaissance was a period of great works of art, literature, and philosophy. The Renaissance or ‘re-birth’ was not just confined to Italy. There was also a Northern Renaissance. This is the term given to the cultural flowering that occurred north of the Alps, in German-speaking countries, the Lowlands, France, and England. The Northern Renaissance was a unique event and although influenced by the Italian Renaissance was distinct from it. The origins of the Northern Renaissance were a result of the spread of printing, the influence of Italy, growing wealth and the decline of the culture associated with feudalism.

The Northern Renaissance was similar to the Italian Renaissance. It also was interested in the ancient past and believed that it was a guide to the present day. The Northern Renaissance was also very much concerned with humanism and its values.[1] This was the idea that humans with the use of their reason could improve their circumstances and their society. It was more concerned with the individual. The movement believed in the possibility of human freedom and in the perfectibility of man. However, the Northern Europe Renaissance was much more religious in its nature than the Italian Renaissance. Many Northern scholars such as Erasmus were very much interested in the reform of the Church and denounced superstitions and clerical abuses and corruption, in the name of the true faith.[2] The great scholar Erasmus, who was born in modern-day Netherlands, was religious and also very interested in the classical world.

Bruegal’s Fall of Icarus

However, he, like many other German and other Northern Humanists saw no contradictions between Christianity and ancient cultures and believed that they could be reconciled. The religious character of the Renaissance north of the Alps was due in part to the continuing influence of the Church, unlike in Italy, where the Church was in decline.[3] The Northern Renaissance was an impressive cultural epoch and its achievements were as great as those in Italy. It produced writers of the stature of Rabelais, Montaigne, Erasmus and Thomas More. In the arts, it also was a time that saw the production of many masterpieces by artists such as Durer and Bosch. The Northern Renaissance, humanists, were not just concerned with the study of ancient texts but also the bible. Scholars began to study the bible in a new and critical way. Scholars produced more reliable versions of key biblical texts and produced commentaries on the New and Old Testament. These were very influential and the Northern Humanists ‘New Learning’ inspired many to question the teachings and authority of the Church and this did much to pave the way for the Reformation[4]

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Why Was Vicksburg “The Gibraltar of the Confederacy?”

The Battle of Vicksburg

As the calendar flipped from June to July in 1863, two events changed the course of the Civil War. The first event occurred in in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg, a small market town founded in the soft, rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania on Samuel Gettys farm half a century before, was unknown to most Americans. Four days later, on July 4, it had become “The Most Famous Small Town in America,” as boosters would come to call it.

On the morning of July 1, Robert E. Lee and 76,000 troops of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Gettysburg where they were engaged by 92,000 men under the command of Union General George Meade. [1] Over the next three days fighting would rage across 25 square miles surrounding Gettysburg, finally ending with a desperate Confederate infantry charge across open ground directly into the heart of the Union’s defensive line. The attack ended in disaster and Lee’s only invasion into Northern territory was over. More men fought at Gettysburg and more men died than any battle ever contested on American soil.

With Lee and his army in full retreat on July 4, it was obvious that the armies of the South would never be able to conquer their Northern opposition in the “War of Northern Aggression.” It did not, however, mean that the rebel cause was lost and, in fact, the Army of Northern Virginia would continue to fight for nearly two more years. It was the events taking place the very same day 1,000 miles in Vicksburg to the west that doomed the Confederacy and insured their defeat.

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Why are there so many Monuments to the Confederacy across the United States?

Confederate Monument dedicated in 1895 at the North Carolina State Capitol

As one travels across the southern United States, it is not unusual to find monuments and memorials to the Confederate dead in many small towns. In fact, these sculptural pieces, often composed of the same statues and plinths from the Monumental Bronze Co. of Bridgeport, Conn., can be found as far north as Pennsylvania and New York. A study in 2016 found some 1,500 monuments still standing.[1] While in recent years these monuments have become a new source of political conversation their very erection was a movement by Confederate women.

In the years following the Civil War, Confederate women’s efforts at preservation and memorialization led them to form memorial groups who worked to keep the memory of their local dead alive, through obtaining land for Confederate cemeteries, maintaining far-flung grave sites, and erecting public monuments.[2] Among the earliest postwar female charitable organizations in the south, these groups were also some of the longest lasting. Often composed of upper-class women, these organizations were female-led though they occasionally included male members, who liaised with the community or completed those tasks considered unseemly for women. These groups, which spread across the south, gave Confederate women outlets for mourning and fueled the creation of the “New Southern Woman”. They paved the way for a variety of other women’s organizations through which elite women created roles for themselves in the community and outside their homes’ domestic spaces.[3]

These women’s groups were part of a larger social movement which melded the Victorian ideal of the woman as the “Angel in the House” with a need to do something to cope with the large scale grief and death.[4] Groups of middle and upper-class women came together, seeking to memorialize the large numbers of dead in their families and communities as well as their lost cause of the Confederacy.[5] These early efforts came in the same vein as the later romanticism of the plantation most famously seen in “Gone With the Wind” – a book and film which serves, for many individuals in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as their main point of reference for what pre-war southern life was like, as well as the southern experience during the war.[6] Like Margaret Mitchell’s later fiction, these public memorials were designed to maintain the social and cultural hierarchy of the old south, in this case by placing visual reminders of white male Confederate veterans and the Confederacy in public places and at high vantage points.[7] These actions epitomize the postwar political climate during which Confederate Veterans and their children dominated the positions of power in local governments and communities, but while those politicians were men in male roles, the monuments represent a trend in women’s work outside the home and their incursion within the traditionally masculine realm of politics.[8]

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History of God Top Ten Booklist

A History of God.jpg
A History of God by Karen Armstrong

The concept of God and his historical development is an extraordinarily complex topic and it is not easily addressed in ten books. These books seek attempt to explain  a complex story on how the concept of God, or single divine being, developed in different cultures, places, and across time. The history of the idea of God is long and has its roots from prehistoric to early historic periods in the ancient Near East. Later cultures developed concepts that derive from ancient Iran, Greece, Egypt, and perhaps other regions. In a period over several hundred years, in the late first millennium BC and during the first centuries AD, several faiths, including Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism emerged that took the idea of God to levels that influence us today. While no easy task, here are the ten best books that try to make sense of this complex history.

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How historically accurate is Braveheart?

Monument to William Wallace in Stirling, Scotland

Braveheart was a popular movie released in 1995 that won 5 Oscars and featured Mel Gibson as William Wallace. Wallace was a Scottish knight who became a hero in the Scottish rebellions against the English in the late 13th and early 14th century. The movie helped to inspire Scottish national pride while also, to some, represent an early, Medieval warrior who fought for freedom for himself and his people. While much of the story depicted did occur, including the English occupation of Scotland during the time of Edward I, king of England, the depiction of the revolt against the English and other events do not correspond well to historical accounts.

In the movie, William Wallace is suggested to have traveled in Europe during the early years of Edward I’s occupation of Scotland. However, little is known about Wallace’s early years. First, it is assumed Wallace came from a noble family; two villages are often claimed as his birth places (Elderslie and Ellerslie), both on the western part of Scotland. [1] We do know that Wallace was an experienced swordsman and knight, which indicates he may have fought in wars prior to his own rebellion and participation in the wars against the English. In fact, it is he fought with king Edward I as a mercenary during that king’s wars against the Welsh. That may have been the most feasible path for him to have gained fighting experience and possibly learn about English war tactics.[2]

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How Did Firefighting Develop?

The London Great Fire of 1666 revolutionized firefighting

Firefighting began to be a focus only with the rise of very large cities such as Rome. Earlier cities, such as those in Mesopotamia or the Indus, likely developed ad hoc firefighting departments and respondent to events. As with other institutions, however, the history of firefighting is complicated and influenced by major technical and social change that occurred in different centuries.

Early fighting developed in the early urban societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus. Very likely, however, these were not dedicated fire departments but rather as volunteer or paid individuals who would be responsible in assembling a crew and extinguishing a fire in the city. Few archaeological remains have attested to such firefighters, but laws, such as those from Hammurabi’s law code, indicate they existed. There was a law that stated that a firefighter who stole from a burning house that he was responsible for would be punished by death by being thrown into the fire. The law makes it clear though that it is a volunteer that the law applies to. This does not mean there were no paid firefighters but it could mean volunteers may have volunteered because fires gave opportunity for theft.[1]

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