Type: Review
Pages: 2 | Words: 493
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The notion that the modern world began with Italian Renaissance secularism and individualism is popular among academic historians. However, in order to define the relevance of the term “renaissance” and understand what actually comprised the chief currents of thought during that time, one should ignore the historical sequence of events.

The term “Renaissance”, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, means a “revival of or renewed interest in something”. The term is often used as a generic term for “revival”. Analysis of the actual events of the 15th century will prove what exactly occurred during the period.

The Renaissance period witnessed one of the most dramatic economic recoveries in history. The period coincided with the demographic recovery following the Bubonic plague, during which a full 30% of the working age population was killed. Ironically, this disaster led to the free movement of labor, because local nobles and clergy found their tax base so devastated that they were forced to sell serfs at cheap rates to raise some quick cash. The new mobility of labor led to a dramatic increase in real wages for the survivors (Butler n.pag.). In purely economic terms, the “revival’ was real indeed. Additionally, the power of the church was greatly weakened by the loss of so many tenants. Moreover, the blind faith predominant before was replaced by something more tempered in the minds of the survivors, who have witnessed the disease strike. A church with fewer resources created the conditions necessary for the Renewal of secular thought.

The growth of secularism and individualism as the predominant philosophical movements during the Renaissance was very much a revival of the way of thinking that existed previously. Humanism was the main trend in literature and social philosophy from 1400 to 1650. “The return to favor of the Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophical classics easily spread by the development of the printing press aided the development of the philosophy of secularism, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and additionally the assertion of personal independence and individual freedom of expression” (Kreis n.pag.). The core ideas contained in many of these works regarding the right of man and the ideal relationship between rulers and the people they ruled. It was a first step in the development of the world we live in today, although more directly related works would not appear until several centuries later.  While early writers, like Erasmus, were careful to include displays of piety in their writings, by the time of Machiavelli, some writers felt able to disregard the entire established moral order of the time (Kreis n.pag.) It considered a very modern approach that was not unusual in ancient times among such philosophical schools as the cynics.

In conclusion, it is fair to say that the Renaissance period was a crucial step along the road in the development of the modern world; however, calling the term “renaissance” misleading means to disregard the fact in economic and philosophical terms as Renaissance was in every sense a period of revival.

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