World History: Journey Across Time
The Renaissance and Reformation
The wealthy urban society of the Italian city-states sparked a rebirth of learning and art in Europe called the Renaissance. During this time, Europeans became more secular. Italy's location, the wealth of its city-states, and the competition between them helped to fuel the Renaissance. In order to manage relations with other city-states, Italians developed diplomacy. Many of the city-states were republics, but they fell under the control of powerful rulers.
Medieval Europeans developed a new way of looking at the world called humanism. Humanists wanted to establish a balance between religion and reason. Renaissance artists used new techniques to make their works more realistic. During the Renaissance, people began to speak and write in the vernacular. The printing press and travel helped to spread the Renaissance from Italy to northern Europe, where artists developed oil painting. The literature and theater of England was changed by the English Renaissance as playwrights wrote about people's strengths, weaknesses, and emotions. William Shakespeare emerged as the great writer of the era.
By the 1300s, people began to question Church practices. A young monk named Martin Luther challenged the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church, causing the Reformation and the creation of a new denomination called Lutheranism. Many political leaders and kings became Lutherans to break away from the Catholic Church. The Peace of Augsburg ended the wars between German kingdoms and the Holy Roman Empire, granting the German kings the power to choose the religion of their kingdoms. John Calvin built upon Martin Luther's ideas and created Calvinism, which was based on the idea of predestination. Calvin's Protestant teachings spread across Europe and into North America, influencing religion and politics in the American colonies.
After losing power and influence to Protestantism, the Catholic Church began a Counter-Reformation. The Church established seminaries to train new priests, and it created a new order of priests to teach, preach, and fight heresy. Catholics and Protestants engaged in bloody wars throughout Europe.
Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church when the pope refused to annul his marriage. He established the Anglican Church in England. Calvinism influenced the creation of Puritan congregations in England, which threatened the kingdom's peace and order once again. Under James I, many Puritans left England for America in search of religious freedom, founding colonies in New England. As part of the Counter-Reformation, Catholic kingdoms began sending missionaries overseas to convert people to Christianity.