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< Back to question To what extent did the Italian Renaissance change Europe? Show more Show less

There is a debate as to how different the Renaissance truly was from the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages or "The Dark Ages" is seen as a time of cultural decline, but how much really changed?

The Italian Renaissance only impacted the lives of the wealthy Show more Show less

Renaissance culture applied almost exclusively to the upper classes.
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Life did not change for the majority of people

For most Europeans, life in the Middle Ages did not look different from the Renaissance. Peasants and serfs still worked under feudal lords and did not see any major change to their daily life.
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The Argument

"'Nothing new here,' a Roman wrote in the mid-sixteenth century, 'except that people are dying of hunger.'"[1] For the majority of Europeans, life in the Middle Ages did not look different from the Renaissance. As John Green says in his episode of Crash Course, people did not wake up one day and feel as though they were living in an age of "rebirth."[2] Life expectancy was still short; most Europeans were only living to about 40, that is if they survived infancy. War, disease, and disaster continued to plague much of Europe. While the beginning of the fifteenth century did see an increase in population, "the population did not reach the level it had been at in 1300 until about 1550."[1] Much of the political structures of the fifteenth century were already well established by 1350-1450. Major sovereign states developed and stripped power from feudal lords, but for the vast majority of Europeans, that too did not change their daily life as farmers or free peasants. Lastly, it's important to note that the Renaissance has a blurry "start and end date" that spans hundreds of years. So while the Renaissance is treated as if it was a revolutionary rebirth of Europe, it was a really gradual change over hundreds of years.

Counter arguments

Life did change for the majority of people during the Renaissance. While the wealthy still led a better quality of life, the life of peasants and the poor also changed. Feudalism and serfdom were steadily declining during the medieval period, and by the time of the Renaissance, they were virtually extinct. This was partly a result of the Black Death (1348-1350) that caused widespread disaster as well as increased distress and discontent amongst the poor with regards to severe tax policies.[3]

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents


References

  1. https://wwnorton.com/books/A-History-of-Modern-Europe
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vufba_ZcoR0&t=1s
  3. https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/HIST201-1.1.4-MedievalPeasants-FINAL1.pdf

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 9 Sep 2020 at 04:18 UTC

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