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The Background: Europe Before the mid-C18 th From Antiquity to Renaissance Europe was in an age of relative stagnation. Period known as the “Middle Ages”.

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Presentation on theme: "The Background: Europe Before the mid-C18 th From Antiquity to Renaissance Europe was in an age of relative stagnation. Period known as the “Middle Ages”."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Background: Europe Before the mid-C18 th From Antiquity to Renaissance Europe was in an age of relative stagnation. Period known as the “Middle Ages”. Feudalism characteristic of Europe of Middle Ages, following collapse of Roman Empire Feudalism = decentralized social, political & economic system based largely on agricultural production with large parts of peasantry legally subject to a diffused hereditary landholding elite exercising administrative & judicial power.

2 * Chart from

3 Feudalism “Feudalism was the system of loyalties & protections during the Middle Ages. As the Roman Empire crumbled, emperors granted land to nobles in exchange for their loyalty. These lands eventually developed into manors. A manor is the land owned by a noble & everything on it. A typical manor consisted of a castle, small village, & farmland. During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer count on the Roman army to protect them. German, Viking & Magyar tribes overran homes & farms throughout Europe. The peasants turned to the landowners, often called lords, to protect them. Many peasants remained free, but most became serfs. A serf was bound to the land. He could not leave without buying his freedom, an unlikely occurrence in the Middle Ages. Life for a serf was not much better than the life of a slave. The only difference was that a serf could not be sold to another manor. Serfs would often have to work three or four days a week for the lord as rent. They would spend the rest of their week growing crops to feed their families. Other serfs worked as sharecroppers. A sharecropper would be required to turn over most of what he grew in order to be able to live on the land.”* * From

4 Absolutism During C17th & C18th feudalism gradually replaced in some parts of Europe by “Absolutism”, (characteristically in France). Absolutism featured strong centralized monarchies making their power dominant over aristocracies & other regional authorities.

5 The Renaissance Began in northern Italian territories in C14 th & C15 th & lasted till about C16 th, its effects having spread to other parts of Europe too. Refers to revival of ancient learning & challenge to traditional religious beliefs by new secular & scientific values. Revitalized European culture & made intellectual debate more dynamic.

6 The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci Da Vinci ( ) is an esp. characteristic “renaissance man”. Most famous for his art, but also an inventor, engineer, geometer, architect & much more. Characteristically for the Renaissance, he tried to represent what he was drawing/painting as objectively as possible, & unlike pre-Renaissance art, which was dominated by religious themes, his art also focused on the secular.

7 The Reformation The Reformation is name given to the C16 th historical movement calling for religious & organizational reform of Catholic Church Ultimately it led to the founding of new Protestant Churches which denied the authority of Pope & generally emphasized that the individual conscience, rather than the Clergy, was the valid interpreter of Scriptures

8 Martin Luther Most symbolic of the Reformation & its outset was the German monk & religious scholar Martin Luther who pinned his 95 theses protesting the practices of the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the Wittenberg church Luther was especially angered by the practice of the selling of indulgences

9 Indulgences Picture shows an indulgence given with the Pope’s authority to absolve [forgive] a person from his/her sins. Indulgences were purchased with money!!!

10 * Map from

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12 The Background: Europe Before the mid-C18 th From Antiquity to Renaissance Europe was in an age of relative stagnation. Period known as the “Middle Ages”. Feudalism characteristic of Europe of Middle Ages, following collapse of Roman Empire Feudalism = decentralized social, political & economic system based largely on agricultural production with large parts of peasantry legally subject to a diffused hereditary landholding elite exercising administrative & judicial power.

13 * Chart from

14 Feudalism “Feudalism was the system of loyalties & protections during the Middle Ages. As the Roman Empire crumbled, emperors granted land to nobles in exchange for their loyalty. These lands eventually developed into manors. A manor is the land owned by a noble & everything on it. A typical manor consisted of a castle, small village, & farmland. During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer count on the Roman army to protect them. German, Viking & Magyar tribes overran homes & farms throughout Europe. The peasants turned to the landowners, often called lords, to protect them. Many peasants remained free, but most became serfs. A serf was bound to the land. He could not leave without buying his freedom, an unlikely occurrence in the Middle Ages. Life for a serf was not much better than the life of a slave. The only difference was that a serf could not be sold to another manor. Serfs would often have to work three or four days a week for the lord as rent. They would spend the rest of their week growing crops to feed their families. Other serfs worked as sharecroppers. A sharecropper would be required to turn over most of what he grew in order to be able to live on the land.”* * From

15 Absolutism During C17th & C18th feudalism gradually replaced in some parts of Europe by “Absolutism”, (characteristically in France). Absolutism featured strong centralized monarchies making their power dominant over aristocracies & other regional authorities.

16 The Renaissance Began in northern Italian territories in C14 th & C15 th & lasted till about C16 th, its effects having spread to other parts of Europe too. Refers to revival of ancient learning & challenge to traditional religious beliefs by new secular & scientific values. Revitalized European culture & made intellectual debate more dynamic.

17 The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci Da Vinci ( ) is an esp. characteristic “renaissance man”. Most famous for his art, but also an inventor, engineer, geometer, architect & much more. Characteristically for the Renaissance, he tried to represent what he was drawing/painting as objectively as possible, & unlike pre-Renaissance art, which was dominated by religious themes, his art also focused on the secular.

18 The Reformation The Reformation is name given to the C16 th historical movement calling for religious & organizational reform of Catholic Church Ultimately it led to the founding of new Protestant Churches which denied the authority of Pope & generally emphasized that the individual conscience, rather than the Clergy, was the valid interpreter of Scriptures

19 Martin Luther Most symbolic of the Reformation & its outset was the German monk & religious scholar Martin Luther who pinned his 95 theses protesting the practices of the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the Wittenberg church Luther was especially angered by the practice of the selling of indulgences

20 Indulgences Picture shows an indulgence given with the Pope’s authority to absolve [forgive] a person from his/her sins. Indulgences were purchased with money!!!

21 * Map from

22 The feudal order, the process of Reformation & the Renaissance all help fill the background to French Revolution of 1789, but it is perhaps the Enlightenment which most helps us understand the more immediate changes in way people thought during this revolutionary age. The C18 th

23 Key Features of Enlightenment Thought Belief in possibility/desirability of change Belief in power of human reason to comprehend/manipulate nature to make a better world Belief that the rational order that science discovered in the physical universe could / should also exist in human societies

24 Forerunners of the Enlightenment Isaac Newton & John Locke Lived & worked just before the Age of Enlightenment took off, but their ideas served as a powerful example to those who followed

25 Newton & the Law of Gravity English physicist, mathematician, astronomer & philosopher ( ) Formulated the ‘Law of Gravity’. Demonstrated that physical world, normally explained through supernatural, could be explained rationally by empirical, scientific study Encouraged, through his example, thinkers of Enlightenment to believe society could also be understood & explained rationally

26 Locke & the ‘Tabula Rasa’ English philosopher ( ) famed for his political thought Argued humans were at birth a ‘Tabula Rasa’, ie a “blank slate” or blank/clean page. Their minds, souls & thoughts were not fixed / pre-determined at birth, so they could change & be developed in different ways through individuals’ experiences. This challenged traditional teachings of Church that mind, personality & soul are inalterably fixed at birth by God.

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29 The Philosophes Philosophes = the French word for “philosophers” Philosophes was name given to a varied group of prominent C18 th individuals who supported the Enlightenment in their writing & critiques Famous eg.’s of Philosophes = Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, Rousseau [French]; Gibbon, Bentham [English]; Smith, Hume [Scottish]; Kant [German] Were greatly assisted in spreading their ideas widely by development of the mechanized printing press.

30 Beliefs of the Philosophes Traditional/conservative beliefs, customs, rules restricted human progress. Human liberty should be increased to allow for change, development, improvement. God’s help not necessary for human/social improvement. Generally v. critical of role of Catholic Church (esp. its privileges / censorship / intolerance / ultraconservatism). Societies should be secular (the Church should not interfere in political matters – Church & state should be separate). Challenged the Church-supported idea of the ‘Divine Right of Kings to Rule’.

31 Divine Right of Kings to Rule This doctrine supported political absolutism 1) The monarch owes his/her rule to the will of God (not to the people). 2) Any attempt to get rid of, or limit monarch’s power was therefore against the will of God. 3) Therefore everyone with belief in God must accept the will of the King without opposition.

32 Enlightened Absolutism Not all Philosophes opposed absolutism. Some supported the idea of ‘Enlightened Absolutism’ [= the absolutist rule of an enlightened monarch] Key e.g.’s of Enlightened Absolutism = Catherine the Great of Russia*, Fredrick the Great (Fredrick II) of Prussia* & Joseph II of Austria. While supporting the idea that they should maintain absolutism, these monarchs generally up-held religious toleration, freedom of speech & the press & tried to support the arts & science, obey the laws themselves & enforce them fairly for their subjects, & generally rationalize & reform their administrations. * Be careful to note difference between Prussia & Russia

33 Summary of Pre- & Post-Enlightenment Thought Before: - Support for / acceptance of status quo - Humans incapable of true change. People essentially helpless. Life pre-ordained. - Greatest value in maintaining traditional beliefs without question After: - Challenging status quo is acceptable / necessary - Possible & necessary for humans to change society for the better - All traditional beliefs (including religious ones) open to questioning


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