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Updated: Oct 5, 2020

The Renaissance was a profound period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. In the words of Prof. Jebb, “The Renaissance in the largest sense of the term is the process of transition in Europe from the medieval to modern order”. Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century bridging the gap between the Middle ages and Modern days civilization.

The word “Renaissance” suggests different things to different people.

To a student of social history - The word suggests the breaking up of the regime of feudalism and chivalry and the birth of new social conditions.

To the student of religious evolution – The word suggest the Reformation and Counter Reformation.

To the lover of art and literature – It means the recovery of the Masterpiece of the ancient world and the revived knowledge of Greek and Latin.

To a Scientist – The word implies maritime exploration and the founding of astronomy, anatomy, physiology and modern medicine.

As Walter Pater called the Renaissance is “a complex and many-sided movement


  • A spirit of freedom of thought and action.

  • Changes in the men’s attitude towards themselves and the world (Men were not willing to accept without questioning the teachings, the superstitions and the customs of the past).

  • A tendency to develop a critical attitude towards medieval institutions.

  • Social, political and religious ideas were all revolutionized.


  • Rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art.

  • The invention of the printing press

  • The Mariner’s compass

  • John Colet founded the first school in England, St. Paul’s Grammar School. (completely devoted to the study of classical literature)

  • The Latin Grammar prepared by William Lily, the first headmaster of the school.


  • The art of printing was introduced into Europe by John Gutenberg in 1454.

  • The first Latin Bible was printed in 1455.

  • It was printed at Mainz in Germany.

  • The art of printing reached Italy in 1465.

  • The art of printing reached Switzerland in 1467.

  • The art of printing reached France in 1470.

  • The art of printing reached Austria and the Netherlands in 1473.

  • The art of printing reached Spain in 1474.

  • The first printing press in England was established in 1476 by William Caxton.

  • It was established in Westminster.

  • The press at Oxford was set up in 1478.

  • The press at St. Albans in 1479.

  • The first printing press in London (as distinct from Westminster) was set up in 1480.

  • The books in English were printed for the first time in 1483. (before that all these presses printed mostly Latin books)


The Renaissance started in Florence, Italy around the years 1350 to 1400. Dante Alighieri (wrote The Divine Comedy), Petrarch (Father of Humanism) and Boccaccio prepared the ground. Art began to flourish and new thoughts began to emerge. By 1396 the Greek language was taught in Italy by Chrysoloras from Constantinople. After the capture of Constantinople the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by the Turks in 1453 there was a regular migration of Greek Scholars. Italians welcomed all the Greek exiles to their capitals and posed as patron of literature and art. The language, literature and philosophy of Greece became the fashion and enthusiasm of the cultured classes in Italy. In the 1400’s the Medici family came into power in Florence and helped many artists. During 15th century, Renaissance ideas spread from Italy to France and then throughout western and northern Europe.

  • The great Italian writer of the period was Machiavelli, who was the famous Italian diplomat for writing “The Prince’’ and “The Discourses on Livy”

  • In France the effect of the Renaissance was seen in the lyric poetry of Ronsard, the vigorous prose of Francois Rabelais, and the scholarly essays of Montaigne.

  • In Spain, Cervantes’s Don Quixote was considered as the wonderful gift of the Renaissance to the literature of the world.

  • In England the Renaissance was indicated by Geoffrey Chaucer.

The period of Renaissance was also an age of translation. Many works were translated into English by Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Demosthenes and Plutarch. The first part of Chapman’s Homer appeared in 1598.


  • Sir Thomas More have begun Renaissance in literature in England.

  • His famous work was “Utopia”

  • Utopia is a Greek word meaning “nowhere”

  • It was written in Latin

  • It was first published in 1516

  • The English translation was published in 1551.

  • Erasmus was one of the last European writers who wrote in Latin

  • His famous work was “The Praise of Folly”

  • Edmund Spenser is the representative poet of English Renaissance

  • He wrote the first great epic “Faerie Queene”

  • John Milton, English poet, wrote the epic poem “Paradise Lost”

  • William Shakespeare was celebrated for his sonnets and romantic dramas.

  • Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan published in 1651 and it name derived from the biblical Leviathan.

  • Rene Descartes, the Father of Modern Philosophy, famous for stating “I think: therefore I am”.


  • Nicolaus Copernicus made first modern scientific argument for the concept of a heliocentric solar system.

  • Kepler and Galileo revealed the solar system in its main features.

  • Columbus discovered the continent of America in 1492.

  • Vasco da Gama reached Calicut on the west coast of India through the Cape of Good Hope in 1498.

  • Magellan set out on his exploration of the Pacific Ocean in 1519 (the first circum-navigation of the world).

  • In 1521, he reached the Philippines and got killed.


  • Classical revival spread over the whole of Europe

  • Roman and Greek styles with columns and round arches and domes replaced the medieval Gothic style with its pointed arches, soaring pinnacle and spires.

  • St. Peter’s basilica in Rome is the greatest example of the new style.

  • This style reached England in the 17th Century

  • The works of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren was the reconstruction of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London after the Great Fire of 1666.

  • Wren also built fifty-two other churches in the city.


  • The Mona Lisa – Da Vinci

  • The Last Supper – Da Vinci

  • Statue of David – Michelangelo

  • The Birth of Venus – Sandro Botticelli

  • The School of Athens - Raphael

  • The Creation of Adam – Michelangelo

  • The Sistine Chapel in Rome – Michelangelo

  • Venus and Adonis – Titian

  • Metamorphoses - Titian


  • There were two movements- the Reformation and Counter- Reformation

  • The Reformation started in Germany

  • Martin Luther is the leader of the movement

  • He translated the Old and New Testaments into German

  • He questioned many of the practices of the church

  • A new form of Christianity was created.

  • The people who protested against the supremacy of the Pope came to be known as Protestants.

Read the Reformation:


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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