The Renaissance and Reformation

Major changes in Europe caused the medieval period to give way to a new, livelier period.  As trade with the East increased, Europeans rediscovered the classical knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome.  This knowledge led to a period of creativity and learning called the Renaissance.  A new focus on the individual emerged, contributing to new ideas about religion.  These ideas caused a struggle in Christianity known as the Reformation.

RPSC RAS Mains Exam Paper-I Complete Study Notes

RAS Mains Exam 2018 Paper-I




Historical Theme: Migration and Diffusion

The movement and displacement of people following the Black Plague and Crusades encouraged the development of a more globalized culture.  In this unit, you will discover how ideas impacted cultural and religious change in Europe after the middle Ages.

Causes of the Renaissance

  • Increased trade with Asia and other regions as a result of the Crusades
  • Growth of large, wealthy city-states in Italy
  • Renewed interest in the classical learning on ancient Greece and Rome
  • Rise of rich and powerful merchants, who became patrons of the arts
  • Increased desire for scientific and technical knowledge
  • Desire to beautify cities

Causes of the Reformation

  • Decentralization of European societies
  • Negative view of Catholic leadership as a result of the Black Death
  • Weaknesses in the Catholic Church including dueling papacies in Avignon and Rome
  • Corruption of the Catholic Church, particularly the sale of indulgences and simony
  • Scientific developments that contradicted Church doctrine

Greater travel, rising wealth and greater knowledge of outer world led to a new philosophy of life called renaissance. With rising material consumption, this worldly pleasures took place of Church advocated other worldly pleasure and hence human and not god became center of activities. Thus, humanism was a key feature of renaissance. Individualism and human potential took due place in society.

The classics were revived and a search for knowledge begins. Intellectual inquiry was another facet of renaissance apart from humanism. Invention of printing press played an important role as now books were widely available.

Renaissance began in Italy as it was center of wealth and trade at that time.

It was not only about religion and polity, but also about a state of mind. Humanism was an ideological pillar. Many paintings were secular. It was like a cultural re-birth. Advances were made in field of science, mathematics, physics, literature, painting, sculpture, architecture and astronomy.

It led to numerous sea voyages and new geographical discoveries. Direct sea routes were discovered to places like India and it reduced dependency of the West on Central Asia and West Asia. A new era of world trade was opened. It created hyper-demands and opening of new markets also provided a further push to industrial revolution.

Later, renaissance and industrial revolution gave birth to other events like – American Revolution, French Revolution and Russian Revolution.

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Spirit of nationalism began to evolve with formation of nation-states. Erstwhile feudal societies had small feudal provinces which were driven by narrow concerns and were also not permanent. Evolution of large nation states bred the feeling of nationalism.

American Revolution was perhaps the first manifestation of this feeling. This feeling was also quite evident in France during and after French Revolution. It became contagious in Europe after ideals of French revolution spread in other states.

Nationalism is a modern movement in which loyalty of individuals is not to vested interests, a monarch or political group, but to a nation of people. Earlier loyalties were attached to land (in feudal society), territory and so on.


Impact of Nationalism on Political Landscape of 19th Century Europe

Feeling of nationalism on one hand led to revolt against the autocratic monarchies, on the other hand it led to movements against foreign rule. Success of American nationalism in American Revolution sowed the seeds of nationalism in Europe as well which bore the first fruit in form of French Revolution.

First 19th century national revolt was in Serbia in 1804 which led to successful implementation of a nation state in 1817. Then, similar attempts were made by Greece against Ottoman Empire.

It led to toppling of Austrian Hungarian Empire, Romanovs of Russia and Ottoman Empire.

Vienna Congress has tried to stifle the tide of nationalism, but it was evident by 1830s that nationalism is unstoppable force. In 1831, Belgium obtained independence from Netherlands. Attempts were also made by Italy, France and Poland as well in 1830s which were, however, suppressed.

Unification of Italy under Mazzini and unification of Germany were strongest manifestations of rising tide of nationalism.

Thus, nationalism broke new grounds by independence of nations from foreign rules and autocratic rules, led to unification, led to reactionary conflicts from conservatives who wanted to restore old order and so on.

Nationalism at times also transformed into jingoism which resulted into ambitious conquests, colonialism and conflict as well. Further, ethnic nationalism also had its own hazards and it gave rise to sub-nationalities and disintegration of many states. Disintegration of Ottoman Empire was result of such ethnic nationalist feelings.

With the emergence of new industrial nationalities in second half of 19 century, a struggle for world resources also emerged. Early colonial powers resisted this attempt. It finally culminated into two world wars.

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