Medieval thought: Scholasticism

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Medieval thought:

Scholasticism – the practice in the Middle Ages of applying reason to issues of faith and then giving rational content to faith. The leading scholastic philosopher of the later Middle Ages was St. Thomas Aquinas.

The most significant piece of Medieval literature was Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was about man’s struggle to find salvation. The scholasticism of the Medieval period was replaced by Humanism, which explored issues such as greed, sex, envy, nature, and reason. Renaissance writers changed classical texts, which were pagan, and made them reflect Christian themes.


Renaissance: (rebirth in French) started in the city-state of Florence, Italy (c. 1350-1550)

It was a rebirth of the ideas and works of classical Rome and Greece

The term Renaissance did not appear until the nineteenth century, when Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt claimed that the period was completely different from the Middle Ages. However, this claim is incorrect because there were learning and a development of culture during the Middle Ages


The basic political unit was the city-state

Initially there were hundreds, but many were absorbed by their neighbors

Five Italian city-states dominated the peninsula: Florence, Milan, Venice, Papal States, and Kingdom of Naples

Northern Italy became prosperous because of the east-west and north-south trade routes

Gradually the powerful families gained control of banking, especially after the church stopped condemning the usury (lending money for interest) in banking

The rise of a wealthy business class reduced the power of the nobility, hence many city-states were ruled by oligarchies.

Society was very structured with the small, wealthiest elements controlling a disproportionate amount of power – the peasants the most numerous, but they had no power.

Some rulers were called signori (despots) and they usually ruthless and very cautious – however, some of the most ruthless were also the greatest patrons of the arts

Republic of Florence (the cradle of the Renaissance) was controlled by the Medici family who took control when Cosimo de’Medici seized power in 1434. The wealth was created by wool and textiles and then banking. The people accepted the Medici because they brought law, order, and stability. Lorenzo the Magnificent continued the tradition and extended his power to the papal court. His 13-year old son was made a cardinal. Lorenzo was also a lavish patron of the arts.

Duchy of Milan controlled by the Sforza family

Venice was a republic led by the doge

The Papal States were the home of the pope

Naples was the most important southern city-state.

Each of these city-states was administered like a small country with diplomats and they often were involved in wars against each other or even other countries.

Because the city-states were small they hired condottieri (mercenaries) to fight for them
In 1494 Charles VIII of France invaded Italy. He was offered some Florentine possessions by the Medici in an attempt to save the city.

In Florence in 1494, Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola led a revolt against the abuses of the Medici and the papacy. Savonarola created a theocracy in Florence, but was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI. Gradually the people grew tired of Savonarola and he was hanged and then burned at the stake in 1498.

In 1499 Louis XII of France, supported by Pope Alexander, invaded Italy

In 1503 Julius II became the new pope and actually led an army against the French. The Spanish defeated the French and took control of Naples.

Milan remained under French control until 1512. Also in 1512 the Medici returned to power in Florence and overthrew the Republic.

Italy was a battleground for powerful European countries.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince (1513) – The “hero” of The Prince was Cesare Borgia – the son of Pope Alexander VI

a) Best government is an effective government
b) Politics should be treated as a science


The “Father of the Renaissance” was Petrarch. Petrarch and other scholars studied the work of the classical Greek and Roman authors, especially Cicero, for an indication on how to be better humans. This emphasis on the individual was known as Humanism.

Classical Rome had emphasized the importance of virtue and wisdom, which became the concept of humanitas.

As the Middle Ages closed there was a shift away from theological philosophy to more earthly (secular) philosophy. Italian humanists were not anti-religion, they just focused more on the individual. They searched for virtú, the quality of being a great man.

This emphasis away from the Heavenly to the Earthly was caused by an increase in education, but also by the behavior of some popes. The worldly Renaissance popes and great patrons of the arts:
Alexander VI (1492-1503)
Julius II (1503-1513)
Leo X (1513-1521)

With the invention of the printing press by the German Johannes Gutenberg, the number of available texts increased dramatically.

The literature in the South reflected the new learning with its emphasis on the unlimited potential of humans and a more secular outlook.

Giovanni Boccaccio wrote Decameron a tale set in Florence during the Black Death. The characters deal with issues like love, pleasure, and human nature

Pico della Mirandola wrote Oration on the Dignity of Man, which deals with the potential of the human.

Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, was a blueprint on what a noble person was expected to do in order to be considered L’oumo universal – the universal man, such as Michelangelo. The ideal man should be educated and know Greek and Latin, he should be able to participate in athletic events, play a musical instrument, and he should be able to entertain women.

Lorenzo Valla’s On the False Donation of Constantine helped undermine the power of the papacy by proving the Donation of Constantine which was supposedly written in the fourth century, was a fake.

Renaissance Art

Florence took the lead in Renaissance art. Many of the great works of art were produced for patrons who commissioned artists to work for them. The Medici family in Florence, the Gonzaga family in Milan, and numerous popes all sponsored artists, many of them on an attempt to glorify themselves.

Renaissance artists used perspective and chiaroscuro to make their work more realistic.

The first great art historian was Giorgio Vasari

The painter considered the first humanist artist was Giotto, he focused on religious themes and subjects but the subjects had very human forms. He experimented with using shading (chiaroscuro) to give his pictures depth.

Florentine painter Masaccio further developed the use of light and shadows and he was very influential for other Renaissance artists. He is famous for The Holy Trinity.

Another Florentine painter was Sandro Botticelli who painted Birth of Venus, Primavera, and The Adoration of the Magi. Botticelli was renowned for his use of vivid colors and for using themes from classical mythical.

During the “High Renaissance” (1500-1521), which was centered in Rome, patronage shifted from wealthy families to the Church. While the Church struggled with the problems associated with Lutheranism the popes embarked on a propaganda campaign to re-establish the prestige of the Church. This was the period associated with the “great” artists.

Leonardo da Vinci was a Florentine who moved to Rome before moving to the court of Francis I of France. He was the first Italian to use oil paints. His works include the Last Supper, Mona Lisa; and The Virgin of the Rocks. Da Vinci was multi-talented and considered a true “Renaissance Man”.

Raphael was famous for his frescoes, which included The School of Athens, he also painted a great many madonnas, including the Sistine Madonna.

The last of the great Italian painters was Michelangelo Buonarotti, a “universal man”, who painted the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II. He also sculpted the nude David and Pieta.

In addition to Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance also produced many noted sculptors and architects.

Lorenzo Ghiberti created the bronze doors for the baptistery in Florentine.

Donatello sculpted the bronze nude of David, the first free-standing nude since the Romans.

Filippo Brunelleschi was the most important architect of the Italian Renaissance. He designed several Florentine churches, but he is most famous for the octagonal dome, il duomo on the cathedral in Florence.


Women: Very few women rose to prominence during the Renaissance. Those who did were usually the daughters of powerful and intellectual men.
In 1521 HRE Charles V and Francis I of France started fighting in Italy. As part of the Habsburg-Valois war Charles V defeated Francis I at the Battle of Pavia in 1525.

In 1527, the mercenary army of Charles V sacked Rome. This event symbolizes end of Renaissance in Italy.

Northern Renaissance

The Renaissance spread to northern Europe about 50 years after influencing Italy. France, Spain, and England were being unified by New Monarchs, while the German states remained fragmented and part of the Holy Roman Empire. However there was not the emphasis on cultural development as in Italy because northern Europe was economically limited. When humanism spread to northern countries it was through scholars who desired the new learning. Northern humanists were also called Christian humanists because of their focus on Christian morality.

Christian Humanism studied the writings of the Church Fathers and the Bible to find the best way to live a moral and ethical life

They began to criticize the immorality of the popes, but they did not advocate separation.

However this criticism would eventually help start the Reformation.
All humanists believed the way to a better society was through education.

The most famous Christian humanist was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, perhaps the most respected man in Europe. Erasmus wrote the satire In Praise of Folly, which criticized the abuses of the church. Because he did not advocate separation and because he was so well-respected he was able to avoid being called a heretic. However it is claimed that: “Erasmus lay the egg that Luther hatched”

Another leading Christian humanist was Thomas More of England. More wrote Utopia, the story of a mythical island on which people lived according to humanist ideals. More blamed the problems in society on greed. More was such a devote believer that he was executed by Henry VIII for refusing to compromise his religious principles.

Other northern authors included, in England, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare.

In France, they included Rabelais, who wrote Pantagruel and Gargantua. Montaigne, who wrote Essays. The theologian Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples, who was perhaps the leading French humanist, spent his life trying to reform the Catholic Church.

The leading Spanish humanist was Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote

Northern Renaissance Art

Northern Europe produced a different style of artist and artwork. The Low Countries produced many of the leading northern artists.

Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter, who was noted for his attention to detail and his use of perspective. His most famous work was the picture of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Bride. Hubert van Eyck’s masterpiece is the Ghent Altarpiece, which Hubert started and Jan finished.

Peter Brueghel the Elder focused on landscapes and religious subjects. He is known for the Peasants Wedding.

Hieronymous Bosch was another Flemish painter who focused on the highly symbolic. Bosch is famous for the Garden of Earthly Delights.

In Germany Albrecht Durer was respected for his woodcuts and engravings, but he also painted portraits including Self-portrait.

Another German painter was Hans Holbein the Younger, who was famous for his portraits of the Tudors and his woodcuts, including the series on the Dance of Death.

The Fugger family were prominent international bankers located in Germany who patronized the arts.


New” Monarchs

Early modern Europe was dominated by 4 very similar and very powerful men

Henry (Tudor) VIII of England (r. 1509-1547)

Francis (Valois) I of France (r. 1515-1547)

Charles (Habsburg) V HRE (r. 1519-1556)

Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottomans (r. 1520-1566)

But there were others who were influential

In France Louis XI “Spider King”; in England Henry VII, and in Spain Ferdinand and Isabella all established large royal armies, developed a more efficient and effective system of taxation, and took the traditional power away from the Church. These rulers were classed as New Monarchs.
New Monarchs differed from previous monarchs in as much as they took the power away from feudal lords. They offered stability, law and order, which in turn facilitated economic growth.
In France, after the Hundred Years’ War had decimated the population and ruined the economy, Charles VII started to rebuild the country. He created the first standing army. In 1438 he issued the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which gave the French crown control over the appointment of bishops and asserted the authority of the crown over the Church.

In 1453 he expelled the English from France, with the exception of Calais. He gave powerful jobs to educated men from the middle class rather than the nobility. He improved the taxation system through the gabelle (salt tax) and taille (land tax).

His son was Louis XI who promoted economic growth, especially in the silk trade, which in turn increased revenue. He used the money to strengthen the army and then to eliminate competition. Gradually he added other regions to his realm. In 1516 Francis I signed the Concordat of Bologna with Pope Leo X, which rescinded the Pragmatic Sanction but gave the French king the power to select bishops and consequently influence religion in France.
In England, after the Black Death, the Hundred Year’s War, and the War of the Roses the country was economically and politically a mess. Henry Tudor won the War of the Roses in 1485 and started the Tudor dynasty as Henry VII. During the Middle Ages the king had been forced to make concessions to powerful nobles to get financing and to get an army. Henry used the royal council to assert his authority. Like Charles VII in France he appointed his friends to powerful positions and excluded nobles. The most important part of the royal council was the court of the Star Chamber.

In the Star Chamber the accused were often tortured, guilty until proven innocent, and the sessions were in secret. But it was successful in limiting the power of the nobility.

The English did not have a standing army or large bureaucracy but used paid officials.

Henry VII built a large merchant navy, developed the wool industry to increase revenue, and avoided costly foreign wars. When he died in 1509, England was economically and politically stable.

In Spain, the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile the “Catholic Kings” in 1469 unified the country. They used hermandades to administer the country and limit the nobles. The Reconquista, which ended in 1492, removed last of the Moors. The Inquisition forced religious conformity on the Spanish and forced the many Jews to leave. Their daughter, Joanna the Mad married Philip of Burgundy and their son was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Charles was a devout Catholic and, as the head of the massive Habsburg Empire, the most powerful man in Europe.



Main causes of the Reformation

Corruption in the Catholic Church:
simony (selling church offices)
pluralism (the holding of more than one benefice in the Church)
absenteeism (a Church official not residing in the benefice he controlled)
sale of indulgences (the purchasing of forgiveness for you or a deceased relative)
nepotism (jobs for relatives)
moral decline of the papacy
(the worldly lifestyle of the higher ranking clergy)
clerical ignorance
(many priest couldn’t read or write – so how could they interpret the Bible?)
Secondary causes of the Reformation

Renaissance Humanism emphasizing reading and research

A more secular approach to life

The declining prestige of the papacy caused by a) Babylonian Captivity and b) Great Schism

The rise of the New Monarchs
The Church had had critics before the 16th century

In Holland, The Brethren of the Common Life stressed piety, the scriptures, and the personal nature of religion.

English scholar John Wyclif questioned the authority of the pope and rejected transubstantiation (bread becomes the body). Wyclif had powerful protectors who supported is call for reform. Wyclif’s followers were known as Lollards.

Theologian John Hus in Bohemia also criticized the Church. Hus was put on trial for heresy and burned at the stake.
Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar launched the Reformation. He struggled with the idea of salvation until he read Romans 1:17, which said, “the just shall live by faith” When he posted his 95 Theses on the church door of Wittenberg Castle on October 31, 1517, Luther wanted the Church to debate his problems. Luther’s main problem was with the church selling Indulgences. Pope Leo X had authorized the sale of Indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The leading seller of Indulgences was Johann Tetzel.

The 95 Theses were published and distributed without Luther’s knowledge. When Pope Leo ordered Luther to be quiet he was protected by Frederick III, elector of Saxony.

In 1519 noted theologian John Eck debated Luther at Leipzig during the debate Luther admitted that the pope was not infallible and admitted that his ideas were similar to those of Hus. Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1520, but responded by publicly burning the papal bull.

In 1521 Charles V ordered Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms. Charles asked Luther to recant. Luther refused and said, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

After the Diet, Luther was declared an outlaw in the Edict of Worms. He was saved because Elector Frederick the Wise protected him.

Luther believed:
the Bible was the only source of Catholic doctrine
there were only 2 sacraments a) Baptism and b) Communion

Salvation came from faith alone

In 1522 Luther translated the New Testament into German and in 1534 he translated the Old Testament
In 1524, peasants, who misunderstood Luther, revolted against the nobles. Luther supported the nobles in the Peasant War. Luther wrote Against the Murdering, Thieving Hordes of Peasants advising the nobles to kill the peasants.

The Diet of Speyer in 1526 proclaimed that each German prince should be able to live according to his own beliefs.

In 1527 Sweden became the first country to declare Lutheranism as the official religion

Because Charles had to worry about the French and the Ottomans he couldn’t focus all his attention on Luther. In 1530 Luther appeared before Charles at the Diet of Augsburg where he told the emperor his statement of faith. The Confessions of Augsburg was written by Luther’s friend Philip Melanchthon and became the doctrine of the Lutheran Church.
The Schmalkaldic League was formed by German princes in 1531 to protect themselves against Charles V.

Finally in 1555 The Peace of Augsburg declared that each German prince could decide either Lutheranism or Catholicism in the principle of cuius regio, eius religio. Northern Germany became Protestant, while southern Germany remained Catholic. It was devastating for Germany.

Other Reformers
In 1519 Catholic priest Ulrich Zwingli led the city of Zurich in its break with the Catholic Church. He also believed in the supremacy of the Bible. Zwingli was killed in a battle with the Catholics in 1531.
After Zwingli the Swiss turned to John Calvin. In 1536, Calvin settled in Geneva and created a theocracy. Calvin wrote The Institutes of Christian Religion and like Luther believed in the supremacy of the Bible and that there were only two sacraments. Calvin believed in predestination – the idea was that God had already planned who would be saved and who wouldn’t. Those who would be saved were called the Elect. Both reformers ended celibacy of the clergy, but Calvinism demanded simple worship services and the renouncing of worldly pleasures in favor of a puritanical lifestyle.

John Knox took Calvinism to Scotland (known as Presbyterians). In 1560 it became the official religion. Calvinism also spread to France, where the Calvinists were known as Huguenots, Holland, England, and the American colonies.
The most radical group of Protestants were the Anabaptists. They tended to congregate in western Germany and eastern Europe. The Anabaptists rejected childhood baptism, wanted a separation of church and state, and many were pacificists. Thomas Munzer preached that his followers should overthrow the state. John Leyden created a theocracy in Munster in which all property was held in common. He also endorses polygamy. Both leaders were captured and executed.  


Reformation in England

The Tudors
The Tudor dynasty started in 1485 with Henry VII (a New Monarch) after his victory in the War of the Roses

Tudors systematically eliminated all opposition and consolidated their power – but still considered weak and vulnerable

Main advantage – Britain was an island

Henry had two sons – Arthur and Henry (Arthur was 5 years older)

In 1487 talks began about a possible marriage between Arthur and Catherine of Aragon daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, sister of Joanna (the Mad) and aunt to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V

Catherine was two years old – but princess were mainly used to create political alliances

1497 Catherine and Arthur married by proxy

Arthur was given special dispensation from the pope because he was under 14

In 1500, all countries were Catholic

England considered a minor European power (after France, Spain and the Habsburg Empire)

France supported Scotland against England

In 1502 Arthur died and Catherine was a widow

In April 1509 Henry VII died and Henry became Henry VIII

In June 1509 Henry and Catherine were married

It was determined that Arthur and Catherine never consummated their marriage so it was annulled by Pope Julius II. Julius cited Deuteronomy 25:5, which stated that a man should marry his brother’s widow, thus allowing Catherine to marry again

Catherine was a Renaissance woman, well-educated, very religious, and deeply pious

The Tudors were loyal and good Catholics. In 1521 Henry wrote “Defense of the Seven Sacraments”, which was an attack on Luther. In turn Henry was awarded the title of “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X.

Gradually Henry grew tired of Catherine, plus he needed a male heir to avoid dynastic wars and around 1526 he started having an affair with one of Catherine’s maid-of-honors, Anne Boleyn.

Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was appointed to solve the “King’s Great Matter” but he didn’t want to anger either the pope of the king.

Pope Clement VII couldn’t grant Henry’s wish because a) Rome was under siege by HRE Charles V, who was Catherine’s nephew; b) one pope couldn’t say that an earlier pope had made a mistake; c) he was far more concerned with the spread of Lutheranism.

Henry argued that the marriage should be annulled because Leviticus 20:21 said that any marriage with your brothers’ wife would be childless. (Catherine had given birth to many children but only Mary had survived – a point of little consequence to Henry who wanted a son.)

In 1529 Henry grew frustrated and fired Wolsey – he died the following year before he could be held accountable. Wolsey was replaced by Thomas More, the author of Utopia.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer offered Henry an annulment in 1533, by creating the Church of England (Anglicanism). In June the pregnant Boleyn married Henry. Later that year she gave birth to Elizabeth.

In a series of acts Henry was able to take the power away from the Catholic Church and get compliance that he was the head of the Church in England. (In reality the new church and the Catholic Church were very similar.)

The Submission of the Clergy (1533) the Church gave up their power to make laws without the assent of the king.

Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533) forbade the clergy from appealing to the pope making the king the ultimate legal authority.

In 1534 he passed the Act of Supremacy, which declared the king, not the pope, the head of the church. The Treason Act (1534) made it treason to deny the authority of the king. More refused to take the oath of supremacy and was beheaded in 1535.

In 1536, Henry had Anne, who had failed to produce a male heir, beheaded for adultery. The same year Henry started dissolving the monasteries to remove Catholic influence. He gave the land to his friends to gain their support. In 1536 Catholics in northern England rebelled against Henry in the Pilgrimage of Grace, Henry quickly and violently suppressed the revolt.

In 1538, Pope Clement VII excommunicated Henry.

In 1539 Parliament passed the Statute of the Six Articles, which confirmed six principles of Catholicism including transubstantiation and confession. In 1563 Parliament passed the Thirty-Nine Articles, which defined Anglicanism.
In 1547 Henry died and was succeeded by his only son Edward VI, who continued the Protestant tradition. Edward died in 1553 and was succeeded by his half-sister Mary, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, who returned England to Catholicism. Protestants who fled the country were known as Marian exiles. Over 300 Protestants were killed for refusing to convert, earning her the nickname “Bloody” Mary. In 1554 Mary married Philip II of Spain in the hope of producing a Catholic heir. To Philip the marriage was completely political. In 1558, Mary died and was replaced by her half-sister Elizabeth the daughter of Anne Boleyn, a Protestant. Elizabeth was a politique until she was forced to be more assertive. Elizabeth’s biggest fear was French influence in Scotland, believing that they planned to invade and put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. Mary fled to England in 1568 and asked Elizabeth for protection; Elizabeth had her arrested. In

1587, Elizabeth had her cousin beheaded. In 1588 the Spanish Armada was destroyed, ending Spanish attempts to invade England. In 1603 the Tudor dynasty ended with the death of Elizabeth.


THE COUNTER REFORMATION (Catholic Reformation)

Pope Paul III, at the insistence of Charles V, called an ecumenical council to meet at Trent with the purpose of correcting the abuses of the Church. The Council of Trent met from 1545 to 1563.

They reaffirmed the authority of the pope, the seven sacraments, transubstantiation, and approved the Index of Prohibited Books, but they did abolish the practice of selling indulgences. After the Council the Catholic Church became more centralized and ready to reassert its power and authority.

The biggest defender of Catholicism was Ignatius Loyola the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Loyola used military discipline to spread Catholicism and focused his energies on educating the children of the Catholic monarchs. His Spiritual Exercises informed people how be a Jesuit. The Ursuline Order of nuns was recognized by Pope Paul III in 1544 to educate and take care of girls.

Pope Paul III also established a series of religious tribunals to wipe out heresy. The tribunals were known as the Inquisition. They were especially active in Italy and Spain, and helped reconvert many people back to Catholicism.



The Baroque was a cultural movement that started roughly at the start of the 17th century and lasted about 150 years. It encompassed art, architecture, literature, and music. The movement was symbolized by the dramatic and the grand and associated with the Catholic Church after the Council of Trent. Perhaps the most prominent Baroque artist was the Italian sculptor, architect, and painter Gianlorenzo Bernini. His The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa was one of the works that led to the Baroque period being known as the “Age of Bernini”

Louis XIV completed the construction of Versailles using the Baroque style. Louis commissioned architect Louis Le Vau to convert the former hunting lodge into a palace. He hired André Le Nôtre to design the beautiful and intricate gardens.

Leopold I had Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna built as a response to Versailles


Peter Paul Rubens painted Prometheus Bound.

Gianlorenzo Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Music – established the opera as a musical genre

Antonio Vivaldi

Johann Sebastian Bach

George Frideric Handel
The Baroque evolved into French Classicism by the late 1600s because the movement conformed to rules of proportion that were not stressed during the Baroque. Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women was the best example of French Classicism.
French interiors moved away from the Baroque and into the Rococo style.

In 1559 Henry II of Valois (France) signed the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrèsis with Habsburg, Spain thus ending the Habsburg-Valois Wars. At the signing Henry was accidentally killed in a jousting tournament. The throne went to his 15-year-old son, Francis II. His mother Catherine de Medici, daughter of Lorenzo de Medici, ruled as regent. The treaty was signed so both countries could focus on stopping the spread of Protestantism. France was dominated by 3 wealthy and powerful families:
The Catholic Guise in the north and east
The Catholic Montmorency in the south
The Huguenot Bourbon in the center and south-west

Henry died in 1560 and was replaced by his brother Charles IX.

Catherine tried unsuccessfully to reconcile with the Protestants, which alienated the Guise family. The Guise turned to the pope and Philip II of Spain for support. Philip was a religious fanatic and thought it was his duty to restore Catholicism to Europe. From his palace, Escorial, he plotted to remove all Protestant influence.

In 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto, Spain defeated the Turks and removed Ottoman sea power from the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1562 the first religious war broke out in France when the Duke of Guise ordered the execution of Huguenots who had been praying on his land. In 1572, Catherine (and Charles) agreed, for political reasons, to support Dutch Protestants in their fight against Spain. The Catholics saw this as a sign that France was turning Protestant. Charles agreed to stop helping the Dutch and to listen to the advice of the Guise family.
In 1572 a marriage between Charles’s sister, Margaret (Catholic and Valois) and Henry of Navarre (Huguenot and Bourbon) was arranged to try to reconcile the religious differences. On August 24, 1572, the Catholics, instructed by Catherine and supported by Guise, murdered the Huguenots leaders.

In 1574, Charles died and was replaced by Henry III (Henry of Valois).

The fanatic Catholics known as dévots, formed the Catholic League led by Henry of Guise and financed by Spain.
Henry III first allied with Henry of Navarre against Henry of Guise. Then Henry of Valois switched sides. In 1587 Navarre won a surprise victory against the Catholics but failed to take advantage of the situation. Also in 1587, the Protestant Elizabeth had the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots (niece of the Duke of Guise) executed. In 1588 Philip’s great armada was destroyed by a storm in the English Channel. Henry III’s bodyguards assassinated Guise and the king had the leaders of the Catholic League arrested. Catholics everywhere joined a “Holy Union” against the king. A deranged monk assassinated the king. Henry of Navarre defeated the Catholic League in 1589 and 1590 to claim the French throne and become Henry IV in 1589, the first Bourbon king.
In 1593 Henry renounced Protestantism and converted to Catholicism, saying “Paris is worth a mass”. In 1598 he issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted limited religious freedom to the Huguenots. Once Henry converted the Catholic League slowly disbanded.
The religious wars had devastated France. Plus there were bad harvests and epidemics in the 1590s. Henry promised relief and “a chicken in every pot”

In 1596 Henry introduced the paulette, an annual payment to ensure titles would remain in the family.

In 1598 Henry passed the Edict of Nantes, which allowed limited religious freedom for the Huguenots, and for them to establish schools in specific towns, and to maintain some fortified towns. It also made Catholicism the official religion of France. He limited the power of the nobles and he never convened the Estates General. Working with his advisor, the Duke of Sully, Henry laid the foundation for Absolutism in France.
The Netherlands
As the Spanish Empire expanded it became too hard to maintain. Dutch nobles resented the taxes and Catholicism. In the 1560s the Dutch started to rebel.

In 1567, Philip II ordered the Duke of Alva to restore order at any cost. Alva’s Council of Blood killed thousands of prominent Calvinists, but resistance increased.

Led by William I (William of Orange) the Dutch fought the Spanish. In 1579 the Dutch provinces formed the Union of Utrecht and in 1581 they created the Dutch United Provinces. The southern provinces formed the Spanish Netherlands
Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)
The Thirty Years’ War was caused by the failure of the Peace of Augsburg (1555). It had four distinct phases and involved almost every European nation and resulted in the devastation of the German states.

Rudolf II, the king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor wanted to rid his country of Protestants. His brother, Mathias forced the Hungarian and Transylvanian Protestants to sign the Peace of Vienna (1606), which guaranteed religious freedom for Hungary and recognized Matthias as heir to Rudolf. Archduke Ferdinand of Austria became king of Hungary in 1617 and Bohemia in 1618.
Bohemian Stage (1618-25)

Ferdinand imposed strict regulations of the Protestants despite earlier promises of religious toleration.

In 1618, in the Defenestration of Prague, two Catholic officials were thrown from a tower. Both survived because they landed in a pile of manure. The Protestants declared Frederick V, a Calvinist from western Germany, to be the new monarch.

Ferdinand gained the support of Maximilian I of Bavaria and defeated the Protestants at the Battle of White Mountain. The Catholics regained control of Bohemia as well as the Palatinate in Germany.

Danish Stage (1625-29)

In 1625, King Christian IV of Denmark and duke of Holstein decided to help the Protestants against Emperor Ferdinand. Ferdinand hired Albrecht of Wallenstein to recruit an army and to fight Christian. Wallenstein defeated Christian in 1626 and then occupied Holstein. The Treaty of Lübeck in 1629 restored Holstein to Christian on condition that he did not interfere again. In an attempt to restore order and re-establish the principles of the Peace of Augsburg, Ferdinand issued the Edict of Restitution in 1629. The Edict restored all land that had been secularized since 1555 to control by Catholics.

Swedish Stage (1630-35)

In 1630, Ferdinand called the Electors to get their vote for his son to be the new Holy Roman Emperor. The Electors detested the Edict of Restitution and only agreed to the vote if Ferdinand removed Wallenstein. With the Catholic victories the Protestants worried that they may lose everything, while the French feared the increasing power of the Habsburgs. In 1630, the Protestant King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden moved into Germany.

In 1630 France and Sweden signed an alliance against the Habsburgs. The war was now a European war and it had shifted from a religious to a political war.

After the Swedes won several battles, Wallenstein was summoned to form a new army. At the Battle of Lützen, Wallenstein was defeated, but Gustavus Adolphus was killed in the fighting. Wallenstein began secret negotiations with the French and the Swedes. Ferdinand removed Wallenstein from command and in 1634 Wallenstein was assassinated. The emperor annuls the Edict of Restitution to pacify the German princes. Gradually the Swedes were defeated and in 1635 the Treaty of Prague ended the Swedish phase.

French Stage (1635-48) “International” Phase

Cardinal Richelieu wanted to use the war to weaken the Habsburgs. After France defeated Spain they were able to focus on Germany. In 1637 Emperor Ferdinand II died and was replaced by his son, Ferdinand III. Peace negotiations started in 1641, but Richelieu died in 1642. The French moved to occupy Bavaria in 1646, forcing Ferdinand to hasten the negotiations.
Treaty of Westphalia (1648) ended the Thirty Years’ War

Sweden gained Pomerania

France annexed Alsace

Dutch and Swiss independence recognized

Expanded the Peace of Augsburg to include Calvinists

Over 300 German states became sovereign

After the war Spain was isolated although they continued fighting the French until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, French and English power increased, Germany was devastated and even more fragmented and hopes of restoring Catholicism to all of Europe disappeared.
Life in the 16th and 17th centuries
In western Europe a capitalist system evolved, based on a free market economy.

In eastern Europe the economic system was based on serfdom

After 1550 the population of England increased dramatically because of increased fertility rate and reduced mortality rates. During this time England became a major commercial and manufacturing center.

England had, for the most part avoided the wars of Europe and any major epidemic.

One of the main factors was the improvement in agriculture, which led to greater crop production.

The Agricultural Revolution also created huge disparities in wealth with the landowners becoming wealthier and politically more powerful. There developed a very stratified society, with everyone know his or her place and acknowledging their “betters”. At the top of the social ladder was the gentry, and below them the Yeoman. However, there was some social mobility and it was possible for a yeoman to improve his status.

In 1598 England passed the first “poor law” acknowledging the need to take care of those unable to take care of themselves.

More money meant they could purchase more land causing the landless masses to be dispossessed. Primogeniture meant the land was never divided amongst all the children and the huge estates remained in tact.

This desire for land led to the enclosure movement. Farmers specialized in producing food for the ever-expanding cities.

England also exported wool, iron, and coal.



After 1600 the commercial center of Europe shifted from the Mediterranean to northwestern Europe. Initially, European economic development was a result of exploration by Spain and Portugal, but France, The Netherlands, and England gradually replaced them.

More people necessitate more food. The Dutch were the first to begin intensive agriculture by reclaiming land from the sea. Extensive trade routes boosted the economy of England, but so did the creation of banking and credit services. Bills of exchange replaced gold and silver. Antwerp and then Amsterdam and then London became the financial capitals of Europe.

The economic boom led to inflation and earning failed to keep pace with the cost of living. This “price revolution” really hurt the small landowners, many of whom were forced to sell their land. Another reason for the inflation was the gold and silver brought to Europe from the New World by the Spanish.

The Agriculture Revolution started in the Netherlands and quickly spread to Britain. Both countries had a limited amount of land and an expanding population, so they had develop more efficient and effect methods of food production. Techniques such as crop rotation, using fertilizers, and selective breeding all served to increase production. Once a country has a surplus of food they can focus on developing other aspects of life. The English landowners realized the economic benefits of their land and gradually moved away from the open-field system to the enclosure movement to protect their land and their investment. More food meant healthier people and healthier and stronger crops. Better crops produced better seeds.

The poorest members of society suffered the most as they were forced off their land and lost access to the common land. However, life expectancy rose as diseases and epidemics had less impact. The creation of professional armies also reduced the impact on civilians of constant warfare.

Early industrial development involved cottage industries and the “Putting-out” system.

The cottage industries were organized by household and often involved all the members of the family. In the putting out system the work is sub-contracted by an agent to a worker, who usually does the work from home. Under mercantilism the government is expected to protect and promote domestic industry


Trade between Europe and Asia was controlled by the Venetians and the Muslims. European nations wanted a more secure, cheaper, and direct method of trade, so they looked to find a sea route to Asia.

New technology made led to a better design for ships allowing ships to travel further, be more maneuverable, and carry more cargo. An improved compass allowed for better navigation. However most maps were very inaccurate and often based on the work of the ancient Greek historian Ptolemy. Sea captains kept their own charts, usually locked away, and added to them as they ventured further and gained more knowledge.

The demand for Asian spices and silks created the opportunity for immense profits. New Monarchs, who were interested in trade and finances, started to invest money and resources into sea travel. The first country to take the lead in exploration was Portugal, which was ideally located on the Iberian peninsula next to the Atlantic Ocean.

Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal is credited with helping start the age of exploration. In 1419, he established a school at Sagres to teach explorers about navigation and seamanship as well as financing trips. He never went to sea because he would get violently seasick!

Portuguese explorers sailed to the Madeira Islands the Azores in the Atlantic

Gradually they sailed further south along the African coast

In 1488 Bartholomew Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope, which was southern tip of Africa

In 1498 Vasco da Gama reached Calicut on the coast of India, before returning with a ship full of luxury goods

In 1500 Pedro Cabral set sail for Asia before being blown off course and landing in Brazil

In 1510 Alphonso d’Albuquerque claimed Goa for Portugal and established a trading center on the Chinese coast

The success of the Portuguese explorers ended to Muslim and Venetian monopoly on the spice trade. It also marked a shift away from the Mediterranean world to the Atlantic.

Between 1497 and 1504 Amerigo Vespucci made several explorations of the Americas. He was the first to develop the idea that the land was a “New World” and not Asia, as Columbus had assumed. America is named after Amerigo Vespucci.

After the initial success of the Portuguese the Spanish took the lead


One of the first explorers for Spain was the Genovese sailor Christopher Columbus, Columbus believed it was possible to reach Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1492 Columbus, sailing for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, landed at San Salvador and claimed the land for Spain.
As Spain and Portugal conflicted over exploration they asked Pope Alexander VI to settle the question of sovereignty. The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) divided the newly discovered world into Spanish and Portuguese hemispheres
Columbus made three more journeys to the Caribean and extensivley explored Central America. Even on his deathbed he isisted that he had found a new route to Asia.

In 1513 Ponce de Leon explored Florida and Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and named the Pacific Ocean.

Between 1519-21 Hernando Cortès completely destroyed the Aztec Empire (the Aztecs were devastated by European diseases)

In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan set sail to circumnavigation of the globe. Although he was killed in a skirmish in the Philippines in 1521, one of his ships returned to Spain in 1522.

In 1532 Francisco Pizzaro destroyed the Inca Empire

Spanish explorers were searching for the 3 G’s (gold, God, and glory)

Spanish soldiers, known as Conquistadores, were brutal in their treatment of the natives.

They forced the natives to work for the Spain a certain number of days every week. This system was called Encomienda and was a foreshadowing of what native could expect from Europeans

The children from Spanish and indigenous natives were known as Mestizos. As a result of the exchange of goods and idea (Columbian exchange) life was significant altered in both the New World and the Old World. Things transferred to the New World from Europe include: diseases, such as smallpox, horses and chickens, coffee, wheat and sugarcane. Things transferred to the Europe from the New World included: syphilis, turkeys, maize, potatoes, and tomatoes.
While the Portuguese went south and the Spanish went west the French and the British chose to go north and west. They determined that there must be a northwest passage to Asia.

In 1541 Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France after sailing down the St. Lawrence river

In 1608 Samuel de Champlain (the “Father of New France”) landed at Quebec. French interest in America was based on established the fur trade – primarily beaver pelts.

Consequently the French explorers developed much better relationships with the natives.


The Genovese sailor, John Cabot, sailing for Britain, made two trips to North America in 1497 and 1498. He gave England her claim to North America.

In 1580 Sir Francis Drake arrived in England having been the second man to circumnavigate the globe. Drake made his reputation robbing Spanish ships. The Spanish called him a pirate, but the English called him a “sea dog”


Science had always been subordinate to theology. Early science was based on the ideas of Aristotle and Ptolemy. They believed the Earth was motionless at the center of the universe while the planets and stars orbited the Earth in circular orbits. This view was accepted (even though it was incorrect) because it agreed with Catholic teachings and it appeared to be common sense. Observations clearly proved that the planets moved in different patterns, so Medieval scholars developed the idea that the planets move in epicycles.

Polish clergyman Nicolaus Copernicus discovered the heliocentric theory, which challenged the geocentric view of the Church. Copernicus published his findings in On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres (1543). It was published in the same year he died so that he couldn’t be called a heretic by the Catholic Church. Catholics and Protestants denounced his work as illogical and unchristian.

Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe studied the skies for 20 years from his observatory. He didn’t agree with Copernicus. Brahe believed the planets revolve around the Sun, but the Earth is motionless.

German astronomer Johann Kepler worked with Brahe. He accepted the heliocentric theory and developed three laws of planetary motion. Kepler was a mathematical genius.

Italian mathematician and scientist Galileo Galilei was the first scientist to use the newly developed telescope for astronomical observations. He was able to prove Copernicus’s heliocentric theory. He discovered the mountains of the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. In 1632 he published his work in Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World and quickly drew criticism from the Church. In 1633 Galileo was questioned by the Inquisition and forced to recant. He spent the rest of life under house arrest. He died in 1642, the same year Newton was born.

English mathematical genius Sir Isaac Newton synthesized the work of the earlier scientists and because he was in England he was free from the influence of the Church. His book was Principia in which he explained the law of universal gravitation. Newton said, “If I have seen further than others it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”


English attorney and philosopher Francis Bacon developed the inductive method of science. Scientists should collect empirical data and then that information could be used for the benefit of all society. His major work was Novum Organum.

French philosopher Rene Descartes emphasized deductive reasoning. He also developed the idea of Cartesian Dualism, which divided everything into the spiritual and physical. Descartes said, “cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)

Medical information had been based on the Greco-Roman tradition formulated by Galen in the second century.

Andreas Vesalius wrote The Structure of the Human Body (1543) the first textbook on human anatomy.

The English physician William Harvey demonstrated the functions of the heart and the circulation of blood in his work, On the Movement of the Heart and Blood (1628).

The chemist Robert Boyle is known as the father of modern chemistry.

The Academy of Experiments was founded in Florence in 1657 and The Royal Society in England was founded in 1662 to promote scientific research and to stimulate scientific dialogue between people interested in advancing science.

The advances caused by the Scientific Revolution showed people that the natural world could not only be explained through mathematics, it could also be applied to humans. Consequently, life could be made better because of science. This mentality would lead to the Enlightenment, the Agricultural Revolution, and then the Industrial Revolution.


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