Reformation Essay Research Paper Middle AgesThe middle

Reformation Essay, Research Paper

Middle Ages

The middle ages lasted from 500-1350.The term Middle Ages was invented by people during the Renaissance, a period of cultural and literary change in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term was not meant as a compliment. During the Renaissance, people thought that their own age and the time of ancient Greece and Rome were advanced and civilized. They called the period between themselves and the ancient world “the Middle Age.” The adjective medieval comes from the Latin words for this term, medium (middle) and aevum (age).

Historians adopted this term even though it was originally meant to belittle the period. Since the Middle Ages covers such a large span of time, historians divided it into three parts: the Early Middle Ages, lasting from about 350 to about 1050; the High Middle Ages, lasting from about 1050 to about 1300; and the Late Middle Ages, lasting from about 1300 to about 1450.

During the middle ages society was controlled by what was called a Feudal System . Where a King would higher a noblemen to fight in his army against attacks and invasions. In return the noblemen was given land to grow crops and animals. The noblemen would then higher vassals to work the land and help grow the food. In return the vassal would receive food and the noblemen s protection and security from invasions and attacks also. Socially most people were poor, while a select few were rich and wealthy and the others were very, very poor.

Social equality did not exist. A small minority of people owned the land and helped make all decisions for the population. Most of the people owned little money, land and had no say in decision making. People lived very local and isolated lives, where they could not access the outside world.

Politically they were run under feudalism and were very de-centralized. The role of the church was very influential as they had role in every aspect of life. People would live good lives toward God, so that they would be given a better after life. Peasants and serfs were in a set place among society along with all other people. You were born into your social status and had no way to better your life. You were to live your life to the fullest because god put you on the earth for that purpose. So that is why people wouldn t argue their social position because the church told them that God wanted them to be like that.


Renaissance, series of literary and cultural movements in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. These movements began in Italy and eventually expanded into Germany, France, England, and other parts of Europe. Participants studied the great civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and came to the conclusion that their own cultural achievements rivaled those of antiquity. Their thinking was also influenced by the concept of humanism, which emphasizes the worth of the individual. Renaissance humanists believed it was possible to improve human society through classical education. This education relied on teachings from ancient texts and emphasized a range of disciplines, including poetry, history, rhetoric (rules for writing influential prose or speeches), and moral philosophy.

The word renaissance means “rebirth.” The idea of rebirth originated in the belief that Europeans had rediscovered the superiority of Greek and Roman culture after many centuries of what they considered intellectual and cultural decline. The preceding era, which began with the collapse of the Roman Empire around the 5th century, became known as the Middle Ages, to indicate its position between the classical and modern world.

Many scholars claim that much of the cultural dynamism of the Renaissance also had its roots in medieval times and that changes were progressive rather than abrupt. Nevertheless, the Renaissance represents a change in focus and emphasis from the Middle Ages, with enough unique qualities to justify considering it as a separate period of history.

The Renaissance was marked by an intense interest in the visible world and in the knowledge derived from concrete sensory experience. It turned away from the abstract speculations and interest in life after death that characterized the Middle Ages. Although Christianity was not abandoned, the otherworldliness and monastic ideology of the Middle Ages were largely discarded. The focus during the Renaissance turned from abstract discussions of religious issues to the morality of human actions.

In the Renaissance, the unique talents and potential of the individual became significant. The concept of personal fame was much more highly developed than during the Middle Ages. Renaissance artists, valuing glory and renown in this world, signed their works. Medieval artists, with their focus on otherworldliness and on glorifying God, were more humble and remained largely anonymous.

Political Change:

Dramatic political changes occurred in Europe during the Renaissance. For many centuries after the collapse of the western Roman Empire around 500, the only strong unifying force in Europe was the Roman Catholic Church. However, the growth in commerce increasingly unified Europe economically. Invasions from the outside declined, and rulers in the various countries gradually consolidated their power. In most of Europe, the states they ruled became focused almost exclusively on self-preservation. They operated with growing efficiency and increasingly used their power at home as a basis for expansion abroad.

This trend developed in different ways in Italy than it did in areas north of the Alps. As towns grew in Italy, they demanded self-rule and often developed into strong, independent city-states. In the northern areas of Europe, national monarchs established their power over the nobility. During the Renaissance, both of these political systems evolved from medieval roots, but neither was completely transformed into a modern state. The advancements that did occur were accompanied by even greater changes in attitudes toward politics.

The way was prepared for these changes by the decline of the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy, or office of the pope. These two universal institutions played a large role in medieval politics. The pope, as head of the Catholic Church, wielded spiritual authority over all of Europe. The church and the state were viewed as two different aspects of one Christian society, sometimes referred to as Christendom. Despite the strong ties between church and state, popes and secular rulers frequently struggled with each other for control over church administration and secular lands.

?Changing Economy


? The civilization of the Renaissance was the creation of prosperous cities and of rulers who drew substantial income from their urban subjects in the Italian city-states and the countries of England and France. The commerce that kept cities alive also provided the capital and the flow of ideas that helped build Renaissance culture. During the early Middle Ages foreign trade had virtually come to a halt. By the 11th century, however, population growth and contact with other cultures through military efforts such as the Crusades helped revive commercial activity. Trade slowly increased with the exchange of luxury goods in the Mediterranean region and various commodities such as fish, furs, and metals across the North and Baltic seas. Commerce soon moved inland, bringing new prosperity to the citizens of towns along major trade routes. As traffic along these routes increased, existing settlements grew and new ones were established.

The cities of Italy were strategically located between western Europe and the area along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Levant. Italy’s leadership in the Renaissance was due in part to its central location for trade. The cities became important and wealthy commercial centers, and the riches accumulated by the merchants of Venice, Genoa, Milan, and a host of smaller cities supported Italy’s political and cultural achievements.

Important towns developed beyond Italy as well. Especially with the expansion of trade, towns grew along the Danube, Rhine, and Rh ne rivers of Europe; around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea; and in the Low Countries of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands where northern and southern trade routes met. Wherever these towns were located, they became a unique element in a medieval world that up to this time was dominated by seignoralism, an agricultural system in which the primary economic and political relationship was between landowners and their tenants.


The reformation was a great 16th-century religious revolution in the Christian church, which ended the ecclesiastical supremacy of the pope in Western Christendom and resulted in the establishment of the Protestant churches. With the Renaissance that preceded and the French Revolution that followed, the Reformation completely altered the medieval way of life in Western Europe and initiated the era of modern history. Although the movement dates from the early 16th century, when Martin Luther first defied the authority of the church, the conditions that led to his revolutionary stand had existed for hundreds of years and had complex doctrinal, political, economic, and cultural elements.

The Protestant revolution was initiated in Germany by Luther in 1517, when he published his 95 theses challenging the theory and practice of indulgences. Besides the three great churches Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican formed during the Reformation, a large number of small sects also arose as a natural consequence of Protestant repudiation of traditional authority and exaltation of private judgment. Despite the diversity of revolutionary forces in the 16th century, the Reformation had largely consistent results throughout Western Europe. In general, the power and wealth lost by the feudal nobility and the Roman Catholic hierarchy passed to the middle classes and to monarchical rulers. Various regions of Europe gained political, religious, and cultural independence. Even in countries such as France and the region now known as Belgium, where Roman Catholicism continued to prevail, a new individualism and nationalism in culture and politics developed. The Protestant emphasis on personal judgment furthered the development of democratic governments based on the collective choice of individual voters. The destruction of the medieval system of authority removed traditional religious restrictions on trade and banking, and opened the way for the growth of modern capitalism. During the Reformation national languages and literature were greatly advanced by the wide dissemination of religious literature written in the languages of the people, rather than in Latin. Popular education was also stimulated through the new schools founded by Colet in England, Calvin in Geneva, and the Protestant princes in Germany. Religion became less the province of a highly privileged clergy and more a direct expression of the beliefs of the people. Religious intolerance, however, raged unabated, and all the sects continued to persecute one another for at least a century.


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