Renaissance rebirth is the name traditionally bestowed upon the remarkable outpouring of intellectual and artistic energy and talent that accompanied the passage of Europe from the Middle Ages to the modern epoch. Yet “Renaissance” to a large extent was the creation of nineteenth century scholars who, looking back on the intense flowering of culture, sought a name by which to designate it. The term is also often extended to politics and economics.
Machiavelli blamed the Italians’ loss of civic spirit on the church, attacked the temporal interests of the papacy for preventing Italian unity, and questioned the values of Christianity itself. Machiavelli evidently believed that the purpose of government was less to prepare people for the City of God than to make them upstanding citizens of this world—ready to fight, work, and die for their earthly country.
The long-established French monarchy began to move toward more efficient absolutism after the Hundred Years’ War, particularly under Louis XI. In this development, France had certain advantages. None of its provinces showed quite the intense regionalism that could be found in Catalonia or among the Spanish Basques.
We still know relatively little about Mycenaean politics and society. We can tell from excavated gold treasures that Mycenae itself was wealthy, which is not surprising considering that it had conquered Crete. But the Mycenaeans seem not to have been overseas empire builders, even in the sense that the Cretans had been; their occupation of Crete may well have been undertaken by an invading captain.
In 1156 Frederick married the heiress to Burgundy, which had slipped out of imperial control during the Investiture Controversy. He made Switzerland the strategic center of his policy, for it controlled the Alpine passes into Italy. In Swabia he tried to build a compact, well-run royal domain, but he needed the loyalty of cooperative great vassals. And in Lombardy he also needed an alliance with the communes in the towns.
Utopian socialists derived their inspiration from the Enlightenment.
If only people would apply reason to solving the problems of an industrial economy, if only they would wipe out artificial inequalities by letting the great natural law of brotherhood operate freely—then utopia would be within their grasp, and social and economic progress would come about almost automatically.
This was the common belief linking together the four chief Utopians of the early nineteenth century: Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and Louis Blanc.
Although most of the Latin American republics had by 1945 enjoyed political independence for more than a century, they had much in common economically and socially with the emerging nations of Asia and Africa. Like the Asians and Africans, the Latin Americans had been suppliers of foods and raw materials to the rest of the world.
Such labels as Age of Absolutism and Age of Divine-Right Monarchy are frequently applied to the early modern centuries; over most of Europe the ultimate control of administration rested with a hereditary monarch who claimed a God-given right to make final decisions.
But while the greater nobles were losing power and influence to the monarchy, the lesser nobles continued to dominate the countryside, where medieval local privileges survived vigorously almost everywhere, together with local ways of life quite different from those of the court and the capital.
It may seem strange that our concepts of the distant past are changing much faster than our concepts of the periods closer to us in time. But when we consider the means by which we know about the past, we can quickly see that this is entirely natural.
When the Etruscans took over Rome, the people they conquered were apparently Latins, descendants of prehistoric inhabitants of the peninsula. Under its Etruscan kings, Rome prospered during the sixth century B.C. The Etruscans built new stone structures and drained and paved what eventually became the Forum. But the Roman population joined with other Latin tribes in a large-scale rebellion. The traditional date for the expulsion from Rome of the last Etruscan king, Tarquin the Proud, is 509 B.C.