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Causes of the Renaissance

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The causes of European the Renaissance are many, each very important. However, there are three which are the most significant: The rise of cities, an increase in public education, and the realization of the corruption of the church, which at that time dominated society. These causes were linked in many ways.

Cities began to become larger and a more popular place to live in the early fourteenth century. People, namely surfs, began moving out of the manors and in to the cities. Cities allowed and supported people who were good at a certain craft to pursue that craft and teach it to others, this lead to the formation of guilds. Guilds are a present day equivalent to monopolies. Guilds were a group of people who shared a common skill and provided support for one another. Then, in the late fourteenth century, the Black Death swept through Europe killing a third of its population. Most of the loss of life occurred in cities because the people were packed close together making the disease easy to spread. Cities became almost uninhabited for two or three generations, after which the cities regained their former size. Cities were reborn from the roman and Greek times. Cities allowed for trade which lead to a middle class composed of merchants and craftsmen. People learned skills and traded ideas from one another, cities allowed people to interact. Soon schools began to be made in the cities for the education of the people who could afford it.

Education was a major cause for the European renaissance, especially in the Italian city-states. Education was generally common among men who dealt with commerce or a specific craft. Education began around the age of seven and lasted about three to four years, after which the child would become an apprentice to a person already skilled in the craft. Although the church was still very important, these people began to rely less on the church for guidance. People, especially those in the Italian city-states, became more materialistic and began focusing more on this world rather than just on the next. From this educated class came the humanists. Humanists were a group of educated people who were, “painfully aware of the corruption of the church and the plight of society.” Education made people think as individuals, leading to advances in technologies and a favor for art and music.

Education led to the decline of the church which was another major cause to the renaissance. The Great Schism began the first questioning of the holiness and perfection of the church which everyone followed. Eventually the humanist discovered the corruption of the church which was exemplified through indulgence. Indulgence is when one pays to have his sins forgiven by the supposedly holy priest. Corruption was also exemplified, according to Erasmus, by the way people became popes. Erasmus said that potential popes fought violently often with an assassination of the competitor for the papacy. He also said that the papacy could be bought. People soon realized this and stopped fallowing the church blindly; they began doing things on their own. People acted on new found reason and not dogma as in the middle-ages. Without the decline of the church people would not have been able to progress.

Although all three of these causes are very important to the European renaissance, the rebirth of cities seems to be the most important. Without cities people would not be able to exchange skills and ideas, and there could be no effective middle class, because of the lack of trade. Cities also allowed the other two causes to take place, without cities public education would be very low, and without the exchange of ideas people would have never realized the corruption of the church.

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