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The transition from the middle ages to modernity is the greatest turning point in the history of humankind. English Renaissance refers to the period of scientific, cultural, and religious reforms in England. The rise of education based on strong humanistic and scientific curricula made people critical of their environment, culture, and leadership. Consequently, numerous inventions, church reformation, and cultural shifts became the distinguishing features of the Renaissance Era.
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Humanism, Art, and Science
The rise of humanism was a key feature of the English Renaissance. The rising interest in education led to an explosion in schools and universities that taught humanistic curricula. Sellars (2020) observes that English people developed an interest in classical subjects such as philosophy, poetry, history, drama, and other arts. The school boys and girls could be forced to learn new concepts in the original languages, such as Greek and Latin, and how to write. The Renaissance period in England was marked by an unprecedented increase in the interest in learning poetry, especially those written by Shakespeare.
Additionally, the widespread establishment of grammar schools during this period ensured that people were taught correct English and pronunciation as a furtherance of the English culture. Johann Gutenberg further boosted education in humanities through the printing press’s discovery during this period. Therefore, humanism aimed at the rebirth of human glory and intellect through the works of scholars such as William Shakespeare and Sidney, making people critical of their environment and not just mere mastery of religious dogma.
The new ways of thinking led to the growth of science and art through various discoveries. The solutions to the problems faced by people during the middle ages had to be found through research. As a result, the attachment of superstition to every problem and belief in religion as the answer to all humankind’s challenges were dropped. Scholars in art and sciences came up with new ways and techniques to make work easier and solve problems. According to Calhoun (2020), Great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci created paintings and sculptures by studying human anatomy.
Similarly, Galileo introduced controlled experiments to approve or disapprove scientific theories, while Isaac newton discovered the science behind the force of gravity and its application. However, the most important discovery was the discovery of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. The printing press played a significant role in spreading scientific knowledge and skills throughout Europe in 1500. It also impacted religion by printing the Bible in local languages, leading to the reformation.
Reformation and Culture
The spread of education in England led to the pressure to reform the church by humanism scholars. The need for critical analysis of the beliefs and ideals of the church and the practiced faith led to radical changes in worship and church leadership. Humanist scholars such as Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus questioned the church leaders’ false doctrines, teachings, and morality (Keddie, 2019). German humanist Martin Luther was unhappy with the corruption and lack of religious democracy in the Catholic Church. He advocated for equal access to the Bible for all people, leading to his translation of the Bible from Latin to German and later English and French. This belief would make Christians read and interpret the Bible in their local languages rather than relying on the pontiff. Consequently, the emergence of people with different opinions concerning worship and leadership led to schism and the eventual growth of the protestant movement. Unlike Catholicism, the protestant movement stressed the individual knowledge of God through scripture readings and interpretations.
Cultural change is attributed to the Renaissance period. The establishment of European industries led to capitalism and hence severe social stratification. Entrepreneurial culture, wage labor, poverty due to unemployment, and anti-social behaviors such as theft and prostitution became the order of the day (Richards, 2019). The wealthy ruling class and the middle class lived in great affluence, while the poor lived at their mercy. With many women able to write and publish their literature and discoveries, the fight for gender parity marked the genesis of the end of European patriarchal society. In addition, the arts portrayed culture well, such as paintings depicting the classical Greek period. The rise of the solid secular culture was seen as a revolt against medieval society, which was heavily dominated by church leadership and doctrines. On the other hand, the growth of industries in towns created employment opportunities leading to rural-urban migration hence the end of the communal village culture. Consequently, the urbanized life and population explosion leading to the growth of slums and economic disparity became the new culture in England.
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In conclusion, the impact of the Renaissance period in England cannot be underscored. Instead, the unprecedented radical shift in the way of life in England is attributed to the rebirth period. The reforms in the Catholic Church pushed by Martin Luther led to the protestant movement tilted both religious and political landscapes in England. Moreover, scientific discoveries expanded access to knowledge and skills through reading, while the introduction of capitalism led to the urban capitalistic culture.
- Calhoun, J. (2020). The Nature of the Page: Poetry, Papermaking, and the Ecology of Texts in Renaissance England. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Keddie, A. (2019). Context matters: Primary schools and academies reform in England. Journal of Education Policy, 34(1), 6-21.
- Richards, J. (2019). Voices and Books in the English Renaissance: A New History of Reading. Oxford University Press.
- Sellars, J. (2020). Renaissance humanism and philosophy as a way of life. Metaphilosophy, 51(2-3), 226–243. https://doi.org/10.1111/meta.12409