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Unit 1 – Transition to the Modern World
Topics – The Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, Age of Exploration
and the Enlightenment
(Background – Europe in the Middle Ages was based on a very rigid
structure for society called Feudalism)
The Renaissance
The Renaissance means ‘re-birth’. It was the rebirth of western civilization
after the Dark Ages and Middle Ages. It was about ‘re-discovering’ what
values we still consider important today. It was a time of questioning the
world they lived in, in all areas (politically, socially and economically). It
was a time that the people of Europe started to place an emphasis on
learning again. The values of the Renaissance were expressed in the art,
music, architecture and literature of the times.
The 4 Key Ideas
Individualism –
Humanism –
Secularism –
Classicism –
The Renaissance will begin in the 1300s in Italy and spread slowly to the
rest of Europe up to the 1600s. It begins in Italy for a number of reasons:
- Trade – Although NOT a united country at this point, the Italian
peninsula was the center of European trade. This trade not
only brought in new goods, but new ideas as well. It also
created a wealthy merchant class.
- Wealth – trading cities were able to gain great amounts of
wealth. Individuals such as the Medici family (banking $) were
able to sponsor great artists
- Isolation from Europe – Italian areas were never really feudal
and developed as independent city states
Examples of the Renaissance in the Arts
Identify an important person in each area, an important work they did and why it
is an example of the Renaissance values
Now for the BIG QUESTION....
..... What was the Renaissance and why was it such an important change it history?
(This is the question that I will be definitely marking. Put some thought into it as it will
be marked on a rubric. You are aiming for a paragraph of 4-5 sentences)
The Reformation
The spirit of the Renaissance era will lead to many challenges to the world.
One of the first areas to be challenged was the power of the Catholic
(Activities – School Problems scenario & problems with the Catholic Church handout )
There were many problems that had grown in the Catholic Church. The
Church began to focus on wealth and power and money was being raised
for ambitious building projects in Rome. The practice of simony (selling of
positions of power) was one such problem. The church was also
aggressively selling Indulgences – a way to buy forgiveness for your sins.
Martin Luther, a German priest, wanted to fix the
problems of the church and wanted to encourage
discussion to improve the church. In 1517, he posted
his 95 Theses (ideas) for the reform of the Roman
Catholic Church on the door of the Wittenberg
Pope Leo X called on Luther to retract his statements. At the Diet of
Worms in 1521, Luther refused to renounce his ideas and Luther was
excommunicated and called a heretic. Luther was protected by the princes
of northern Germany, who wanted to rid their regions of the power of the
church as well.
Luther’s movement pushed for the Bible to be printed in the vernacular,
allowing people to read God’s word for themselves. He also believed that
salvation was reached by faith alone, and people could directly pray to
God. Soon other groups broke away from the Catholic Church. The
groups that broke away became known as the Protestants.
Following the reformation, religious divides would cause conflict throughout
Europe. The moral and political authority of the church would decline as
well. The Reformation helped to put an end to this age of blind faith.
The Scientific Revolution
The Renaissance period inspired people to question their world and to
explore the natural reasons for things happening. The weakening of the
Catholic church during the Reformation will allow people to start publishing
and questioning previously assumed ideas.
Scientific Revolution—a movement in the 1600s in which new technology
and innovative approaches to seeking knowledge led to a breakthrough
in European thought. (Everything was questioned; nothing was
 How did people come up with answers before Scientific Revolution?
 Magical Thought ( witch did it)
 Religious Thought ( God did it)
 Scientific Thought (using logic)
The Scientific Revolution will emphasize 2 key ideas to discover natural
The first area to be challenged was in the field of astronomy. Scientists
looked to the stars and began challenging the idea of a geocentric world.
Nicolaus Copernicus
 Polish astronomer that introduced
heliocentric model : earth is 1 of many
heavenly bodies that spin on their axes
& revolve around the sun
 His ideas were backed by
mathematical calculations
 Revolutionized Europe’s concept of the
 His ideas were kept fairly quiet at first because of the fear of how the
church may react.
Galileo Galilei
 Italian astronomer that discovered the Law
of Inertia- (studied motion)
 Refined glass lenses to build a far seeing
 Tried to prove the Heliocentric model by
observing the moons of Jupiter, but was
forced to recant his statements by the
Isaac Newton
 Major contributions to understanding of
motion, light and heat
 Discovered theory of gravity
 Created calculus
The Scientific Revolution was a huge change in history. Discoveries will
lead to a better understanding of the natural world. People began to
control their natural world more than ever before. A better
understanding of the human body led to better health and less disease.
People believed that everything could be figured out by using the power
of the human mind. This would lead to the period known as “The
The Age of Exploration /Discovery
The Age of Exploration begins with a desire to increase the wealth and
power of European countries. Wealth could be obtained through finding
precious metals, but also of great importance was the spice trade which
meant getting to Asia. Sea travel could bring back larger amounts of
materials, was faster and generally safer than overland routes.
The Portuguese were the first to explore along the coast of Africa. The
Spanish will also join in this exploration. Soon explorers were rounding the
tip of Africa and getting to India and Asia.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus set out on a voyage to find a quicker way to
the Far East, by travelling west. His expedition ran into land and became
the first European since the Vikings to ‘discover’ the Americas. His
discovery sparked a massive wave of exploration and huge cultural
changes for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
- Video – on the Columbian Exchange
Following Columbus’ voyage, there was an explosion in exploration as
each European country tried to stake a claim in the new world. Spain and
Portugal would lead the way in the 1500s, but the English, French and
Dutch would become the leaders in exploration in the 1600s. New
technologies such as the caravel and the magnetic compass improved sea
There were many motivating factors that lead to the eagerness to explore,
but they can roughly be categorized into the 3G’s – GOLD, GOD, GLORY.
(refer to your activity on this idea)
Other names to know:
Vasco Da Gama
Ferdinand Magellan