Causes of European Renaissance


Renaissance is a “rebirth” or “revival” of the Greek and Roman Ancient texts and ideas. It was the birth of the new and Modern ideas. It was a time when Europeans realized the importance of classical knowledge and the wisdom of Ancient Greek scholars. They predicted development was impossible without understanding classical texts in their true sense. They translated Ancient texts in Latin and in their local languages. They learned Arabic to understand classical texts which were translated by Muslims. It wasn’t easy for anyone to understand those languages which existed many years ago and it demands a lot of strenuous work. Europeans were keen to get knowledge and they wanted to improve their reasoning and logic ability and broaden their view about the world. Renaissance was a base even for Europeans today’s development. What I think is if Renaissance in Europe were not happened, Europe would never excel and reach the stage at which it is now (Western ideas dominating the world). The main factor that led to Renaissance in Europe, in simple words, was their quest for knowledge. (Historia)

Renaissance was a transition of Medieval time period to Modern time period. The time period of European Renaissance was 14th to 17th century. Renaissance was an amalgamation of intellect, contemplation and commitment. Europeans were keenly interested in improving these three factors and these factors altogether caused to made developments in almost every field i.e. Arts, Paintings, Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, and Mathematics. Men with remarkable contributions during Renaissance include Leonardo Da Vinci (painter and father of Paleontology i.e. scientific study of life), Michelangelo Raphael(Architect) , Titian(Painter and Artist), Nicholas Copernicus(Catholic polish Astronomer), and Erasmus(Renaissance Humanist and Theologian). So, Renaissance was a foundation of Modernity and it was an intermediary between Ancient time period and Modern times. (Historia)

The intermediary (Renaissance) between Ancient and Modern times began in Florence, Italy. It was also considered as the center of the European Renaissance. As Renaissance means rebirth of the classical ideas, so we can assume that there is a solid link between Ancient ideas and Ancient ruins (revival of the Ancient ideas at a place where Ancient ruins were located, both at the same place). Italy was also a center for Trade between West and the East.

In my paper, I will concentrate on how Muslims time period in Spain, Trade and Humanism altogether contributed in European Renaissance? I believe that Muslim time period in Spain laid the foundation for Renaissance to occur in future as they did all developments before the start of Renaissance in 14th century. Trade was an important factor as well as it caused to exchange ideas widely and brought East and West close to each other. Humanism was also significant for change in humans’ perception about World and Religion. When we combine these three factors, they lead us towards Modernity.

Muslims time in Spain laid the foundation of European Renaissance. Renaissance was initiated by Muslims before Renaissance time period i.e. 14th to 17th century. Muslims made developments in almost every field i.e. Arts, Philosophy, Sciences, Religion, Psychology and infra-structure. They made the city of Cordoba an epitome for the entire world where houses, baths, mosques, hospitals, universities and libraries were built. Muslims love for literature can be revealed by the presence of 400,000 volumes in the Al-Hakm-2 library in Cordoba. (Imam Reza a.s Network, n.d.) They invented new surgical instruments of which Europeans were unaware of i.e. Abul-Qasim Zahravi’s (Abulcasis) inventions. Ibn-e-Rushd (Averroes) made contributions in the fields of Aristotalianism, logic, Theology, Mathematics and Psychology. Other famous contributors in the field of logic, Philosophy, Medicine and Mathematics include Ibn-e-Sina, Al Farabi, Al khawarzami and Al Masudi. Muslims also introduced new ways of irrigation system and new crops in the agricultural field. They based their scientific researches on observations and experiments which further lead to experimental methods and finally to the advancement of Science (BBC, 2009). (Imam Reza a.s Network, n.d.)

As soon as Europeans saw such large improvements in every field of life, they moved towards Muslim educational institutions to educate themselves. They learned Arabic to study Muslim scholars and then translated their works in their languages to truly understand them i.e. Al-Zanun, the monumental medical works of-Ibn Sina, Almagest of Ptolemy, Tasrif of Al-Zahrawi; AI-Mansuri of Al-Razi and the astronomy of AlHaitham. Faraj ben Salim, the Sicilian Jew, translated in 1279, Al-Hawi, the well-known medical work of Al-Razi as well as Taqwim al-dbdan, written by Ibn Jazlah. (Imam Reza a.s Network, n.d.) (Historia) (Hispanic Muslims, n.d.) These books for many years were taught in Europeans institutions. Muslims were not only ruling Arabs in Spain but they also ruled Christians, Byzantines, Persians, Greeks and Indians. Muslims displayed a great show of religious tolerance and they never forced Islam on non-Muslims.  This attitude of peace and patience regarding religion was given the name of “Secularism” during Renaissance. (Hasse, 2008 ) (BBC (Islamic History of Europe), n.d.)

Muslim scholars also took keen interest in translating and understanding antique Greek and Roman texts i.e. Al-Kindi and his fellows’ research and extension of ideas of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. While concluding, we can say Muslims time period in Spain played its role as “intermediary” between Antiquity and Modernism because Muslims time period came after Antiquity and before Renaissance and Modern times. Muslims exceled in every field and laid the foundation of development in Europe. (Imam Reza a.s Network, n.d.)

So, after Muslims time in Spain, the factor which contributed a lot in European Renaissance as I believe, was trade. Renaissance was a period of development in Europe and cities especially Florence, Venice and Genoa were growing and infra-structure was also made better and standard of living of the people improved. (Art, 2000) Increase in trade also caused to change people’s occupations from workers to artisans and merchants. Local traders worked loyally for civic developments in congregation with rulers. Rulers learned to collect taxes. These taxes were then used for trade with middle-Eastern and south-Asian countries. Chinese traders supplied silks and south Asian countries sold spices to the West. Other goods include arms, ships, perfumes, fabrics, etc. Demand for luxury goods in particularly went up as their standard of living improved. Italians also increased their production of goods. (Rana, n.d.) The main reason for such increasing trade was crusades as the Ottoman Empire was more advanced and Europe desperately needed their products. Such trade led to close relations between the Venice and the Ottoman Empire which helped people to broaden their view about the world. They started thinking beyond their own cultural and religious values and became close to each other. (Art, 2000)

Trade gave rise to rise in banking system during Renaissance as demand for goods increased i.e. luxury goods. Medici family played a pivotal role in introducing banking system in early 15th century. Rise of banking system introduced usury i.e. interest which was opposed by Catholic Church and idealized by Protestants. Protestants had to introduce concepts like “Secularism” (i.e. domination of religion in private sector instead of public) to make Catholic Church silent.

Trade when combined with “printing press” decreased the distance between the West and the East. Printing press was introduced in the 15th century by Gutenberg who was a German Goldsmith and a publisher. New academics and experts came to the scenario and access to knowledge was made easy. People exchanged ideas with each other and Roman and Greek texts spread in the entire world. People around the world came to know about antique ideas of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato which increased their knowledge and broaden their views. (all about Renaissance faires, 2015)

Third factor which played a significant role in European Renaissance was “Humanism”. Humanism simply considered man a center of the universe. The worth of human being at an individual level increased and the scholars of the Renaissance period gave a particular heed to understand one’s own self. Previously, God was considered all in all and nobody even bothered to think about his/her own self and the perceived will of God considered holy. Religion was dominating both the Church and the State. But after the rise of Humanism, worth of an individual human being increased. (MacPhail, 2001)

Scholars like Dante and Petrarch through their writings changed the general perception of people. They convinced people that God had also given them the free will which witnesses their liberty. Petrarch was considered as the “Father of Humanism”. He convinced people to study ancient Greek texts and reflect them in different styles. He amalgamated ancient texts with religious texts and concluded that religion should be understood with logic. (Hasse, 2008 ) On the other hand, Dante also took keen interest in Humanism and wrote his famous poem i.e. Divine Comedy. In this poem, he talks about human beings and their attribute of love and its significance. Such writings were important because they were written about human beings i.e. more focus on human beings than God. (MacPhail, 2001)

The concepts like “Renaissance men” and “Renaissance women” were also introduced under the umbrella of Humanism. “Renaissance men” and “Renaissance women” were found quite different from Medieval Men and Women. “Renaissance man” was one who was educated, could dance, write plays or poetry or play music. The impression was given that a man has limitless capabilities and can do anything if he is willing to do. “Renaissance woman” was also one having education but the key difference between the two i.e. Renaissance Man and Woman, was Renaissance woman should not take interest in fame and political power. (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.) (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016 , n.d.)

In the context of Secularism, Paganism was also a new concept during Renaissance. Pagans were naturalists and doubted the existence of God. They argued that “Secular humanism is philosophically naturalistic….  Naturalism asserts that supernatural entities like God do not exist, and warns us that knowledge gained without appeal to the natural world and without impartial review by multiple observers is unreliable.”  — Council for Secular Humanism (americanhumanist, n.d.). This caused a change in people’s perception about the world as they started to think other than God and religious things and concentrated upon human beings. In addition to this, Humanists also emphasized upon the forgiveness of God and fear of God decreased but they still didn’t ignore the respect factor of God. Simply, their idea was man should respect God but not to fear from God. (Hasse, 2008 )

There are also many sub-factors of Humanism which contributed further to Renaissance. Black Death is one of them. It caused the death of 1/3rd of the European population, many workers who previously worked under feudal lords became owners of land. It caused labor shortage and those who survived demanded higher wages and more rights. People now had more options which led to a thought that they can accomplish anything. Such high confidence was “Humanism”. (European History , n.d.)

After elaborating three most important factors for Renaissance, I can conclude that these three factors along with all other factors led to Renaissance i.e. emergence of Secularism, rise of Printing press, new wealth and Black Death ,decline of feudalism, impact of the Crusades and fall of Constantinople., the effects of which we can even see today. The development in the modern world is a result of the Renaissance in Europe. All the advancement we see nowadays can be directly related to the Renaissance. It is just the extension of Modern ideas (existed after Renaissance) and the base of which was provided by Muslim scholars in Spain. Trade during Renaissance, combining with educational and infra-structural developments during Muslims time period in Spain, promoted all ideas to the entire world which is considered as “Modernity”. We can see exactly same thing happening today i.e. countries have close relations with each other and they share their culture and traditions. These two factors when combine with Humanism give us a clearer view of the Modern world as we are pretty much familiar with concepts like Secularism, Liberalism and freedom of expression.


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