Map Exercise 8: Renaissance Europe    (This exercise includes 2 maps)

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European monarchs and bold adventurers set out in search of new lands to conquer, and new markets to tap. Although the spice trade was important to Europe, the discovery of gold deposits in Africa and gold and silver deposits in Central and South America made Europeans "money-mad." Europe had a limited quantity of precious metals at its disposal so the discovery of all this new bullion, and its transportation back to Europe and into the hands of popes, monarchs, and merchants, set the stage for a vast reorganization of economic institutions as well as human psychology.

It was perhaps appropriate that this age of exploration coincided with the rebirth of classical ideals in the city-states of Northern Italy. By the sixteenth century, the Renaissance had its home in Florence but had also reached the Low Countries, England, and France. It was an age that produced the art of Raphael, Brueghel, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Leonardo. It was an age that produced the great literary talents of Milton, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Cervantes, Erasmus, and Pascal. The age was anything but calm and peaceful—men and women were searching for new certainties as life itself became an uncertain enterprise. It was also an age that witnessed the decline of medieval Europe and the emergence of a new, decidedly modern world view.

Major points to consider in this exercise include:

  • What were the human costs of the age of exploration and conquest?
  • What made it possible for the French, English, and Dutch to overtake the Spanish and Portuguese in their quest for empire?
  • For whom was the Renaissance a period of rebirth?
  • What was the medieval worldview? What do we mean when we use the word medieval today?
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