GOLDEN AGE TO IRON PEACE
The most distinguished early Tudor humanists were, of course, Sir Thomas More, Erasmus, John Colet, and Juan Luis Vives. These, with their circle, are the "London Reformers," in R. W. Chambers' happy phrase. Their thought on war and peace reveals how these leaders of the English Renaissance strove to describe, as a model for their age, the outlines of a radically improved social order. Its basic principles were to be drawn from a revitalized Church and from the social application especially of neo-Stoic ideas found in medieval as well as classical sources. By these humanists, at least, no grave conflict between Christian and natural ethics, or between Christianity and natural science, was anticipated. My aim is to present their work, falling between about 1497 and 1530, as a unified whole. When their social criticism is thus viewed, as a lively movement of the Renaissance, it takes on the aspect of a grand campaign of discovery and exploration into a country of the mind. The work of these great friends illuminated the critical deficiencies of the existing society and stimulated both courtly and public acceptance of the goal of social change as rightly the creation of a peaceful good life, a "utopia" according to "reason or nature."
Since it was plain to the humanists that unless wars could largely be prevented, social reconstruction would be well-nigh impossible, much of the London Reformers' literary and political energies went into labors for peace in their time. The resulting propaganda (if the word may be so used) furnishes indeed a signal illustration of the tendency, since the Renaissance, for conscious modification of public opinion and reshaping of society toward an ideal state to be "more important than catastrophe, conquest, or corruption" in effecting social change. 1 Although, to be sure, these humanists failed in their time to achieve a nonviolent reshaping of English society, their ideas on war and peace
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Publication information: Book title: The Better Part of Valor:More, Erasmus, Colet, and Vives, on Humanism, War, and Peace, 1496-1535. Contributors: Robert P. Adams - Author. Publisher: University of Washington Press. Place of publication: Seattle. Publication year: 1962. Page number: 3.
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