Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

Synopsis

Covering the period comprising the Renaissance and Reformation, this volume introduces a unique set of interdisciplinary biographical dictionaries providing basic information on the people who have contributed significantly to the culture of Western civilization. Unlike general dictionaries which focus on political and military figures, this book covers such figures as the religious leaders who contributed to the Reformation, scientists who paved the way for a new view of the universe, and Renaissance painters, sculptors, and architects, as well as writers, musicians, and scholars. While the great personalities are included- Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Galileo- the volume covers lesser known figures as well- the Muslim scholar Leo Africanus, the Flemish geographer-astronomer Gemma Frisius, the English travel writer Thomas Coryate. Although many of the subjects also had political influence, the entries are written to highlight their individual cultural achievement.

An exciting, tumultuous, and chaotic age, the years from 1500 to 1620 saw increasing discontent with Catholicism and the beginning of Protestantism with Luther's 95 theses, great strides in the development of the printing press and a resulting increase in literacy, the humanist movement with its emphasis on the arts of antiquity, a proliferation of literature and art inspired by but moving beyond classical forms, and conflict between the triumph of Renaissance culture and the theologians of the Protestant Reformation. The resulting cultural production was astounding. This volume covers those who contributed to the fields of art and architecture, music, philosophy, religion, political and social thought, science, mathematics, literature, history, and education. With over 350 entries written by 72 scholars, the book provides a good basic resource on an exciting age.

Excerpt

This series of reference books, The Great Cultural Eras of the Western World, is intended to provide brief, introductory information about various individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the culture of Western civilization. A biographical dictionary covering the years 1500–1620 assumes a particular interest since this is a period of greater emphasis on individual achievement and self-expression. This is also the period that comprises the Renaissance and the Reformation, two watershed movements in the history of cultural, political, and religious change.

As both a term and a concept, the Renaissance has recently undergone scrutiny from scholars. The more traditionally held view of the Renaissance has been that it was a period in European civilization in which enormous progress was made intellectually, culturally, and politically; that it involved, quite literally, a rebirth of interest in classical texts, arts, and ideas; and that this movement originated in fourteenth-century Italy and then spread to other parts of Europe in the next two centuries. Furthermore, this phenomenon was seen as a major departure from the relatively unsophisticated, perhaps even barbaric, Middle Ages. This approach was advanced by nineteenth-century historians Jules Michelet and Jakob Burckhardt and achieved greater currency in the twentieth century. Now, however, many scholars prefer the phrase “early modern” to the term “Renaissance” as more accurate and inclusive, since many medieval historians have naturally objected to the ideological implications of the more traditional view of the Renaissance, while other scholars, resisting the idea of rigid periodization, have sought to emphasize the idea of continuity from one era to the next, instead of change; even the term “early modern” has also been considered problematic since it emphasizes the idea of modernity. While the reevaluation of our views of what constitutes the Renaissance has provided fruitful reassessment of our historical perspectives, the term itself will probably not disappear, even if its usage becomes more fluid.

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