Europe in Transition, 1300-1520

Europe in Transition, 1300-1520

Europe in Transition, 1300-1520

Europe in Transition, 1300-1520

Excerpt

This book has been a long time in the making. In the process the original plan was somewhat altered, for books, I find, can take on a life of their own, and have a way of writing themselves. Nevertheless, the ideas I had in mind when I began to write have remained essentially unchanged, except, of course, for such shifts in emphasis as have resulted from further study and thought. These ideas were formulated a little more than a decade ago in an article entitled "The Interpretation of the Renaissance: Suggestions for a Synthesis." Stated in the briefest terms, and without much necessary qualification, it was there my contention that the period from about the beginning of the fourteenth century to the end of the sixteenth witnessed the transition from medieval to modern civilization, that is, the gradual shift from one type of civilization to another, radically different in almost every respect. Further, if we consider the civilization of Western Europe as a whole, it was this transitional process, involving as it did the co-existence of medieval and modern elements in a constant state of flux, which gave to the period we know as the Renaissance its special character, and which justifies us in regarding it as a distinct historical period. Much of the controversy over the chronological scope and essential nature of the Renaissance, it seemed to me, has arisen as a result of concentrating attention upon one aspect of culture or upon one limited geographical area. While granting that the rate of change varied from one form of culture to another and from one country to another, I felt that a truer perspective might be attained by taking into consideration all the major countries of Western Europe and by regarding their civilization from as many points of view as possible.

As the book wrote itself, the program thus outlined was altered principally in chronological scope. In the first place, I have felt it necessary, in accordance with my conception of the transitional character of the period following the years around 1300, to begin with a preliminary essay . . .

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