Lasting Effects of the European Renaissance: How the Traditions Continue in Modern American Societ

The European Renaissance, dating from the 15th through the 17th century, was a time of resounding changes in politics, art, science, religion, and understanding of humanity. The artists and great thinkers of this period, sought to reflect realism and logic  through their works. From this time period, ideas have flourished which still effect the very structures of American society today. The latent influence of the European Renaissance can still be seen in the continuing traditions seen in modern day art, economics, politics, and education.It is commonly believed that the Renaissance period began in the independent state republics of Italy and spread through the rest of Europe. With their inclination toward quasi-democratic political systems and a fundamental economic system which would later be seen as the advent of capitalism, the ideas that carried to the North, South, East, and West from cities such as Florence had an immense impact on not only the cultural and social traditions of Europe but also the political and economic. With decimation of the population, due to the spread of the black plague throughout Europe, the traditional ideas and systems would thrown into an upheaval. The economic structure was heavily strained by a loss in population and consequently demand. Without a public to whom they could sell their wares, artisans and farmers suffered.The changes and hardship wrought by the plague allowed for an opening for new ideas to flourish. The middle-class began to be seen in the major cities of Europe, fueling the once-crippled economy. This new social structure has continued through the ages, just as the capitalism that supports it has also flourished. Though the category has more recently been delineated to lower-middle class, upper-middle class, and simply middle-class, the precedent of economic separations beyond upper and lower class was established and is now an ingrained part of American life. Not only is there still a definite class system, with a distinct separation between the rich and poor but as noted above in the categorization of different types of middle class, it has also become a part of the culture. How often is a character in a movie called “working class” or “blue collar”? Can mention be made in the news on any financial topic without reference to a “middle” “lower” or “upper class”? Economically, America remains as divided as Renaissance-era Europe.The beginnings of modern trade and exploration were seen with the advent of new navigational tools  and a better understanding of astronomy and science. With new trade routes established, Europe saw in influx of foreign goods such as spices and a spike in trade between the countries. This precursor to free trade, helped to enrich and build the economies. In Florence, the banking systems helped to maintain and regulate the growth of wealth operating not  unlike the modern banking system of savings and loan. The U.S.’s current economic system, based as it is on free enterprise and trade could not have grown into it’s current incarnate without these early developments. Much like today, trade was regulated by demand and new technology. The advent of the printing press made the printed word more accessible to the masses and increased exploration allowed for wider trade capabilities. This spread of knowledge can be likened to Internet in it’s ability to bring together the populace and help with the spread of new ideas. Most notable for the Renaissance is the spread of humanism which we can still see in the human interest side of journalism or even the more recent fascination of the American public with reality television. The Renaissance idea of realism is taken to a final extreme in the staged realism of such shows as Survivor and Big Brother. Realism has grown to become a novelty as much as an art form.Owing to the tragedy of the plague, people began to reflect on their own mortality and to think beyond the church-backed philosophy of living for the hereafter. Europeans experienced a push for reform of the church in the form of such figures as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Calvin’s brand of Protestantism found itself imported to America with the settlers in New England. The puritanical traditions on which the U.S. was founded, directly resulted from the preceding reforms in Europe resulting from the Protestant Reformation and the growing religious persecution. There are still tendrils of this tradition within American society, where fundamental ideals still dominate public politics on subjects ranging from social policies involving homosexuality and censorship to education. Though no longer as censorious as it once was, the American government still exercises control over television and radio content through the FCC and the scientific community felt the restraints of religious influence in the ban on stem cell research enacted by former president George W. Bush.The influences of the European Renaissance cannot be understated in the role it played on the future of education and through this the future of the continent and the Americas. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and political thought came to the forefront as works which had long been lost to Western society were once more introduced. Among these ideas was the idea of education for all; whereby during the Middle Ages only the upper class and royalty were privy to an education, these old-new ideals along with the previously noted invention of the printing press, spread literacy throughout Europe and along with it new ideas. These new ideas help found movements, and a growth of new philosophies. New ideas of democracy and a pull away from the monarchal traditions of many European countries reached a climax with the emigration of the first settlers to the  Americas and the eventual establishment of the United States.Art is most commonly associated with the Renaissance period for good reason. Paintings and sculptures began to reflect the human form in a more natural and realistic state; while the subjects were largely religious the innovations of form and light, contrast all helped to contribute to the artistic traditions of the Renaissance. These same principles can be seen in not only contemporary art  but also photography, graphic design, architecture and cinematography. The images we see each day when walking down the street or watching commercials on TV was shaped by these basic principles.The new ideas of the European Renaissance grew to become the ideals which have shaped American society and thought. The innovations in science, art, politics, religion and education have all continued to grow from their original ideals established by Renaissance thinkers and artists. The very precepts on which American society was founded and continues to grow, namely that of democracy and capitalism, began with the changes in Europe during the 15th century. That these concepts continue to be modernized with the newest technologies is a testament to the innovative nature of that society and our own.ReferencesBrotton, J. (2006). The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press: Cambridge.