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 UNIT 1: Renaissance and Exploration c. 1450 to c. 1648
 Contextualizing Renaissance and Discovery
The Roman Empire provided most of Europe with unity and order that promoted trade, transportation, and art and scholarship until its fall in the early 5th century. The resulting disunity from its fall led to a period called the Middle Ages, which had no significant scientific achievements, no great works of art, and few noteworthy leaders. During this time, there was no government or entity that united the people of Europe. Rather the dominant culturally unifying force was the Roman Catholic Church, which exerted a conservative and rigid influence on European society at all levels. The church supported the feudal system of noble lords who owned land and their serfs who were bound to the land and whose lives and labor were largely controlled by the lords.
Several important developments in Europe paved the way for a loosening of the grip of both the church and feudal system:
• The Crusades made the exchange of ideas between European and Islamic scholars possible.
• The massive population declines from the Black Death destroyed Western European serfdom by drastically improving the bargaining power of peasants.
By the 1300s, however, changes in European society signaled a new era of thought, reason, and artistic expression that came to be known as the Renaissance (which means “rebirth”). Beginning in Italy, a resurgence in the study of Classical learning, arts, and values—those of Greek and Roman antiquity—took hold and eventually spread. Over time, this movement would act as a catalyst for fundamental changes in how Europeans produced art, developed technology, farmed, traded, and governed.
Rediscovery of the Classical and Natural Worlds The great rebirth in Europe known as the Renaissance was marked by important transitions. Europe emerged from the Middle Ages to a time of increasing individualism
 Essential Question: What was the context for the development of the Renaissance and Age of Discovery?
 Topic 1.1

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