Eras and Their Highlights

The Renaissance

How did the Renaissance spread from Italy to the rest of Europe?

Eventually the ideas born in Italy during the 1300s spread northward, which is at least in part attributable to German inventor Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press (c. 1440–1450). Before long, the spirit and ideas that were taking hold in Italy reached France, Germany, England, and the Netherlands, where the Renaissance continued into the 1600s.

One of the most important figures of the northern Renaissance was the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466–1536), whose book In Praise of Folly (1509) is a blistering criticism of the clergy, scholars, and philosophers of his day.

Another notable figure of the northern Renaissance was Englishman Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), who was a statesman and adviser to the king. More’s Utopia, published in 1516, criticizes the times by envisioning an ideal society in which land is communally held, men and women alike are educated, police are unnecessary, politicians are honest, and where there is religious tolerance.

The works of Flemish artist Jan van Eyck (1395–1441), including his groundbreaking portrait Man in a Red Turban (1433), demonstrate that the principles of the Renaissance were felt as strongly in northern Europe as they were in Italy.


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