Renaissance and Reformation
The Italian Renaissance
• Renaissance Italy was basically an urban
society. City-states were powerful.
• Renaissance was an age of recovery from
fourteenth century disasters. (Plague, political
instability, decline of Church power)
• Renaissance provided a new view of human
beings and their individual abilities.
The Italian States
• The lack of a strong ruler made it possible for
city-states to remain independent.
– Milan was ruled by the Visconti family and later the
Sforza dukes. It prospered from trade and an efficient
– Venice was a rich trade empire that was ruled by a
small group of self-serving merchant-aristocrats.
– Florence was the cultural center of Renaissance Italy.
It was governed by the powerful Medici family.
The Italian Wars
• The French king, Charles VIII, was lured to
invade Italy to obtain the riches of trade.
• Italy turned to Spain for protection. For nearly
thirty years, Spain and France battled against
each other in Italy.
• The Spanish king, Charles I, defeated the
French at Rome in May of 1527. This left the
Spanish as a dominant force in Italy.
French King Charles
VIIII invaded Italy to
Invasion of Italy
French King Charles VIII
King Charles I of Spain
Machiavelli and New Statecraft
• Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince, an
influential book on political power.
– Most writers stressed the ethical side of a prince’s
activity. He should live by Christian principles.
– Machiavelli believed that a prince should base
activity on an understanding of human nature. He
acts on behalf of the state, and he must be willing
to let his conscience sleep.
• The nobility was a small percentage of the
population, but they held important political
• The Book of the Courtier was written by
Baldassare Castiglione. It described the
characteristics of a perfect Renaissance noble.
– He must have character, grace, and talent.
– He must be a warrior, and he was expected to gain
a classical education.
• Most individuals were peasants. Serfdom
decreased and labor that was owed to the
lords was converted to rent.
• Townspeople were mostly merchants and
– Patricians – trade, industry, banking
– Burghers – shopkeepers, artisans, guild masters
– Workers and unemployed – about 30-40 percent
of the population and earned pitiful wages.
Society (Family and Marriage)
• The family bond was a great source of security
in the dangerous urban world.
• The father-husband was the center of the
• The dowry was the most important part of the
marriage contract. It was the sum of money
that was given by the wife’s family to the