History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2007: Q.6

Q.(6) Give reasons for the origin of the Renaissance in Italy.


The Renaissance is a French word which means rebirth. It had led Europe out of the middle ages and put into the modern age.

It was a period between the early fourteenth and early seventeenth centuries when rebirth occurred in the fields of art, literature and science.

The Renaissance originated in Italy due to the following reasons:

1. Nature of social classes

The development of social classes had been different from that in othet European countries. The prestigious sections of Italian aristocracy, old decadent families and newly rich classes assembled in cities and established a consolidated community.

2. Geographical location

One major reason the Renaissance began in Italy is linked to geography. The city-states of Italy, positioned on the Mediterranean Sea, were centers for trade and commerce, the first port where goods and new ideas reached.
Arab traders sold their goods in Italy which they had brought from Asia. From Italy, goods were sent to European countries. Traders coming from North Europe went to West Asia through Italy.
Trade created wealth, cities and wealthy merchants who were main sponsors of Renaissance.

3. Advanced urban society

Italy in later middle age encompassed the most advanced urban society in all of Europe. Independent city states such Venice and Rome grew wealthy through trade and banking creating a class of affluent businessmen. These men became patrons to individual artists providing them with the funds, residences, and other necessities so that they might focus on using their talents to create paintings, sculpture, literature, and architecture.

4. Lack of centralised control

Due to various political intrigues, the Holy Roman Empire had lost power in northern Italy, the papal states were governed by various leading families within each region, and the city of Naples dominated the South.
This vacuum of leadership allowed merchant families to gain considerate power within each city-state and thus revised the laws governing banking, commerce, shipping, and trade. This free atmosphere led to exchange of both goods and ideas.

5. Refuge of scholars

Italy was the core of the former Roman empire, and, at the collapse of the Byzantine empire in 1453 after conquest of Ottoman Empire, became the refuge for the intellectuals of Constantinople who brought with them many of the great works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, works that had been lost to the West during the Dark Ages.

6. As descendants of the Roman Empire

Italians lived amongst the ruins of the once great Roman empire and were continuously reminded of the triumphs of classical Rome. It inspired Italians to renew Roman culture with a return to philosophy, literature, and art.

7. Influence of Church

Italy had the concentration of wealth, power, and intellect in the Church. In that time, the Church controlled so much of the political, economic, and intellectual life of Europe, that it gathered most of the best minds, wealthiest men, and most powerful leaders in Rome.

8. Other factors

(a) The trade routes coming from the Middle East and China that terminated in Venice and Genoa had great influence by bringing foreign ideas.

(b) The growth of business necessited a new trend in education which led imphasis on vocational and geographical knowledge. Hence knowledge wad based on science and logic.

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