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Renaissance Europe - A Book Review

What was Europe like during the Renaissance? How did the people live? What drove the society that gave us lasting art, education, and religion? Discover all this and more in Renaissance Europe 1480-1520 by J.R. Hale.

Studying the Renaissance has fascinated the world for generations. All too often we just focus on the arts and forget about the world that gave us the art. Hale does not ignore the arts, but he pushes past the first layer of society and gets down into the heart of Renaissance Europe.

Hale begins with an understanding of how the people of Renaissance Europe lived: the life spans, diets, and daily family life. To better understand the arts, politics, and religion of the times, you have to understand the people who created it all and lived it. Hale gives the reader that chance.

He moves into the political aspects of Europe during this time including how the political world developed and the results that it gave. This was a time of disconnect in Europe and power plays. Nothing was black and white. Though the Renaissance swept through Europe’s political arena, each state reacted differently.

The structure of society is not missed in this work. Economy drives much of history, so it is not surprising that Hale devotes an entire section to the economic life of Renaissance Europe. This naturally leads into the various classes of European society from the poorest peasant to the ruling monarchy and community leaders.

What study of the Renaissance is complete without including religion and humanism? These two aspects drove much of Europe during this time. Hale discusses the state of the Catholic Church that set the stage for the Protestant Reformation. The Church greatly influenced politics and daily life of Europe. Any ripple in this force sent shockwaves out, and humanism helped push it along.

Humanism did not miss any aspect of Renaissance society. It influenced the Church, the educational system, the arts, and the politics that ruled Europe. Hale gives a wonderful explanation of this movement that changed Europe forever.
The book does not include any pictures or charts which is very disappointing, but Hale does include a section of maps that give the reader an idea of how Europe was divided as today’s Europe is quite different. A complete bibliography is also included for more Renaissance resources.

This is an excellent Renaissance book that could only have been improved with visual aids to expand on each topic. It covers every aspect of Europe during this time. Hale does not go into extreme depths in any section, but gives the reader enough information to want to know more which then leads them to the extensive bibliography.

If you are one interested in Renaissance society more than just the arts, this is a book that you must have. Hale gives the reader a chance to learn more and understand this period with a whole new perspective.


Disclaimer: This book was purchased by the author for a Renaissance class.




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