As you have seen from other links in this LibGuide, there are many factors leading to the start of the Renaissance. Click the following link to a Brief Introduction to hit on some of the major points. We'll also break down the major parts below. How do all these add together to create an atmosphere encouraging new thoughts?
As you have read, the Renaissance was a rebirth, a rebirth of the classical Roman and Greek culture that had laid dormant for the Middle (Dark) Ages. Read this short snippet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website:
The remains of Greco-Roman antiquity—coins, gems, sculpture, buildings, and the classics of Greek and Latin literature—fascinated the thinking men and women of the Italian Renaissance. The arts and the humanities, they reasoned, had declined during the "middle ages" that stretched between the end of antiquity and their own time, but by emulating the exemplary works of the ancients, even striving to surpass them, contemporary artists and writers might restore the arts and letters to their former grandeur. In Renaissance Italy, the desire to know and to match the excellence of the ancients often engendered passionate endeavor. The Florentine author Niccolò Machiavelli, for example, described his nightly retreats into his library in these memorable words: "At the door I take off my muddy everyday clothes. I dress myself as though I were about to appear before a royal court as a Florentine envoy. Then decently attired I enter the antique courts of the great men of antiquity. They receive me with friendship; from them I derive the nourishment which alone is mine and for which I was born. Without false shame I talk with them and ask them the causes of the actions; and their humanity is so great they answer me. For four long and happy hours I lose myself in them. I forget all my troubles; I am not afraid of poverty or death. I transform myself entirely in their likeness." Artists likewise worked to transform their art by studying, measuring, drawing, and imitating admired examples of classical sculpture and architecture, and this is reflected in many of the greatest works in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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Humanism was a new way of thinking, it emphasized the best work humans could do rather than what the church taught. The church was still important, but the philosophy of Humanism inspired people like the Medici family and others to revive the ancient Roman and Greek knowledge and traditions. Check out this History Channel video for more.
Individualism celebrated the work of a person. It is linked closely with Humanism. When combined they celebrate the work of individual humans which was promoted during the Renaissance and led to great inventions, works of art, and works of literature.
Secularism refers to thoughts and things outside the realm of the church. Watch this short video for more information. Why is individualism so different from the practices and philosophy of the Middle Ages?