- Renaissance of the 12th century
The Renaissance of the
12th centurywas a period of many changes during the High Middle Ages. It included social, politicaland economictransformations, and an intellectual revitalization of Europe with strong philosophicaland scientificroots. These changes paved the way to later achievements such as the literary and artistic movement of the Italian Renaissancein the 15th centuryand the scientific developments of the 17th century.
Charles H. Haskins, was the first historian to write extensively about a renaissance that ushered in the High Middle Agesstarting about 1070. In 1927, he wrote that:
The Renaissance of the 12th century
Trade and commerce
In Northern Europe, the
Hanseatic Leaguewas founded in the 12th century, with the foundation of the city of Lübeckin 1158– 1159. Many northern cities of the Holy Roman Empire became hanseatic cities, including Hamburg, Stettin, Bremen and Rostock. Hanseatic cities outside the Holy Roman Empire were, for instance, Bruges, Londonand the Polish city of Danzig ( Gdańsk). In Bergen, Norwayand Novgorod, Russia the league had factories and middlemen. In this period the Germans started colonising Eastern Europe beyond the Empire, into Prussiaand Silesia.
In the late 13th century, a Venetian explorer named
Marco Polobecame one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Roadto China. Westerners became more aware of the Far East when Polo documented his travels in " Il Milione". He was followed by numerous Christian missionnaries to the East, such as William of Rubruck, Giovanni da Pian del Carpini, Andrew of Longjumeau, Odoric of Pordenone, Giovanni de Marignolli, Giovanni di Monte Corvino, and other travellers such as Niccolò da Conti.
Philosophical and scientific teaching of the
Early Middle Ageswas based upon few copies and commentaries of ancient Greek texts that remained in Western Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Much of Europe had lost contact with the knowledge of the past. This scenario changed during the Renaissance of the 12th century. The increased contact with the Islamic world in Spain and Sicily, the Crusades, the Reconquista, as well as increased contact with Byzantium, allowed Europeans to seek and translate the works of Hellenic and Islamic philosophers and scientists, especially the works of Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Geber, al-Khwarizmi, Rhazes, Abulcasis, Alhacen, Avicenna, Avempace, and Averroes, among others. The development of medieval universities allowed them to aid materially in the translation and propagation of these texts and started a new infrastructure which was needed for scientific communities.
At the beginning of the 13th century there were reasonably accurate Latin translations of the main works of almost all the intellectually crucial ancient authors, allowing a sound transfer of scientific ideas via both the universities and the monasteries. By then, the natural science contained in these texts began to be extended by notable
scholasticssuch as Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnusand Duns Scotus. Precursors of the modern scientific methodcan be seen already in Grosseteste's emphasis on mathematics as a way to understand nature, and in the empirical approach admired by Bacon, particularly in his " Opus Majus".
The first half of the 14th century saw much important scientific work being done, largely within the framework of scholastic
commentarieson Aristotle's scientific writings. [Edward Grant, "The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts," (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1996), pp. 127-31.] William of Ockhamintroduced the principle of parsimony: natural philosophers should not postulate unnecessary entities, so that motion is not a distinct thing but is only the moving object [Edward Grant, "A Source Book in Medieval Science," (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1974), p. 232] and an intermediary "sensible species" is not needed to transmit an image of an object to the eye. [David C. Lindberg, "Theories of Vision from al-Kindi to Kepler," (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1976), pp. 140-2.] Scholars such as Jean Buridanand Nicole Oresmestarted to reinterpret elements of Aristotle's mechanics. In particular, Buridan developed the theory that impetus was the cause of the motion of projectiles, which was a precursor of the modern concept of inertia. [Edward Grant, "The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts," (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1996), pp. 95-7.] Meanwhile, the Oxford Calculatorsbegan to mathematically analyze the kinematicsof motion, conducting this analysis without considering the causes of motion. [Edward Grant, "The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts," (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1996), pp. 100-3.]
Even though the devastation brought by the
Black Death(mid 14th century) and other disasters sealed a sudden end to the previous period of massive philosophic and scientific development, two centuries later started the European Scientific Revolution, which may also be understood as a resumption of the process of scientific change halted during the crisis of the Late Middle Ages.
During the 12th century in Europe, there was a radical change in the rate of new inventions and innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production and economic growth. In less than a century, there were more inventions developed and applied usefully than in the previous thousand years of human history all over the globe. The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption or invention of
printing, gunpowder, spectacles, a better clock, the astrolabe, and greatly improved ships. The latter two advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration. Alfred Crosbydescribed some of this technological revolution in "The Measure of Reality : Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600" and other major historians of technology have also noted it.
* The earliest written record of a
windmillis from Yorkshire, England, dated 1185.
Papermanufacture began in Italyaround 1270.
spinning wheelwas brought to Europe(probably from India) in the 13th century.
magnetic compassaided navigation, first reaching Europe some time in the late 12th century.
Eyeglasseswere invented in Italyin the late 1280s.
astrolabereturned to Europe via Islamic Spain.
Leonardo of Pisaintroduces Hindu-Arabic numeralsto Europe with his book Liber Abaciin 1202.
* The West's oldest known depiction of a stern-mounted
ruddercan be found on church carvings dating to around 1180.
A new method of learning called scholasticism developed in the late 12th century from the rediscovery of the works of
Aristotle; the works of medieval Jewish and Muslim philosophers influenced by him, notably Maimonides, Avicenna(see Avicennism) and Averroes(see Averroism); and the Christian philosophers influenced by them, most notably Albertus Magnus, Bonaventureand Abélard. Those who practiced the scholastic method believed in empiricismand supporting Roman Catholic doctrines through secular study, reason, and logic. They opposed Christian mysticism, and the Platonist-Augustinian beliefs in mind dualism and the view of the world as inherently evil. The most famous of the scholastic practitioners was Thomas Aquinas(later declared a " Doctor of the Church"), who led the move away from the Platonic and Augustinian and towards Aristotelianism. Using the scholastic method, Aquinas developed a philosophy of mindby writing that the mindwas at birth a " tabula rasa" ("blank slate") that was given the ability to think and recognize forms or ideas through a divine spark. Other notable scholastics included Roscelin, Peter Abelard, and Peter Lombard. One of the main questions during this time was the problem of the universals. Prominent non-scholastics of the time included Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Damian, Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Victorines.ref|Scholasticism
Ars antiqua, Romanesque art, Gothic Art, and Gothic Architecture"
Latin translations of the 12th century
History of science in the Middle Ages
Crisis of the Late Middle Ages
Jacques Le Goff, French historian
*Benson, Robert L., Giles Constable, and Carol D. Lanham, eds. "Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century". Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982.
*Haskins, Charles Homer. "The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century". Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927.
* [http://users.telerama.com/~jdehullu/islam/more_028.htm A brief analysis of Haskins, "Renaissance of the Twelfth Century"]
* [http://www.the-orb.net/wales/h3h03/h3h03b17.htm A bibliography of the twelfth-century renaissance]
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