Germany and Italy between 1400 to 1700by Rit Nosotro
Describe the development in Germany and Italy during the 1400 to 1700's.
In Germany and Italy great turmoil occurred during the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The surge of humanism and interest in the classics in both countries took on two different aspects. In Italy much of Greek ideology was accepted and resulted in things like twisted Machiavellian politics. In Germany however, a renewal of interest in original Christian texts overwhelmed Greek humanism and brought on the reformation. Both of these different outlooks in Italy and Germany affected how they continued to develop.
In the fifteenth century Italy was experiencing the high renaissance and a humanistic outlook. In 1455 motivated by a common language and culture, the Italian league was formed out of the Italian states securing peace from foreign invasion.1 The Great Schism from 1378 to 1415 caused papal authority to collapse allowing a burst of humanism. The teachings of Aristotle and Cicero created a new political thought, which excluded the Church from the State, unlike medieval political thought. Humanist thought culminated in Machiavelli's The Prince. Machiavelli thought that a ruler must be cruel and if necessary immoral in order to succeed. This viewpoint aroused not only from Machiavelli's humanist upbringing, but because he realized Italy's republican city-states could not stand among greedy and powerful rulers of the day.2
Starting in 1492, Italy's history took a turn for the worst. During this time period Italy's became less prosperous. The discovery of the New World shifted the trade paths out of Italy.3 Also The Italian League Federation broke up, opening the doors to foreign invasion. In 1495 the King of France invaded Italy; his successor Louis did the same in 1499 crossing the Alps and seizing Milan. Louis then asked the Spanish king to help him conquer Naples and invited Maximilian to help conquer Venice. Soon all Europe had fought over the Italy which resulted in the sack of Rome. Italian freedom slowly declined until in 1559 when the Treaty of Cateau Cambresis put most the rest of Italy under Spanish oppression and heavy taxes. Italy played an insignificant role when it changed masters in three successive wars. It did not have peace until after the Treaty of Aix-la-chapelle from 1748 to 1792.4
Germany was also experiencing Renaissance Humanism like Italy. However, instead of absorbing Greek philosophy, they tried to reconcile Classical Ethics with Christian ethics. The scholastic focus in Germany did not incorporate as much Greek ideology as did Italy; rather, the focus was on original Christian writings. Many scholars studied Greek to read the Greek New Testament and early Greek Church fathers. Erasmus, a prominent figure in the movement, emphasized the guiding principles of Christianity rather than the doctrinal system of beliefs and practices. The reformation got underway when Martin Luther took a stand against the Catholic sale of indulgences and absorbed the focus of the people away from humanism.5
The impact of the Reformation deeply affected Germany and ultimately led to war. The government of Germany was a decentralized into many independent German state territories all loyal to Charles V in the Holy Roman Empire. Charles was faced with the challenge of holding onto his large empire and couldn't afford the reformation to spread and cause countries to leave the Catholic Church. The Emperors threat to Protestantism precipitated the formation of a federation. This all Lutheran alliance called the Schmalkaldic League promised to help each other if attacked because of their Scriptural beliefs. Allied with several other European powers Charles V marched against the heretical thus starting the Schmalkaldic wars and turmoil that would not end until the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. War over religious principles again broke out during the Thirty Years' war which took place mostly in Germanic lands. Finally in 1648 the Thirty Years' war ended and out of the many German states, Prussia and Austria emerged as European powers.
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