The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations by Andrew Fix (The Great Courses)

All references in hours and minutes of the recording as a whole.

Without the 14th century crisis, the Renaissance would not have taken place in anything like the form it did. The Plague and other stuff was important for this (Lecture 3, 1:03)

One historian argues that can trace the birth of the Renaissance to the city of Florence during 1380-1402. This is just one person’s view, though. Florence nearly lost in a siege against Milan. The Milanese leader of the siege died of the plague. If that hadn’t happened, Milan might have fallen. This would have really changed the Renaissance. (Lecture 4, 1:35)

Florence was a Republic during this period. Salutati (16 February 1331 – 4 May 1406) argued that a republic was the best form of government. Interesting that this happened long before Enlightenment thinkers were saying such things. (Lecture 8, 3:53)

In the bad old days, Catholic priests gave the mass in Latin despite the fact that most of the population didn’t know any Latin. I knew that already. But it was actually worse than that. A lot of the priests didn’t know Latin themselves! So many of the priests used a process called “garbling and mumbling,” where they just made up gibberish and pretended that they were speaking Latin. This is a really remarkable instance of people consciously making up total BS and no one calling them on it. (Lecture 14, 6:49)

Sebastian Castellio argued for a notable type of religious toleration and free speech in the early 16th century. He wrote a book called “Whether Heretics Should be Persecuted,” arguing for non-persecution on the grounds that it’s hard to be sure who is a heretic and who isn’t. Interesting forerunner of an Enlightenment ideal. (Lecture24, 12:06).

Henry VIII issued the edict of Edict of Nantes in 1598, giving Calvinists a lot of rights of religious toleration in France, which was basically a Catholic country at the time. (Lecture 30, 15:11)

The Netherlands was the first major nation in Europe to become a republic. This happened during the end of the 16th century. It was also a place with a lot of religious toleration. It was mostly run by Calvinists, but Catholics, Mennonites, Lutherans, Anabaptists, and various other religious groups were tolerated in practice (though not necessarily legally speaking). The main issue was that non-Calvinists couldn’t hold public office. (Lecture 32, 16:09) They prospered economically and became a world power relatively quickly for a small country. There was a lot of intellectual flourishing here, and it was one of the key birthplaces for the Enlightenment and the modern worldview. In Fix’s view, the attitude of toleration was a major reason that the Netherlands was a key birthplace of the Enlightenment, and was a way that the Netherlands differed from the rest of Early Modern Europe. Many interesting people with crazy ideas came there because they would be more tolerated, and the Dutch benefited. For example, Descartes wrote all his important works in the Netherlands; Locke spent a lot of time there, Spinoza’s works were banned in most countries, but he worked freely in the Netherlands; artists and scientists flourished there as well. Books that couldn’t be printed elsewhere were printed in Amsterdam. (Lecture 41, 20:40)

During the 1620s, parliament forces the king to fire his prime minister, Francis Bacon. (Sounds like a bad idea!) (Lecture 42, 21:00)

The English king and parliament get in a deadlock. Scottish armies are coming from the North. The King wants to get military preparations, but parliament won’t agree unless the king gives in to demands. There is some crazy brinksmanship that reminds me of US congress in recent years… (Lecture 42, 21:09)

In 1649, the king is executed. For the first time in European history, a people kills its own king. (Lecture 43, 21:38)

When Cromwell takes over, the “Levelers” demand universal male suffrage and parliamentary votes every year. At the time, suffrage is limited to wealthy landowners. The “Diggers” are basically communists and want to get rid of all private property. (Lecture 43, 21:38)

In 1653, Cromwell dissolves parliament and sets up a Puritan military dictatorship. (Lecture 44, 21:50)

When William and Mary take the throne (1689), they have to sign a “bill of rights”. The people get rights of free speech that can’t be restricted by the government, and the document makes it clear that parliament is in charge. This is the first “true” constitutional monarchy in European history. (Lecture 44, 22:13)

Fix says the scientific revolution was a foundation for the modern worldview as it develops during the Enlightenment. (Lecture 45, 22:17)

Aristotle believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and there were 55 concentric crystalline spheres, with the Earth in the middle. They all rotated around the earth at uniform speed. (Lecture 45, 22:20)

A French guy (name hard to pronounce) proposed that the Earth rotated daily on its axis. Aristotle said it was stationary and didn’t move. Jean Buridan rejected Aristotle’s explanation of the motion of projectiles, offering instead a concept of “impetus” that sounded an awful lot like inertia. (Lecture 46, 22:47)

The new method may have developed in the 17th century (in part) because there was a flood of new scientific information coming in from many new scientific instruments during that time. (Lecture 46, 23:01)

The traditional European worldview was based primarily on religion. The worldview of the Enlightenment based on empirical science and reason, and it is kicked off by the birth of modern science. (Lecture 48, 23:48)