McGraw-Hill SocialStudies 2003 Return to Unit List
The Renaissance
Grade 6
Lesson Summary Lesson Summary
Unit 3: New Forces in the World
Chapter 11: Europe in Transition
Lesson 4: The Renaissance
Roots of the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a time of great creativity in arts and sciences in Europe. It was also a time when they developed a powerful interest in humanism, or concern for human interests and values. It began in Florence, Italy, and within a century had spread to the rest of Europe. Trade in Florence flourished with Asia and Africa and made the city rich. Lorenzo Medici became a very powerful and influential citizen there in 1469. Scholars and artists flocked to Florence where “Lorenzo the Magnificent” supported their work.

Renaissance Writers and Painters

Trade continued to grow between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Writers such as Petrarch, Christine de Pisan, and Niccolo Machiavelli began to write in their own languages for local readers on various topics and in different styles. Artists studied the artifacts of Ancient Greece and Rome. Their art became more realistic than the paintings of the Middle Ages and expanded to include themes other than religion. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most famous artists of this time. He also studied engineering, music, and the natural world around him, and made sketches of his ideas. Another very famous artist of the period was Michelangelo Buonarotti who also used classical ideas in his paintings, sculptures, and architecture.

The Renaissance Spreads

In the late 1400s, ideas from the Italian Renaissance began to move to northern Europe. The most famous artist in the Northern Renaissance was actor, poet, and playwright William Shakespeare. Many consider him to be the greatest playwright of all time, expressing an understanding of human thoughts and feelings. Painters included Jan Van Eyk who began using oil paint on canvas. Spain was home to writers and artists of the Renaissance, including Miguel de Cervantes who wrote Don Quixote, a novel that made fun of old-fashioned nobles. The impact of the Renaissance led to wealth and development of nations, and the discoveries of the telescope, microscope, and guns. Human society and the matters of trade, government, and business were seen as important and worthy of study.