European Protests, Reform, Rebirth...

Selected commentaries:
16th and 17th century European cultural struggle.

Legendary art historian Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968) saw the “revival of antiquity” as a genuine cultural exchange across Northern France, Germany, and England: an Anglo-Saxon Frankish Carolingian Renaissance arising during the reign of Charlemagne - "Charles the Great" but, “it failed to make a distinction between the pagan and the Christian antique."
Erwin Panofsky, 1944, p. 47

The [Italian] term umanista was used in fifteenth-century Italian academic slang to describe a teacher or student of classical literature and the arts associated with it, including that of rhetoric. The English equivalent 'humanist' makes its appearance in the late sixteenth century with a similar meaning.Erwin Panofsky (1960), Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art

Renaissance and Renascences
Penn State's highly esteemed Professor of Art History Brian Curran comprehensively takes up the debate:

In the earlier Enlightenment tradition, the Italian revival of antiquity that eventually passed to France and other nations of Europe was understood as representing the beginning of a more secular, modern era, marked by the triumph of reason over the religiosity of the Middle Ages. Brian A. Curran, 2014

French Counter-Reformation
Summarised by Arthur Augustus Tilley (1851-1942),
The Reformation in France, Cambridge Modern History Vol. 2. CH. IX, p. 280:

THE Reformation in France never developed into a national movement. Though the Protestants under the stress of persecution consolidated themselves into a powerful and well-organised party, they never formed more than a minority of the nation. The majority, whose attachment to the Catholic Church was stronger than their desire for her reformation, detested the Reformers as schismatics and separatists even more than as heretics. ... The result was a succession of religious wars, which lasted, though not continuously, for more than thirty years. It was not till the beginning of the seventeenth century that France, once more at peace with herself, was able to work out on her own lines a Counter-Reformation. Yet at the beginning of the sixteenth century nearly all enlightened men were agreed as to the necessity for Reform. The evils under which the Church in France laboured were those which prevailed elsewhere; rapacity and worldliness among the Bishops and abbots, ignorance in the inferior clergy, great relaxation of discipline, and, in some cases, positive immorality in the monasteries and nunneries; and as the result an ever-widening separation between religion and morality. –Tilley, The Reformation in France, Vol. 2. CH. IX, p. 280:

It was not till 1519 that the spark which he had kindled was fanned into a flame by the dissemination of Luther's Latin writings, which were read eagerly at Paris. But it was Briçonnet who first put his hand to the practical work of reforming the Church in France.
– Tilley, Independence of France. The Concordat of 1516 . 281

See full transcript: CH IX The Reformation in France HERE

Senses of Touch:
Human Dignity and Deformity from Michelangelo to Calvin
(1998) "Senses of Touch anatomizes the uniquely human hand as a rhetorical figure for dignity and deformity in early modern culture." Cultural historian Dr. Marjorie O'Rourke Boyle takes a very different approach to study of sixteenth century life.
Here is an interesting review:

A strange thing happened on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, when the fingers of God and Adam nearly touched...
According to Boyle, Michelangelo's God neither injects a divine spark into Adam, nor does he animate him to life with some kind of electrical charge. Rather, God on the Sistine ceiling is a good "Renaissance activist" who orders or commands Adam with his finger to "arise" or "raise himself up" to the full uniqueness of his humanity -- meaning "erect bipedality;" representing moral and philosophical dignity"
>>> more

Politics and Ideology in England, 1603-1640
Cambridge historian, Professor Johann Sommerville has written extensively on the history of early modern Britain, and the history of political thought in Europe between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640 (1986) is a good introduction:

Henry VIII's [1491-1547] break with Rome was an act of state, prompted primarily by political motives, but many of those who supported Henry were appalled at the abuses rife in the Catholic Church and at the corruption of the Papacy. Some of these went further and sympathized with the growing Protestant movement.

The years before the Civil War were a critical period in England's political and constitutional development, and have been the subject of vigorous debate. Some historians argue that the Civil War had few long-term origins, while others discern deeper roots. Dr Sommerville here looks at the contemporary view of politics and at the ideologies, both in theory and in action, which contributed to the turbulent years before 1640.



1. Medieval universities were dominated by clergymen debating theology and philosophy in barbarous Latin. These academics were the mediocre heirs of the great medieval philosophers Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, and Duns Scotus.
2. Italian universities never became as immersed in scholasticism as their Northern counterparts. Instead, the study of medicine, law, and rhetoric/eloquence played an important part in their curricula; these studies were based on the texts of classical antiquity.
3. In this milieu was born humanism - a movement that wanted to restore original, uncorrupted classical texts and pure language (Latin and Greek).
4. The Christian humanists, Desiderius Erasmus, John Colet, and Thomas More applied these ideas to Scripture, and strove to understand the Bible's real message as a basis for leading truly Christian lives. They exposed clerical ignorance and promoted educational reform.
5. The Christian humanists' influence was limited to the small literate intellectual elite, but they did influence reformers such as Martin Luther, whose message was broadcast more widely.

See Professor Sommerville extensive overview of the history HERE

"The Reformation was fundamentally about doctrine," she writes, "not about methodology."
“The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and the Reformation” (1998) by History professor Erika Rummel comes highly recommended. Here are excerpts from two interesting reviews:

(2) Excerpt from GoodReads review by Katie, Oct. 29, 2013

. . . Things took a turn for the worse in the late 15th and 16th centuries when the debate moved northward and entered into the universities. Unsurprisingly, the universities took this intellectual debate and turned it into a deeply personal turf war, and polarized each side of the debate. When someone like Erasmus tried to remain a moderate, he tended to be a bit resented by either side. This stage also marked the point at which textual criticism of the Bible - and the humanists' right to take part in it - came to the forefront. 

Finally the issue got partially subsumed in the Reformation, with scholastics generally lumped with the Catholics and the humanists with the Reformers. Rummel emphasizes that this was a vast oversimplification, and that there were humanists and scholastics on either side. "The Reformation was fundamentally about doctrine," she writes, "not about methodology."

(1) Excerpt from Professor of History James D. Tracy's review for the American Historical Review

. . . from the time of Petrarch [1304-1374] until the early sixteenth century, humanists and scholastics debated the issues between them with touches of humor and an effort on both sides to present different points of view. The succeeding phase was dominated by academic turf wars focused on the claims of biblical philologists like Erasmus to speak with authority in matters of theology, and civility gave way to recrimination. . .James D. Tracy, the American Historical Review

Note: Historian James D. Tracy is the author of several books on European cultural evolution, from "Erasmus: The Growth of a Mind" (1966) to "Europe's Reformations, 1450-1650: Doctrine, Politics, and Community (2006). Encyclopaedia Britanica excerpt from Erasmus: The Growth of a Mind (1966):

Dutch Humanist and scholar, Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance, the first editor of the New Testament, and also an important figure in patristics and classical literature. Using the philological methods pioneered by Italian humanists, Erasmus helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past, especially in his studies of the Greek New Testament and the Church Fathers. His educational writings contributed to the replacement of the older scholastic curriculum by the new humanist emphasis on the classics. By criticizing ecclesiastical abuses, while pointing to a better age in the distant past, he encouraged the growing urge for reform, which found expression both in the Protestant Reformation and in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Finally, his independent stance in an age of fierce confessional controversy—rejecting both Luther’s doctrine of predestination and the powers that were claimed for the papacy—made him a target of suspicion for loyal partisans ...

On the other hand, historian Paul Oskar Kristeller (1905-1999), whom Professor of History, Albany, SUNY, John Monfasani remembers here as "the most important student of the Renaissance in modern times," stated here that

“humanism” was not the dawn of the new philosophy of man but a mostly academic and scholarly movement formally tied to the medieval traditions. . . . [They] also made poetry, once a sequel of grammar and rhetoric, the most important member of the whole group” Paul Oskar Kristeller, 1965

"Learned research... the continuity of European cultural and intellectual history."
In "The Origins of Humanism" by Nicholas Mann, British emeritus professor in Renaissance studies, states,

Humanism is that concern with the legacy of antiquity –and in particular, but not exclusively, with its literacy legacy –which characterises the work of scholars from at least the ninth century onwards. It involves above all the rediscovery and study of ancient Greek and Roman texts, the restoration and interpretations of them and the assimilation of the ideas and values that they contain. It ranges from an archaeological interest in the remains of the past to a highly focused philosophical attention to the details of all manner of written records –from inscriptions to epic poems –but comes to pervade, as we shall see, almost all areas of post-medieval culture, including theology, philosophy, political thought, jurisprudence, medicine, mathematics and the creative arts. Grounded in what we would now think of as learned research, it rapidly found expression in teaching. And in this way it was to become the embodiment of, and vehicle for, that very classical tradition that is the most fundamental aspect of the continuity of European cultural and intellectual history.
Nicholas Mann (1996), "The Origins of Humanism", Cambridge Companion to Humanism, p. 2. (pdf)

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