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Western Civilization Essay Sample

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Western Civilization Essay Sample

A civilization can be alluded to as an organization of social complexity, which tends to share similar habits, traditions, beliefs, and the way of life, marked by some specific characteristics and features, living in a certain time period, making these distinguishing features its footing in the history. These distinguishing features of a civilization may include the functioning of its government, economic system, social stratification, and other cultural traits.

The Western Civilization alludes to the expansion and grandeur of the European states, which compromised of different times such as the Classical West, the Medieval West, the Modern Era, and the Cold War West. However, the Western civilization has been rich in classical changes through out its lifetime, and the most widely known periods of this civilization include the Protestant Reformation, Renaissance, and the Middle Ages, which give the West its outlook of today.

Causes of the Protestant Reformation

The protestants movement, is considered to be the most influential movements in the history of Christianity, which is believed to have started somewhere in the early 14th Century, and continued up to the 16th century, which relate it to the medieval heritage of the Western Civilization.

Since centuries, there had been small groups of people uprising against the working of the Church, against its beliefs of papacy, auricular confession, purgatory, pilgrimages, and worship of saints; whereas the first prominent group which came in order to bring reform was that of The Brethren of the Common Life, in 1350. By the 16th century, the world was rapidly revolving with monasticism and scholastic theories, the transformations of the Greek and the Roman classics, freedom of men, end of slavery and the discovery of the printing press, all indicated towards the bend in the road.

However, the historians believe that the primary cause of Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther’s “The Ninety-Five Theses,” published in 1517, which turned out to be the main catalysts for the ignition of the reform. This thesis were based upon a disagreement formed by King, against the Church, who did not agree to the Church’s indulgencies (confessions made to a sin which is then forgiven by the church), and believed that God’s grace still saved the entire humanity. He and his followers were against the false practices, which were now placed under the name of religion, and also the buying and selling of the hierarchy powers with in the church reaching up to even the position of the Pope.

This reformation started in Germany, followed by John Calvin, as David A. Muñoz, in his book “The Other” states, “Luther and Calvin used Renaissance scholarship to translate and interpret the biblical texts. They used these ancient sources as the basis for a wide-ranging critique of church and culture.” (Muñoz, pg 116). However, the government and the Church, which at that time worked together, did not want the people to get the idea that they could even function without their supremacy, and their power was greatly declining due to the rise of printing press. Thus an uprising, which stood up against the Catholic Church, turned its direction towards the monarchs, taking a political, economical, as well as social revolution form.

The Protestant Reformation is believed to have revived the teachings of Christ, and brought the viewing of the Bible and the New Testament from a new outlook. It marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of Modern Times. The coming Renaissance brought humanism to the people, but the Reformation, brought back the true Christianity.

Renaissance: “Birth of Modernity”

The Protestant reformation, gave the people the outlook and choice of ‘liberty’, which the modern day could not have imagined, and this lead to the coming era of humanism, named as Renaissance. The literal meaning of the word Renaissance are “rebirth,” as it was a cultural movement, aiming at the new perspective of educating the world. It first began from Italy, and later spread sporadically around Europe, over the era of 14th to 16th Century.

The ‘Renaissance Man,” which were painted out by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, pointed out to the artistic revolution brought by this era, which formed a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. It is believed to have been a cultural advancement from the Middle Ages, whereas some historians believe it to be the movement from the classical part of the world to the modern and more liberal times.

Jacob Burckhardt, in his book “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy,” states that Middle Ages was a period of intellectual stagnation, as he calls it “childish era,” (Burckhardt, pg 13), whereas Renaissance lead to the rebirth of classical civilization as well as that of humanity. The 12th Century man according to him was unaware of his individuality, while the new era created rising leaders. It had a great affect upon the intellectual thinking of the people especially in subjects such as philosophy, literature, arts, politics, science, and religion; whereby everything was now being studied at the human level, bringing his theme to importance. It also leads to the movement from medieval Christianity towards, greater study, whereby it was now being studied at an intellectual and pragmatic level, rather than that which was provided by the concepts of mere spirituality.

The government was being improved at a more rational level, declining the rule of monarchs and believing in secular living and freedom of speech. The essence of Renaissance did not lay in the part of the revival of the classical Civilization, but it was marked upon the idea of implementation of the new laws and regulations, the new perspectives of the human brain. Whereas when modernity is believed to be on the constant change, historians believe that Renaissance formed its first stage in the world, followed by Scientific Revolution (17th Century), Enlightenment (18th Century), French Revolution (1789), and the Industrial Revolution (18th to 19th Century).

Early Middle Ages: “Dark Ages”

The Early Middle Ages are referred to as the time between the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginning of Renaissance, while they are also known as Dark Ages of the Medieval Era by many historians, and are believed to stretch from 1066 to 1485. This era is widely known as the Dark Period due to the cultural depravity, which existed, and the society, which lost its structure as well as its organization. It is the critical tone which is applied to the Early Middle Ages, which emphasizes upon the paucity of all forms of events during this period, be they be intellectual, artistic or even historical.

 This word was first coined by Italian scholar, Francesco Petrarca who brought the concept of light versus darkness, with dark being the lack of Christianity, which was being practiced across Europe, and that of cultural ailment of the society. For him the periods of light or that which had classical fervor in them was the uprising of Rome and the Greeks, when there had been progressive developments in literature as well as art. While some historians also referred this period to as the era of barbaric darkness due to the decline of the Roman Empire.

The activists of the Protestant reformation also claimed that this era alone was responsible for the corruption of the Catholic Church. While the Enlightenment philosophers, such as Voltaire thought that the era was a time of social decline, which led to a lag in secular achievements. Thus, this time span was not only ripped of cultural diversity and cultural meaning but also pointed out to the poor urban growth and development throughout Europe, which was finally recovered by the arrival of Renaissance.


Works Cited

David A. Muñoz. The Other. A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. Editorial Orbit Press. August 2003.

Dr. Jack L. Arnold. The Cause and Results of the Reformation. IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 2, March 1999.

Jacob Burckhardt, S.G.C Middlemore, Peter Burke, Peter Murray. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Penguin Classics. 1990.


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