The Renaissance in Italy during the 14th and 15th centuries was not just about art and literature. The advancements made included major world exploration, the expansion of western theologies and doctrines, and even political upheaval that brought about the rise of democracy and capitalism.
The local administration at the time in Italy was ruling families. Those with the most money who were able to control the largest number of mercenary factions had control over their local city-states. This localized warring opened a door for the ascension of new families and new ideas into the Italian mindset of the time.
Late in the 14th century, the House of Albizzi were the ruling family in Florence. Their main contenders for leadership of the city were the Medici’s, the household that owned the largest bank in Europe at the time, among other interests. The Albizzi and Medici struggled with each other over control of the wealthy city for some decades before the Medici were finally able to wrest authority from the Albizzi in the late 14th century when Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici took power.
Cosimo was extremely well-loved by his Florentinians, mostly due to the calm he brought to the area through peace treaties, which allowed the area to flourish. An avid art lover, he contributed many funds to the advancement of arts and literature during his time. Following Cosimo, the Medici ruled over Florence for almost 3 centuries.
Three main cities emerged as the leading players in the brawl for power – Venice, Milan, and Florence, also becoming the primary contributors to the expansion of the Renaissance. Each region developing its own characteristic takes on the Renaissance. With the Papacy controlling Rome, and the Medici in Florence, the artists, sculptors, and philosophers had a multitude of benefactors during this time.
But the peace would not last forever. Early in the 15th century, France and Spain both began making military forays into Italy, as the Papacy attempted to regain control there. This began a time known as the Italian wars, where political disorganization reigned supreme.
Since no one area had enough population for an ‘army’, each paid mercenaries to handle the fighting, draining the resources of the area as these guerrilla fighters tended to draw out skirmishes to keep the money coming in. This, along with the widespread devastation that came about as a result of these wars, caused many areas to lose their independence as cooperation with neighboring cities became necessary.
As Italy became more divided, it lost its hold on the Mediterranean and the major trade routes there. The Renaissance began to migrate north and the artists, sculptors, and philosophers of the day moved with it, bringing about the rise of the Northern Renaissance and the take of those Europeans on what the Italian Renaissance had brought about.
Looking back on the Renaissance as a whole, including the advancements of art and literature as well as the political changes, we can see just how influential this time period was on our world today. Bringing about a new era in human thought and philosophy as well as the betterment of business practices and new social norms to fit our expanding world.