The Northern Renaissance: Crash Course European History #3

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So, when we left off last time, the Renaissance
was a very big deal, provided you were part of the elite in approximately this part of
the world. Today, we’re going to follow the spread
of the Renaissance to France, England, Spain, the Low Countries, the seventy two bajillion
ministates of central Europe. Also, suddenly there are a lot more books
to read. INTRO
The Renaissance was shaped and promoted by the discovery in the mid-15th century of moveable
type printing. The credit goes mostly to the German goldsmith
and tinkerer Johannes Gutenberg, whose printing press from the 1440s produced the famous Gutenberg
Bible and fueled the spread of printed books. Now, printing techniques, including movable
type, had been used in China for many centuries, but printing could be quicker in Europe because
the Latin alphabet only contained twenty-six characters, and also innovations made the
letters easy to eject and reset to form new words, pamphlets, and newsletters, and then
entire books. In fact, there are books in the Center of
the World today! It’s my favorite center of the world yet! I love books. It’s really hard to exaggerate just how
big a deal printing was. Like, before our friend Gutenberg, most books
in Europe were copied from other books by hand. This was time-consuming and expensive, and
it introduced errors. And it also meant that books were not part
of most people’s lives. Like, if you were among the around 80% of
people in England and France who worked in agriculture at the time, it’s not just that
you didn’t need to learn to read to do your job; there was generally nothing you could
read. But printing changed all of that incredibly
quickly. The first printing press arrived in Venice
in 1469. By 1500, there were 417 printing presses in
the city. In the first fifty years after printing came
to Europe, over 20 million volumes of books were printed. This included the great works from the classical
world that the Renaissance was rediscovering, but also many legal works. And as jurists worked to decipher the meaning
of every Latin word of the corpus of Roman law, the western legal tradition was born. More copies of the Bible were available to
read, and argue about. And new stories and poems could be shared
more widely. Think of it this way: Whether you were interested
in science or literature or law or mathematics, printing meant that more people had the opportunity
to encounter far more voices from across time and space. And as Renaissance ideas spread north fueled
in part by printing, it followed that writers and scholars would see the ideas of humanism
through the lens of local concerns. Also, of course, northern European thinkers
downplayed the movement’s Italian origins. One of the great rules of history is that
whenever Italy has an idea, northern Europe will be like, “Yeah, no. We totally already had that idea like eight
times. Our version is so much different and better. Wait till you see how we do the black death
slash ballet slash fascism slash automatic weapons slash pizza slash defensive-minded
football.” Anyway, Pieter Brueghel’s “Dutch Proverbs”
is one example of how different northern Renaissance art was from its Italian counterparts–Breughel
is still interested in the ideas of humanism in this painting–it’s secular, focused
on people, set in the natural world–but you can see that Breughel’s painting of scruffy
rural villagers acting out ridiculous common wisdom has none of the lyricism or elegance
of, say, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Then again, in many respects, the Northern
renaissance wasn’t so unique–the touchstone was still the classical world and its art
and writing. Florentines had made much of the Roman legal
tradition that empowered the paterfamilias, or the male head of the family, and this was
very much embraced in the north as well. The idea was that all social and political
order stemmed from the exercise of the father’s authority over the family unit. From the father’s secure position, the well-being
of the family flowed. And more than that, the well-being of the
larger state depended on the good order of all the families it encompassed, just as the
successes of Rome had rested on familial underpinnings. And if humanism was opening the door to rethinking
current values, some sort of anchor was need to prevent chaos, and people to the north
and south agreed that security was going to rest in the classic tradition of the father’s
legal dominance. In both North and South, humanism also went
radical. Some humanists began regularly teaching—not
just discussing—its principles and its main subject matter: rhetoric, which may not seem
like a big deal to you, but it means that at least in the radical fringe of the Renaissance
world, ancient Latin and Greek were being taught, not just the medieval versions of
those languages–which would eventually contribute to a rethinking of what certain texts actually
said, perhaps most notably The Bible. Also, girls sometimes joined their brothers
in being tutored, a radical idea indeed, although one that could also trace itself back to the
Old Light–in justifying the education of girls, scholars cited ancient women who’d
received tutoring, including Sappho, Aspasia, and Cornelia, the daughter of the Roman general
Scipio. And as humanism grew, so did the number of
universities. European universities had long taught a system
of theology and philosophy known as “scholasticism” that focused on early church teaching and
Aristotelian logic, but now they began to embrace humanism, spending less time studying
religious texts and more time investigating the human condition and thinking about how
to organize human societies, including how to establish and enforce laws. And amid these developments, Desiderius Erasmus
of Rotterdam, also known as the “Prince of the Humanists,” became the commanding
figure in the Northern Renaissance. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Erasmus contributed to taking humanism along
its twisted path from ideas of the study of “humans” and the “active life” into
politics. In 1595, he went to study at the University
of Paris and began publishing his opinions on public affairs, including the responsibilities
of a ruler. A prince, he declared in the Education of
a Christian Prince, needed to study the classics and the deeds of worthy ancient leaders. And in these examples he would discover the
means by which great leaders achieved the public good and keep the peace even in troubled
times. he also emphasized the importance of reading
the Bible and the leading Christian authors. It was for this that he came to be known as
advocating for a “middle road” between the pagan ancients and the more recent Christian
thinkers. But he was also at times very critical of
the Catholic Church. Erasmus was also a central figure in the rising
“Republic of Letters,” a growing international community of humanists in Europe. In fact, he corresponded with some five hundred
people around Europe, including everyone from Sir Thomas More to Martin Luther to Pope Leo
X. Aside from his work on Biblical translations,
he also edited, translated, and published ancient pagan texts, like Cicero’s, and
the works of many pivotal religious authors, especially Saint Jerome. He was astonishingly prolific, hiring editors,
proofreaders, and even ghostwriters to help him produce mountains of humanistic texts
and fashion himself as the quintessential figure of the Northern Renaissance before
dying suddenly of dysentery at the age of 69 because, you know, it was the sixteenth
century. Thanks Thought Bubble. Before he died, Erasmus saw the rise of the
Protestant reformation. He disagreed with much of Luther’s teachings,
and remained loyal to the Catholic Church, but Erasmus’s emphasis on inner spirituality
over ritual did in some ways presage Protestantism. Some felt that “Erasmus had laid the egg,
and Luther had hatched it,” but Erasmus dismissed that, saying that “Luther
hatched a different bird entirely.” Also, for the record neither Erasmus nor Martin
Luther could lay eggs, because they were mammals. But now we’re into biology, and getting
a bit ahead of ourselves with the Reformation. Before we start debating how many angels can
fit on the head of a pin, we should acknowledge the other great Renaissance thinker who shaped
what we now call political science–Niccolo Machiavelli, who was like the Erasmus living
in the Upside Down. Machiavelli had been a faithful supporter
of Florence’s republican traditions. After the death of Lorenzo Medici in 1492,
Machiavelli served the republic in several positions. But after Spanish, papal, and other forces
defeated the republic in 1512, Machiavelli was imprisoned and tortured (he was hung by
his wrists until his shoulders were dislocated). He was eventually released after three weeks
in prison and then set out to write his masterwork The Prince, which was only published in 1532,
five years after his death. The Prince was very different from the work
of other humanists, especially from the political ideals of Christian humanism found in Erasmus’s
essays and letters. Machiavelli imagined a grounding in the classics
for an aspiring leader of his day, but he believed the attitudes necessary for leaders
were vastly different from what the ancients had counseled. His most quoted advice focused on whether
a ruler should aim to be loved or feared: “One should wish to be both, but, because
it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.” Machiavelli took a so-called realist views
of politics–he focused on how a prince could retain power, and maintain order. And he was much more interested in what was
effective than what was, like, noble. And unlike many humanists’ focus on maintaining
peace, Machiavelli believed war was necessary–in fact, he wrote a book about it, called Art
of War. He argued that rulers needed to prepare for
war by studying great military leaders of the past, and he believed that effective military
leadership was vital to effective political leadership, because those who win wars get
to gain peace on their terms. But there were also idealists among Renaissance
humanists, like the Englishman Thomas More, who was one of Erasmus’s five billion friends. And a close one in fact. More wrote the classic book Utopia, which
imagines a society without private property, where reason and cooperation have replaced
struggles for glory and power. It’s an odd book–More was a devout Catholic,
and in fact would eventually be executed for opposing King Henry VIII’s turn toward Protestantism,
and yet the seemingly enlightened Utopia is very much not Catholic. Like, the Utopians have married priests, for
instance, and also they can get divorced. But regardless, More believed that humanistic
analysis could lead to widespread peace and prosperity–which by the way I would argue
turned out to be sort of correct, even though A. it would take a while for humanism’s
benefits to be felt, and B. More did not get to enjoy them, on account of being separated
from his head in 1535. A century before More’s Utopia, another
book that imagined an ideal citystate, Book of the City of Ladies, was written by Christine
de Pizan. De Pizan was born in Venice but moved to France
as a kid when her dad got a job as the French king’s astrologer. As you do. She married and had three children, but then
her husband died of the plague, and thereafter she earned her living writing. In Book of the City of Ladies, de Pizan gathered
up all the great and good women of history and placed them in a city where the Virgin
Mary is queen. The book argues that women can be virtuous
leaders, and rational beings, and that leadership by virtuous women could beget virtuous communities–a
stark contrast to Machiavelli’s worldview. So at this point, it’s common at this point
to ask students to think about the relative merits of idealism and realism–is a prince
or princess, or for that matter a student at a high school, better off being loved or
feared? Is it more important for a community to be
fair or stable? Should leaders prioritize virtue or effectiveness? These are big, interesting questions, and
I think they’re worth considering. But I’d also ask you to look at the lens
through which you’re approaching those questions. Machiavelli’s life was marked by endless
wars and shifting alliances. He saw many short-lived governments fail to
achieve stability. Christine de Pizan saw the intense oppression
of women and the dismissal of their talents and intellect. Erasmus didn’t exactly have an easy life–he
was born out of wedlock and both his parents died of plague when he was a teenager–but
he saw a very different world in northern Europe than Machiavelli saw in Italy, or than
Christine de Pizan saw. Where do you sit in the world, and how might
that shape what kind of community you wish to see? Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.


  1. Hey! Thanks for watching. We had to re-upload, and we appreciate your patience. We misstated the date that Erasmus went to college, so we made a change, and here's the corrected video. -stan

  2. Hey John! I miss your old timing and pace..don't tell me you've slowed it down in your old age haha or if it's just your american-centrism boiling over in the perceived boring tales of European history hehe. But it's sooo great to have your history series furthered along. Always, brilliant… You like my Caulfieldish ending there?.😁😎📚📖

  3. There is some question as to whether The Prince should be read as a realist instruction book or as biting satire (in the same vein as Erasmus's *In Praise of Folly*). This seems more likely when one considers some of his other works, and clear Rousseau thought there was a double meaning to The Prince. Admittedly this is not a universally held opinion, and Machiavelli certainly had realist tendencies. The answer probably lies between it as all satire and as genuine advice. Perhaps it is exaggerated realism or a blend of satire/contra-statement and realism, but it was almost surely not purely a realist work.

  4. i honestly think john green could speak 1.5x faster and it would retain what it tasted in world history


  5. Art of War? Sun Tzu probably sued Macchiavelli halfway to hell once macchiavelli got to the afterlife lmao

  6. Interesting. I would argue for Machiavelli's ideas on governance over More's idealised version of it. I would argue Effectiveness is more important than Nobility, as in the end, delivering what the people in a state needs and want is far more important than how they are governed. Take what policies that works – so long as most benefit from said policies, even it may seem non democractic or oppressive. After all, too many so called ideal democratic developing nations where their people are suffering.

  7. If you speed up the video to 1.25x then he begins to sound like the original John Green.

  8. The Prince kind of reads like the antithesis of how a ruler should act. Given how close this was written to his prior torture, it's kind of no surprise that he'd done that deliberately. I mean it makes sense given he dedicated this to Piero Medici. Whose family had accused, imprisoned, and tortured him. Fun unverified story(Take it with a grain of salt) According to my political philosophy professor a few years back, Piero never actually read it.

  9. The interpretation of Machiavelli based solely on The Prince misses the important caveat that many scholars now consider this book as sarcastic, tongue in cheek, and actually advocating for more republicans idea. It is easier to understand when put in conjunction with Discourses on Livy, his other famous piece. So, to paraphrase John in the end of the video, when "looking at the lens through which" we're approching this author, we have to conclude that Machiavelli was everything BUT machiavellic…

  10. Thank you, this was just in time for my AP European History Exam and i needed a brush up! Notes just didn't cut it!!!!

  11. John, if you are held against your will and forced to do this videos, just blink SOS next episode.

  12. Was Sun Tzu's "Art of War" available to those with means? It seems Mac was a bit late to the party.

  13. That’s definitely incredibly useful and fascinating, but I would add more names of the art pieces as they appear!
    Thank you so much 💛

  14. A pet-peeve of mine is when people quote Machiavelli only partially, usually for the purpose of making him sound more misanthropic than he was (albeit not as big a pet peeve as when people use the term "Machiavellian" without having actually read either The Prince or The Discourses ). After explaining that its best to be loved and feared, but since this is difficult, err on the side of being feared, Machiavelli continues:

    "Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated" (emphasis mine)
    …and then goes on to explain what makes a Prince hated in a manner that doesn't translate well today.

    People often ignore that part – and not just people who want to make a devil of Machiavelli, also people who rule poorly (read: corporate management).

    Also, people tend to ignore The Discourses entirely, despite the fact that it has a very different tone than The Prince (as the former is for the most effective way to run a republic and the latter the most effective way to run a monarchy)

  15. Thomas More was right in saying Ethiopian priests can get married actually. they do. Deacon Micheal,an Ethiopian, upon his meetings with Martin Luther in the 1530's told him about this and Luther was astonished.

  16. Just because your Catholic does not mean you can’t think that way however I am not like More.

  17. Dying at the idea of any country but Italy playing REAL defensively minded football haha Calcio is the king of Defense!

  18. DEFENSIVE MINDED FOOTBALL!!!! you striked at the only thing i clearly understand about international futbol, and i so got that

  19. Psychologists like Freud tells us that our mother's have the biggest effect on who we are, while historians like John here, seem to be telling us that women play little role in it. I wonder who was taking care of the sick when half of the people in Europe were stricken .. In the history of the game of football, often recounted at our family dinners, one finds little mention of women. Ironic as guess who made the dinners which facilitated the discussion. In the history of raising children, instilling moral 'fiber' (if that exists), and taking care of the injured and the weak we find .. well I don't know because it wasn't in any of my history books in school. They say Eurler was sickly. I wonder how it is that he was taken care of well enough to have made his contributions. .. doesn't the other side also have a evolving progressing culture with people who made outstanding contributions, or is there no other side?

  20. Maestro Green, I tell this is a masterpiece of a history lesson. Brainy questions to debate with my class. much Appreciated. Kudos

  21. So the printing press was like, the Middle Ages version of the internet. With all the similar profound effects.

  22. I really liked the question at the end of the video. It has made me to think "What kind of world I would like to see?" Thank you!

  23. Erasmus looked a lot like Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur (Or vice versa, depending on who was born first.)

  24. JG: Talks about medieval "Italy" and "Germany", mentions "10 bazillion ministates in Central Europe"
    Me: raises eyebrow in Hungarian

  25. Isn't Machiavelli's Prince satire? His Discourses were very different in tone and he only wrote the book advocating ruthlessness after torture and exile. Wasn't he saying "Here's how awful you are, compare it to the classics and ideals that you claim you loved and see that you are an abomination" by being as over the top as possible?

  26. Desiderius Erasmus is often called Erasmus Rotterdamus here in the Netherlands and especially Rotterdam, oh local pride. Keep convincing yourself that the renaissance was a Dutch thing. Don't mind that even the word ''renaissance'' itself isn't Dutch in anyway.

  27. Realism is not always realism though. It can often turn into a form of pessimism characterised by defeatism and compromise, which is to say that you don't really try to pursue good things to begin with, but assume that things can't turn out good and so give up before trying and make compromises you might not have had to.

  28. What about the many reviews of Machiavelli that argue The Prince is actually satire. He was tortured by these people so the chances that he would then be released and write a book praising their rule and style of rule is quite unlikely, and definitely something worth considering.

  29. Anyone know the name of the painting at 3:55? (Paterfamilia Bearded Man) He looks exactly like my brother and I want to send him a picture of this painting lol

  30. 13:07 ooh that's the good reflexive history

    Also yay Christine de Pizane! She's awesome and 'The book of the city of ladies' is definitely worth a read. The Richards translation is great

  31. Slash banking slash oil painting growing interest in antiquity slash emphasis on trade and markets over large landholders (I think)

  32. The rule about other European Countries stealing Italian ideas is, ideed, really true, especially in regard of the lovely French people

  33. I just discovered this Crash Course series and feel like I have been living under a rock. Great starting point for learning. Fantastic aggregation of information. Signed up on Patreon immediately. Please keep doing what you do! 🙂

  34. Latin was the official language of Europe in contrast to the official language of a country. Ignorant…

  35. Should have learned French instead of Russian but but you wanted to Tom Clancy in your mind right??

    I'm breaking your balls yes, learn Spanish read Spanish history learn about your daddy

  36. Your daddy wasn't a German culture speaking, he was more like your mom's gay brother but not in a good way. That's how we got von Steuben and the ability to make war, Spanish Soldado. Conquistador families in America… . Also that's the Germany after Bismarck.
    Alemania is what you're talkin about when you talk about the printing press which is the Holy Roman Empire or is we like to put it in the frontier of the Imperial or Imperial, because you're always saying Charles V basically only left the Empire broke, when in reality being bankrupt doesn't mean s*** when you're the emperor of the planet. He also guaranteed his success…. Phillip did the same… until Napoleon.. who invaded Spain… Spain was aided by England… yup…

    So you never want to represent us in that like do you? Why not mention how much Spain contributed to the Renaissance? So yeah because you always want to tie it to the Inquisition when also in reality Inquisition is all over Europe done by different sects even after and during the Reformation. Your baby bottles diapers. Maybe the younger green in all your videos has the right idea after all

    during the American Revolution you think it was solely the French they guaranteed the logistical success of the rebels? Do you know how many Latin participated in the American Revolution? Have you ever even thought about it? How about the connections to indigenous tribes and how those ties to the tribes were reason that helped out Americans? Wild most tribes allied themselves with the English?

  37. Think of it this way reading the books that the rest of the Spanish Empire was reading about said you guys translated into German to mass-produce for consumption only were copies and cheap ones at that… by the way the printing press wasn't really invented in Germany it was already being used in certain ways to make grapes in Italy. What I'm saying is that the technology of the printing press wasn't just Germany and it was actually a lot during the Italian Alps and throughout Austria. Basically what I said before there was no such thing as Germans it was basically the Holy Roman Empire or as most of us who were literate called it the frontier which is why we have to make mass production and letters look like pictures because most of Central Europe was illiterate as f**. Yeah I know what the noblemen tell you and they're only counting their higher nobility which is actually their government. In the Spanish Empire counted all the simple actuals instead of the population we would happen amazing storical intellectual Capital per individual. As of right now. Between Toledo and the science there and through the African acquisitions by Ferdinand and the Western by Isabel not including the European dominations technological account gets massive and even dwarfs the Space Race because there was no other. Even the British had started piracy in the Baltic Sea and the Northern sea before they ventured South through the English Channel. Which is why we consider them one of the greatest navies in the world even among the Spanish because they had to earn the right to call it the English Channel and they did. yeah man you need to read up on what people says nothing Spanish besides you're weird Lovecraft Tales of torture and the Inquisition or going broke your president is f***** Donald Trump you idiot LOL the only made this video in the past year.

    I acknowledge that I am by historical so very Advanced but still expect more from you. Stop trying to take credit for s*** look like an a******.

  38. The northern Renaissance was a commercial and marketing racket from Asian Caucasian cultists. Albino monkeys using their Taoist philosophy they stole from China to to argue the medieval notion how's this for that and Tit for Tat. And most of that money was Byzantium refugee money stolen from constantinople's treasuries. We were not impressed that's why Friends of the connection to the Byzantine world but not the Byzantine way because they were the family that had to take in the loser cousin… now you know why the French nobility killed all the military orders.

  39. God damn you're an idiot. Patarfamilias… did not mean what you said. It's the culture said derives from the Greco Latin Roman Spanish Britannic line that leads into the Americas. Not you people. Between The Universal Church. You guys have gone Independent remember? Or should I say… you wanted to play Church Monopoly too.

    I'm just saying. Lol. Send it top it off you give the ability to have your pastors have family while they are ordained? Instead of leaving a Ministry they want to get paid, instead of training a replacement they want to get paid so, like I said there's no space in his church and that's why the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an Empire. Because the people within it work either Fray or gay LOL. Just like texts it said nowadays right with steers and queers. Anyway that's why America's has a deeper sense of red white and blue why the colors don't run. By the way I love the lgbtq community and the group I'm describing tends to oppress the lgbtq types. Kind of like low-level nobility. Kind of like the stupid churches in America. Which explains why the Catholic church is going through a Renaissance in its own with a Franciscan Pope. I'm just saying mr. Green learn Spanish

  40. Father's position?. Stupid. Non military guys were imitating the style of the Spanish military, because the Spanish Society was galvanized for a war, they led trends, because they were at War… it makes news… with the obvious threats because they were representing Europe… the big leagues… and these German "princes", lol, would play victim and middlemen, then get slaughtered.. only to have Scandinavian kingdoms have to defend these pathetic principalities… then have these princes turn on them? And the Scandinavians basically fell for these stupid princes because they were white Scandinavian countries now despise Trump who represents these modern German aristocrats that could never do s***. But they wanted to mimic the fashion? Just like fashionistas and Nazis, I told you a cult. Did you know that this is the albino cult that was basically a bunch of Orphans who are unwanted by their mother culture in India? You know they're so envious eyes turn green become the green eyed monster. Always chasing their Red Sisters because they only seeing greys? Lol. and that's how they ended up in Europe. These are not the hecatoncheires, these are the Damned of Tartarus. Basically too stupid for their own good but smart enough to figure out that people think they're stupid and turn vile. Either people got their asses whooped by Philip and Alexander of Macedon the Jade emperor and eventually Genghis Khan and Stalin. One of the tribes of scythia who escaped Tartarus and brought down Hades…. a cult now, adapted by ethnic familiars… kidnapping kids and taking blood. Yep these are vampires but they're basically human oh, and they're not cosplay for doing a ritual sharing among adults. These are cultists that are looking for blood types ancient times because they think it'll bring them magical quality which basically leads to cannibalism. White people and serial killer cannibals, what can I say.

    Seriously, though, he lived on Borderlands and tried to instigate War which is why the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was always at War with Europe

  41. God is in the same house that your interpretations and translations. You have no concept of the abstract in the simple notion. You know Patafamilias even sounds like kick out the family as much as this is my family… in fact it's spelling is more important than its meeting

  42. Oh and your educational Christian friends didn't work that's why Makaveli wrote his books in Italy with your precious printing press

  43. and you call it reaching out to humanists yes, these guys were using their academic connections to create political ties. They were crying for human rights when they were torturing women and burning them at the stake so do you think they were talking about everyone's human rights or just men's? Because the Spanish looked at every soul equally especially after the discoveries of 1492 Acquisitions of Europe and Africa.

  44. Some historian in the future is talking about the internet the same way John is talking about printing

  45. A GREAT video and I'm gonna have to check out de Pizan – always looking for more classic female lit. On the topic of seeing Machiavelli's writing through the lens of his life, he spends a while arguing for a prince to be good at winning wars himself largely because Italy at the time was waging war through mercenaries, and he quite correctly predicted that the mercenaries would turn on these rich cities and extort them.

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