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Jean-Jacques Rousseau Cartoon

by Nicole Steck ~ April 22nd, 2010

Nicole Steck

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an outspoken author who argued that, unlike the philosophes of the time posited, society was more than the sum of its parts. He is well-known for being the author of several acclaimed treatises, including Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and The Social Contract.

A thought-provoking cartoon about Rousseau can be found here:, and select “26359” to reach the exact cartoon.

Arts in the Enlightenment

by Nicole Steck ~ April 22nd, 2010

Nicole Steck

The Enlightenment was characterized by an increase in thought, literature, philosophy, and the arts. Many of the most striking art forms include architecture and music. Much of the music remains celebrated today, especially that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart, now one of the most famous composers of all time, lived in relative obscurity throughout his life, never gaining celebrity or especial wealth. A particularly prolific composer, Mozart had written, by the time of his death at just thirty-five, more than six hundred pieces. In fact, in one six-week period, Mozart was known to have composed three separate symphonies.

Other celebrated art forms included architecture, painting, and sculpture; architecture was a well-known form, gaining notoriety during this time due to the increase in excavations of ancient Roman towns.

Overall, the Enlightenment was a time of great change and development in many areas – one of the most notable being that of art.

Innovations in Production

by rcrist ~ April 22nd, 2010

Many families in Early Western Europe recieved their incomes from farming wool or linen for spinning and weaving. However, this usually took an extensive period of time and the laborers were often paid poorly. Merchants started to make deals with the laborers that included an exchange of raw materials for working tools. This started to make things go a little faster until technology had advances.


Agriculture, Demographics, and Labor during the Industrial Revolution

by rcrist ~ April 22nd, 2010

In the late 1700s, most people in Europe were still farmers. Although, the cultivation of the lands had not much changed from the Middle Ages. All of these farmers had the same routine. They planted the same crops every year, with the same soil, and grew it the same also. In the 18th century, an increase in population encouraged the farmers to step out of the traditional boundaries. The  largest breakthrough, when it came to “stepping out of traditional boundaries”, was alternating wheat and barley to crops like turnips, clover, and alfalfa. Not very exciting. Furthur in time, technology and science contributed also by using better harrows and iron plows, which enabled farmers to dig deeper and break up clods of soil faster. 

In the 19th century, the age of statistical data was brought on. This was when governments in Western Europe started relying on numbers for certain information, such as birth and death records. Although the increase in agricultural development was a main subject in the Industrial Revolutionn, demographics had started to expand rapidly after 1815. It also jumpstarted the beginning of improved transportation systems, which included sophisticated canal networks, that in turn helped migrate food shortages throughout the areas that were in need.

Paintings of the Renaissances

by Jim ~ April 22nd, 2010

The things that survived the most from the Renaissances, without a doubt are the paintings. From this era, especially in Italy, some of the greatest pieces of art ever drawn still live on. The works can only be described as masterpieces and will always live in infamy.

The two masterpieces from the Renaissances that represent the time period are:

The first one that deserves to be mentioned without a doubt  is Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Click Here for another picture of the masterpiece.

The Chapel Ceiling depicts various stories from the bible across the ceiling.   The most widely known painting on the ceiling is the Creation of Adam. In total Michelangelo had painted 9 stories from the Book of Genesis.

It took Michelangelo about four years to complete his masterpiece, after being commissioned to repaint the Sistine Chapel in 1508. The ceiling is almost 68 feet tall, meaning Michelangelo built special scaffolding to get up to the ceiling and paint. Overall on the ceiling, Michelangelo and his assistance had painted more than 3000 figures. The ceiling is approximately 131 feet by 43 feet.

During his time painting the ceiling, his assistant, Jacopo I’Indaco, had invented a new way to make plaster that helped fight against mold. Mold was a problem that Michelangelo feared would destroy his work.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper

Click Here for a bigger picture of it (also with the coloring)

This painting depicts Jesus’s last supper before he was crucified. He has just told his followers that one of them will betray him and the Romans will kill him. That is why they are all stunned.

It took Leonardo 3 years to complete his master piece, he started in the year 1495 (meaning he finished in 1498). It stands an impressive 15 feet by 29 feet. It was painted in the dining hall at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Leonardo was commissioned to paint it by the Duke Ludovico Sforza and the duchess Beatrice d’Este.

Without a doubt, this painting holds the records for the amount of theories and conspiracy about it. People have thought up all sorts of crazy hypothesises, including that one of the people was actually Mary Magdalen but they made Leonardo cover her up.

Both these works are very religious. This proves that even though the Renaissance is hailed as a humanistic era and a return from the over-zealous “dark ages”. The soul of humanity still rested in the church, not in science.


by Tank ~ April 22nd, 2010

Beethoven\’s Moonlight Sonata

There are numerous ways of capturing the heart of the Romance movement- perhaps, none better than the language of the written note.

German-born Ludwig van Beethoven demonstrated a refined sense of the movement that was sweeping through the 18th and 19th centuries.  Immediately preceding his era of music was the Classical Age, a period dominated by the precise, mathematic compositions of Mozart and Haydn.  Mozart is often taught in theory classes for his “traditional” value, with his selected chord progression following predictable and linear trends.

Beethoven’s largest contribution is thought to have been his inclusion of the more passionate sonata.  His pieces were revolutionary, if for nothing else because of the innovative expressiveness of every line.  This was soon the new standard for popular European music, and the Romantic Era ushered in.

This artistic ingenuity represents much of what the broader Romantic era stood for.  The exchange of a scientific perspective of beauty for a more aesthetic one is what the Romantics were all about.  Beethoven (and later Brahms and Rachmaninoff) rejected recent cultural advancements and implemented standards of their own.

Original Manuscript from William Blake

In the field of literature, William Blake, Alexander Pushkin, and William Wordsworth responded in similar fashion to Enlightenment influence on poetry.  All of these artisans focused on the significance on the individual- they believed that absolute truth was available not through reason, but through an emphasis on personal and aberrant experience.

This “support of the arts” bears semblance to the ongoing discussion in academic life today.  Is there a use in “finding the beauty” as the Romanticist would strive to do?  Is there practical support in high schools funding music and theater programs?  I believe there is more use in supplying the science, math, technology, and vocational departments of schools- fields that develop transferable skills that may eventually lead to the job market and pragmatic contributions to society.  Invest where it will be best used.

Rural and Urban Lifestlyes during the Industrial Revolution

by rcrist ~ April 22nd, 2010

During the Industrial Revolution, work patterms started to change from farming and household chores to factory and mine working. This brought on more machines working rather than humans. This was a huge change for people during this period of time. Most people worked for generations (mostly farmers and peasants) doing the same thing their families did for years.

This pattern seemed to decrease until the coming of industrial production occured and then there were hardly any workers and the unemployment rates went up. Soon farmers and craftsmen who had been hard-working people became clerks and machine operators. More and more people moved closer to the city. In 1800, europe had an over 100,000 population in just 20 cities, but in 1900 the poputlation grew and Europe had 150 cities. Industrializations transformed Western Europe socially, economically, and cultuallry. 


Writers: Hobbes & von Goethe

by Nicole Steck ~ April 22nd, 2010

Nicole Steck

The Enlightenment was a time of overarching societal changes, including a new divergence from formerly influential religious traditions. The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on humanity, fostered a great deal of new literature. Many of the great Enlightenment authors are still widely read and renowned today, including Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, and Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jonathan Swift was a well-known writer working during the Enlightenment period. An Irish satirist, Swift is mostly known these days for Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was most notable, however, for his satires. One of Swift’s most gruesome social satires was A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public. A Modest Proposal advocated for the sale of the children of the impoverished to the rich, as food.

Like his contemporary Voltaire, Swift published under pseudonyms. Smith, however, did not take on one name based on his own, but rather switched names often and often took on a name related to his works – for instance, the pseudonym he chose for Gulliver’s Travels was Lemuel Gulliver, the protagonist’s name. In other instances, Swift published works anonymously.

Another important writer of the time was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Von Goethe was, like many authors of the time, not simply an author; he was also an accomplished mathematician who was interested in politics and religion. Von Goethe is famous for his lauded work Faust.

Religion During the Enlightenment

by rakane ~ April 22nd, 2010

During the Reformation era, the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was founded and became a leading group in promoting and providing education. Many leader of the Enlightenment were Jesuit educated, making them the most influential teachers in the Age of Enlightenment. They tended to stress traits, such as discipline and intellectual exactitude, that were important to the philosophes.

Although many Enlightenment thinkers were educated through a religious group, most opposed established religious organizations, citing them as blocks to human freedom. The general religous thought during this time was Deism, the belief that there is a God, but He does not intervene in daily human life. Reason was applied to religion, as David Hume questioned the reality of miracles and Benedict Spinoza scrutinized religious texts. 

Benedict Spinoza, a major influence on Deists, used the basis of reason to interpret religious texts. He was excommunicated from his synagogue and is the founder of modern day biblical criticism. David Hume claimed that reason could not prove the existence of God by concluding that miracles, which are not rational, lay at the core of Christianity.

Papal Mafia

by Brooke ~ April 22nd, 2010

Time to play Name That Renaissance Family!

What notorious family gained their fame and fortune in fifteenth century Italy?

What family had not one, but two Papal members?

No, not the Medici!

I’ll give you some more clues.

What Spanish family was known in Italy for their adultery, simony, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder?

Still don’t know?

The Borgia clan, of course!

This is their coat of arms:

The Borgia family was probably the first mafia family in the history of Italy. The most infamous member of the Borgia was Rodrigo Borgia.

When Rodrigo was only twelve he committed his first murder; he killed a boy the same age as him. Already, his future was looking bleak. Luckily for Rodrigo, his uncle was Pope Callistus III. His uncle tried to set him on the right path, making him a cardinal at age twenty-five, as well as vice-chancellor of the Holy See a year later.

This made him a very wealthy man. As any wealthy man would do [enter Tiger Woods joke here], Rodrigo found a mistress who bore him four children. He was not monogamous to her, though, and had many relations with women.

Rodrigo was also known to sell indulgences, bringing him even more wealth. With this wealth came the chance to purchase votes for Papal election. He paid fortunes out to the cardinals and was elected in 1492. Rodrigo took the name Alexander VI.

This is the same Alexander VI that declared in 1493 Spain’s exclusive right to the lands and seas west of a north-south line, Portugal claiming the rights to the east o the demarcation line. This became the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.

To keep his wealth growing, Alexander VI began to sell cardinal positions to the highest bidder, even poisoning existing cardinals to make room for more.

Ironically, Alexander VI died in 1503 by poison in a meal. He died a horrible death as recorded by his aide Johann Burchard:

“In the meantime, the body of the pope had remained for a long time, as I have described, between the railings of the high altar. During that period, the four wax candles next to it burned right down, and the complexion of the dead man became increasingly foul and black. Already by four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse, again, its face had changed to the color of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before. Later after five o’clock, the body was carried to the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre and placed in its coffin next to the wall in a corner by the altar. Six laborers or porters, making blasphemous jokes about the pope or in contempt of his corpse, together with two master carpenters, performed this task. The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and short, and so they placed the pope’s miter at his side, rolled his body up in an old carpet, and pummeled and pushed it into the coffin with their fists. No wax tapers or lights were used, and no priests or any other persons attended to his body.”

 Pope Alexander VI’s indiscretions positioned the Catholic Church for the Reformation.