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The world has always progressed through those adventurous in spirit that were not afraid to brake barriers, to confront established rules and to keep seeking new territories, be it in the fields of science, religion, law, or the physical world. The period of Renaissance that started and flourished in Italy and then spread throughout the rest of the continent changed world views and challenged the traditional at every level. Although the Middle Ages are not considered as a period of complete regress compared to the Classic times in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, it still remains as a period when religion played the major role in the conduct of people's lives. The study of classics entered a period of hibernation until scholars revived them and thus gave a jump start to Renaissance.
Economic and political reasons contributed to the success of the first artists and scholars who found support form the wealthy Florentine bankers and other Italians that were appreciative of the new wave and eager to be declared patrons of the arts.
Reformation became the key word in Renaissance Europe and science and technology were keeping up the pace with the new refreshed spirit that came through the ages from the ancient philosophers. Humanism was the new concept that concentrated on humanity as the focal point of interest and made way for different often contradictory views to coexist. The great explorers like Magellan and Christopher Columbus embarked on journeys sponsored by kings, but led by their indestructible desire to find new ways, to bring the world the precious treasures of their own experiences in territories that were little or not know at all. Along the previous centuries the world became bigger and bigger as people moved across the land and water motivated by different reasons. The age of the great empires will make age for the age of colonialism. Columbus discovered a new vast land that is today America and although there are still controversies regarding who and what people actually first discovered this continent, it is beyond a doubt that it was Columbus who gave Europe a taste of adventure and the will to start exploring and inhabiting the vase new space of the American continent.
The development of the western civilization has relied on the bright minds who never ceased to question the obvious and the established and who kept searching for the answer to their questions even if it meant that they were to sacrifice their own lives in the process of finding the truth or a different version of it.
Thomas Moore was a man who kept pursuing the truth and always questioned himself and the way things were. His intelligence and education brought him one of the highest honors a man could have aspired to in his times: he became King Henry VIII's advisor, his ally in defending and supporting Catholicism for those like Martin Luther who were trying in their opinion to weaken the Catholic Church dividing it. In a way, the forward looking Thomas Moore was fighting a man who contradicted some of the practices of the Catholic Church that he considered opposite to the very spirit of the Christian doctrine. but, Moore was probably more concerned about the division of the Catholic Church that would bring more reasons for people to start wars than they already had. Moore was not omniscient and therefore he also made mistakes, but in the end he preferred to dye than renounce his own convictions and he did it with dignity and in a Socrates manner that rendered him the right to be valued for his thinking, political deeds and for his writings. He often doubted his own judgment, but this was in the very spirit of humanism that although placed the human being in the center, it also considered the human weaknesses of the human nature.
Moore was inspired for his book Utopia by those explorers who traveled the seas like Christopher Columbus or Magellan. Columbus could have actually have inspired More in his writing about the island of Utopia and the contact between the explorers and settlers and the indigenous population. but, even a spirit as illuminated as More's was unable to conceive how a contact between European sailors and settlers would occur with indigenous people form a far away island. The dialogues between the voice of the narrator, More and the man who recounts for him his experiences in the island of Utopia, Raphael Hythloday, reveal that Moore the author had his own doubts regarding the perfect society and the best way explorers and especially settlers should interact with the indigenous populations they discover somewhere else. but, the issue of such king of interactions remained marginal, also because by the time More was writing his book, probably the end of 1515, the first account in Europe about the new discovered world was only nine years old (Utopia, p. 8).
Adolph Caso points out in his to American and Around the World: The Logs of Christopher Columbus and of Ferdinand Magellan, that although the Italians were the first to revive the classics in the western world with such a powerful force that they started the period of renaissance that spread throughout Europe, their explorations proved to the other European powers that the world was not flat. Moreover, voyages over oceans could have not been possible without the discovery of new instrument and techniques for navigation. According to Caso, the republic of Amalfi gave the modern world three important things, the last one he enunciates being one that will mark the passage from feudalism to the modern society: "the Consuetudines Civitatis Amalfie" (the America and Around the World, p. 87), "a manner of governing through popular representation which gave rise to the various forms of modern democracy." While this last one Caso mentions as the great gift of an Italian republic to the modern world is questionable in paternity, the first two: "the compass" and the International Code for maritime activities are without a doubt two important features characterizing the new improved navigating activity that eventually allowed sailors to reach far away lands such as the American continent and to transform it for an accident into a way of expanding one horizons and territories of the old European states by keeping returning there with settlers. Eventually, economic and political reasons were the basis for the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Hollandaise governments to encourage their subjects to start colonizing the New World, but the insatiable thirst for knowledge and the bright spirit of the scientists, explorers and philosophers who dared to think and act forward made possible for them to have a new world to populate in the first place. The shameful aspects of the settlements in the new world and its exploitation are two: the extinction o the indigenous population and slavery. but, these are two features humanity can only consider, analyze and condemn, there is nothing left to do right to those who were killed by the thousands either because they happened to be different and to inhabit regions of interest to the colonists or because they provided the working force absolutely necessary to make the earth in the new world give its fruits for the newcomers and their countries of origin either from above or from within. It was a sacrifice the Africans and the Native Americans did not ask for, but nevertheless contributed to the way things are today.
Beyond any economic purposes the Spanish government has had when commissioning Christopher Columbus to set sail for the West Indies (as they all thought), Columbus' voyages could not have taken place without his insatiable will to pursue what others like Marco Polo explored long before him, by the routes indicated by Paolo Toscanelli, another great visionary who according to Caso, first draw on the map a way to reach China, other than by sailing along the cost of Africa, for example, and avoiding the Mediterranean all together (to America and Around the World, p. 90). This is the source for Columus inspiration to take up a new route, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and firmly believing that the world was round, even if the world still doubted that. The idea of a round world was not the result of the bright minds of the Renaissance, in the ancient times, Pythagoras had already formulated a theory that the world was not flat as people had believed for millennia, but it remained in the darkness of history and only the Renaissance produced a revival of such revolutionary ideas.
The place that gave birth to Renaissance is in Caso's opinion also the place that gave the world all the minds and will to start exploring. Caso calls the competition that started between the European countries that were now eager to get there first and start exploring "the race across the Atlantic Ocean" (to America and Around the World, p. 92). Amerigo Vespucci was the one hired by the Portuguese to enter the competition…[continue]
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