Historical Humanism condition of
HISTORICAL HUMANISM, conditions of From the temporal and physical points of view, the medieval pre-humanist European world was a closed environment which tended to deny the importance of the contacts with other cultures that did in fact take place. History, from the medieval point of view, is the history of sin and redemption; knowledge of other civilizations not illuminated by the grace of God holds little interest. The future simply prepares one for the Apocalypse and God’s Judgment. In the Ptolomeic conception, the Earth stands motionless at the center of the Universe. Everything is surrounded by the fixed stars, and the planetary spheres revolve under the influence of angelic powers. Above everything is the Empyrean, the throne of God, immobile motor that moves all. Social organization corresponds to the same vision: a hierarchical, hereditary structure differentiates nobles from serfs. At the vertex of the pyramid stand the Pope and the Emperor, at times allied, at others locked in fierce struggle for hierarchical per-eminence. The medieval economic regime, at least until the eleventh century, is a closed economic system based on the consumption of products at the place where they are produced. The circulation of money is scarce. Trade and commerce are slow and difficult. Europe is a landlocked continental power with the sea lanes in the hands of the Byzantines and Arabs. But the journeys of Marco Polo and his contact with the cultures and technology of the Orient; the teaching centers of Spain from which new and rediscovered knowledge is being disseminated by Jewish, Arab, and Christian teachers; the search for new trade routes to circumvent the obstacle of Byzantine-Moslem conflict; the formation of a merchant sector of rapidly growing vigor; the growth of a bourgeois citizenry that is becoming ever more powerful; and the development of more efficient political institutions such as the Italian principalities – all these developments gradually mark a profound change in the social atmosphere, and that change allows the development of the humanist attitude. It should be noted that the development of this new attitude had to undergo numerous advances and setbacks until it penetrated the general consciousness.