Transformation Archetypes — Part 2
A confluence of forces also led to the Renaissance, the highly creative period between the Middle Ages and the Modern Era that began in Tuscany in Florence in the 14th Century. The origins of the Renaissance are often traced to the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), and the art of Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and many others. The Renaissance, as well as humanism, led to the Reformation and Luther’s “95 Theses” in 1517. The Age of Enlightenment followed the Renaissance and is often dated from Rene Descartes (1596-1650) seminal writings to the French Revolution in 1789.
Why did the Renaissance happen and why did it happen in Italy? As with the transformation of New England, it was a confluence of forces. I will discuss these forces and the key players in Part 3 of this discussion of archetypes. At this point, let’s just address the question, “Why Italy?” The answer is that the unique political structure of Italian city-states provided a fertile social climate for change. Monarchs ruled England, France, and Spain. Germany did not yet exist. To the east, the Ottomans were in power. In contrast, the Italian city-states were all about commerce and skilled artisans had some say in what happened.
It seems to me that transformation requires a fertile social climate for fundamental change to be entertained and pursued. Conservative, centrally managed cultures focus on preserving the status quo, not seeking fundamental change. Creativity blossoms in places where it is valued and supported. Creative inventions are more likely to become market innovations when there are lots of blossoms and many bees who are convinced they can and will succeed.
Here are my favorite books on the Italy and the Renaissance. King (2007) and Strathern (2009) were key to my thoughts on the Renaissance as a transformation archetype. The books on Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and Michelangelo provide fascinating views of these creative geniuses. Preston and Spezi (2008) is set in contemporary Florence and therefore is fairly tangential — but it is a great read.
Capra, F. (2007). The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance. New York: Doubleday.
King, R. (2001). Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. New York: Penguin.
King, R. (2003). Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. New York: Penguin.
King, R. (2007). Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power. New York: Harper.
Preston, D. & Spezi, M. (2008). The Monster of Florence. New York: Grand Central Publishing.
Strathern, P. (2009). The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped. New York: Harper.