Politics in Minutes (2016)

Humanism and the rise of the nation state

The Renaissance marked the beginning of the end for the feudal systems of the Middle Ages. An increasingly prosperous urban population in Europe was founded on trade rather than agriculture, and with it came an intellectual revolution which threw doubt on the old certainties of religion and tradition. Scientific discoveries and the rediscovery of classical philosophical ideas contradicted religious dogma, and challenged the power of the Church and monarchs.

Humanism put Man rather than God at the centre of political thinking. Starting in 15th-century Italy, a number of republics were established, with laws and government devised by the people rather than divinely dictated. Elsewhere in Europe, other countries began to assert their independence from the Holy Roman Empire as sovereign nation states, although few opted to become republics and retained their monarchies. The traditional hierarchies of aristocracy lingered until a spirit of republicanism resurfaced during the Enlightenment.