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The Renaissance north of the Alps was akin to the Italian Renaissance, but it appeared later and developed distinctive features of its own. It had a dual origin in infection and invention. Infection was the result of the brisk traffic of merchants, scholars, princes, soldiers, Churchmen, and artists which passed between Italy and the North, carrying tidings of the new developments in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan. In addition, northern Europeans hit on ideas of their own. Since they, like the Italians, were experiencing the growth of trade, urban life, and the centralized state, their response to these events was related to that of the Italians under similar conditions. However, Frenchmen, Germans, Netherlanders, and Englishmen worked with native materials and therefore did not reproduce the Italian scene exactly. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

Some material in the original text is restricted by copyright. Here are links to earlier editions or translations of the same material:

Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (Wilford, 1735).


This is a part of Section VI: Renaissance Humanism. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections ofIdeas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.