Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Between the end of the High Middle Ages (about 1350) and the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the character of Western Civilization was profoundly altered. Earlier chapters have already told how most institutions and values characteristic of the High Middle Ages began to disintegrate. Meanwhile, other institutions and ideas, many of which we think of as modern, gradually came to the fore. The intensification of this process of transition from medieval to modern is called the Renaissance. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section VI: Renaissance Humanism. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas 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.