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Italian wealth in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was a fertile seedbed in which Renaissance civilization flowered. We have already noted how Italy led the way in the development of commercial capitalism. This flourishing economy placed in the hands of a vigorous class of self-made men sufficient wealth to give Italian civilization a gilding of luxury and display such as the Western World had not seen since the fall of Rome. [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:

Count Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (C. Scribner & Sons, 1903). This replaces text from pages 5-12 in Contemporary Civilization.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man trans. A. Robert Caponigri (1956). This replaces text from pages 27-30 in Contemporary Civilization.


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.