First Year: The Renaissance

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci
You've heard of Leonardo da Vinci before, haven't you? Even if you haven't, you've seen this painting. You might also have seen Michelangelo's David (yeah, yeah, he's naked). Have you ever read or seen a film of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juilet"? Even if you haven't, you probably know the basic story. Do you own a telescope? Do you like learning about space? Maybe you've heard of Galileo, and I don't mean the guy in the song...

All of the above come from a particular time in History called the Renaissance (rebirth), which came at the end of the Middle Ages. You finish your First Year History course with it. The Renaissance is most associated with Italy, so you start by studying the reasons for that, and then you go on to learn about different Renaissance artists (Leonardo, Michelangelo), scientists (Galileo), writers (Shakespeare) and inventors (Gutenberg).

The Reniassance was an exciting time when people learned a lot of new things, which makes it the best chapter to end your First Year at secondary school with.

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  • What was the Renaissance?
  • Why did the Renaissance begin in Italy?
  • Changes in Art and Architecture.
  • Artists and Patrons.
  • A named Renaissance artist (Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo)
  • A named Renaissance artist from outside Italy,
  • A named Renaissance scientist.
  • A named Renaissance writer.
  • Gutenberg and the printing press.
  • Science in the Renaissance.
  • The influence of the Renaissance.

Click here for advice and tips on answering exam questions.


1. Give two reasons why the Renaissance began in Italy. (2012 HL)

2. Name one Renaissance sculptor and one of that sculptor's works. (2011 HL)

3. Mention two developments that took place in science or medicine during the Renaissance.
    (2009 HL)

4. Name two features of Renaissance architecture. (2015 HL, 2008 HL)

5. Choose one of the following terms from the Renaissance and explain it: (2012 OL)
              Patron;       Perspective;       Fresco.
6. Give one reason why the invention of the printing press was so important. (2009 OL)

7. Name one northern European artist from the Renaissance and one fact about his or her life.
    (2008 OL)


    2010 HL, Q.6A

    1.   Why were patrons so important during the Renaissance? (2)

    2.   Name two important patrons of the arts in Italy during the Renaissance. (2)

    3.   Mention three changes that took place in painting during the Renaissance. (2x3)

    4.   Write an account of the main developments in two of the following areas during the Renaissance:
          (a) Architecture.
          (b) Science and medicine.
          (c) Sculpture.
          (d) Printing.                                                                                       (10x2)


    Michelangelo, Durer, Shakespeare, Gutenberg and Galileo...
    some of the many people you can learn about in the Renaissance.
    Just like the Middle Ages chapter, the Renaissance has a few People in History for you to learn. You must learn about an Italian artist, an artist from northern Europe, a scientist and a writer.

    Click on the links below to get the one you want. Each of them can appear in Higher or Ordinary Level.

    A named Renaissance artist from Italy (2015 OL, 2010 OL, 2007 HL)

    A named Renaissance artist from outside Italy (2012 HL, 2009 HL)

    A named Renaissance scientist (2015 HL)

    A named Renaissance writer (2015 HL)

    The Renaissance
    This site has information on the Renaissance and how it spread through different parts of Europe.

    The Renaissance Connection
    Learn more about how artists trained and the kind of work patrons did with this interactive site.

    Everything you wanted to know about Michelangelo Ludovico di Buonarotti Simoni.

    Leonardo da Vinci
    This site has a lot of information on Leonardo's ideas for inventions and science, as well as his art work.

    Albrecht Durer
    A biography of Durer.

    Galileo Galilei
    This site has a long biography of Galileo, with a list of his many discoveries.

    The Earth and Beyond
    Learn more about how the Sun and the planets move with this interactive site. (good for Science too!)

    The Revolution of the Earth
    This site is the same as the last one, but with more detail and images.

    The Gutenberg Press in Action (YouTube)
    An American historian demonstrates how the printing press works in this video.

    Folger Shakespeare Library
    This site has facts, quizzes and puzzles on Shakespeare.

    Tales From Shakespeare
    This site has Shakespeare's plays in a simplified, easy-to-understand form so that you can read them and understand the stories. It could be good practice for 2nd and 3rd year English!