The revolutions of the sixteenth century and their consequences
‘Renaissance’ means re-birth and is a French translation of the original Italian ‘Rinascimento’, which referred to the rebirth of classical antiquity, its language, culture and art. Whereas the development of science from Copernicus onwards should most probably be regarded as a revolution, the relationship between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is more open to discussion in the fields of historiography and political and social thought. Theoretically, the great breakthrough in European science came with the study of astronomy and the replacement of the geocentric world picture by the heliocentric one through a series of studies by scientists from Copernicus to Newton. In the sixteenth century, the religious conflict was more dramatic in France than in Germany. Germany comes into the same category, although the strength lies with the princes who had sufficient control over their territories to introduce religious reform, to some extent also to resist the central power.