Table of Contents
by T. G. Standing, M.A.(Oxow.), Former Exhibitioner of New College, Oxford
HUMAN history has, so far, been a continuous process , change has never ceased, and it is unwise to say, for instance: " In 1485 English mediaeval history ends and modern history begins." Still, between the middle of the fifteenth century and the middle of the sixteenth century (say 1453-1555) an epoch slowly passed away and a new one grew into its place. Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian sailors traced the coasts of Africa and a new continent, America, and traded with India and China. Books were printed in thousands where once they had been painfully copied in twos and threes. The art of warfare was complicated by grimy mechanics who operated tubular instruments from which missiles were shot with much risk to the gunner. North-Western Europe was filled with religious enthusiasts who claimed independence of the Pope and professed novel views of ritual and the way to salvation. A very large number of the monasteries which formerly had been local centres of cultured leisure, education, and charity, were quite destroyed and lay adventurers took their estates. Many laymen learnt more Latin than priests had formerly known: there were men who learnt a great deal of Greek. Law was modified by experts who considered the Roman code of Justinian to be the ideal legal system.
It was impossible for any European who could compare the two periods to doubt that his world in 1550 was a different place from the world of 1450, and on the whole more exciting. Men were beginning to believe in progress. That belief, among other things, differentiates us from our mediaeval ancestors.