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The Historical Development of the Humanities from the Pre-Historic Era to the Present

Updated on December 28, 2018
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Jeff Zod is an avid reader, writer and researcher. He enjoys exploring new and old concepts.

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The Historical Development of the Humanities from the Pre-Historic Era to the Present

Humanities can be defined as a group of extensive disciplines including philosophy, arts, history, art criticism, film studies, music, and photography. Generally, humanities can be considered to involve the study of literature, classics, and art history. The first definition of humanities appeared in 1702 and was referred to as the activity of the humanist.

Today, humanities can be defined as an institutional tool used to acquire knowledge. Notably, this knowledge is rather a forceful ideology consisting of varying connotations in various historical eras shaped by different forces although they have a similar attempt to humanize man.

The first phase of the development of humanities is known as medieval. The medieval stage took place in the 12th and 13th century. During this period, the humanities mainly meant theology and philosophy. Notably, theology was the most prestigious study area.

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The second phase is the Late Middle Ages (LMA). This is the period when Heresies aroused. Basically, this was the period when skepticism began and people began getting dissatisfied with the church as an institution. Moreover, this period dated the starting point of humanism. Protagoras defined man as the measure of all the things.

The next stage was the renaissance. During this period, the humanities involved disciplines that would trigger man into getting richer and more meaningful. The languages of Rome and Greece, philosophy, music, and fine arts arose during this time. Renaissance man acquired knowledge and skills in diverse arts. However, these arts were not recognized by the church. The universal man also improved in diverse fields including arts and sciences.

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In the 16th century (by 1535), the study of literae humaniores, the greats, became the head of all the artwork. In addition, humanities became the key to the history, mind, and thoughts of the civilized man in the 19th century.

In recent years, there has been a wave of neglect of humanities. This is as a result of an industrial revolution which has led to nations competing on technology. However, new academic disciplines have continued to rise due to new social realities put in place. The field of humanities has also become increasingly interdisciplinary and highly theoretically pluralist.

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There are four major cultural developments of humanities in the historical eras. They include Classical, Renaissance, medieval, and modern cultures. Each of these cultures has been extensively discussed below:

Classical Era culture

The ancient Greek civilization created classics in the creative aspects including visual arts, architecture, philosophy, literature, and music. The classical aspects emphasized the principles and attitudes of balance, harmony, moderation, clarity, and regularity. The foundation for Classicism was first laid during the Bronze Age by the maritime civilizations. The Greek civilization was then brought into the Golden Age by the Athens. Over time, Alexander the Great spread the Greek's Classical creativity to most of the civilization and acquired the name Hellenistic.

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The classical style was preserved by the Romans as they added emergent aesthetic principles which later became the Neoclassical Age. During this period, the Greek drama comprised of theatrical performances that took place twice each year in form of a play. Dramatizing sacred ceremonies was believed to result in favorable outcomes during the times of farming, community survival, and war. The Hellenistic civilization ended while the Classical Age prevailed in the form of poetry, music, visual arts, drama, and philosophy. This has continued to inspire humanities in the present life.

Medieval Era Culture

This culture was considered a classical understanding of renaissance since it was challenged by the influence of Islamic, Judaism, and Christianity. The three religions had their faith-based in a belief in the revelation which was basically the sacred knowledge disclosure. They held on to the idea that a Supreme Being passed to humankind a set of holy injunctions through a prophet. The Roman Empire also fell apart becoming the present day Europe. Most of the Christians' practices and laws were established during this age.

A significant number of individuals believed in the teachings and life of Jesus that encouraged them to become the followers of Christ. There arose a tension between Christianity and the Roman state where they fought over attaining authority. These conflicts continued until the 16th century after which Europe realized there was the need to separate the church and the state as well as their governing roles. This has brought impact to the daily life because up to date both the state and the church are governed by different rules.

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Renaissance Era Culture

During the 15th and 16th century, there was a close connection between the Reformation and the Renaissance in Northern Europe. Contrary to the Greco-Roman culture, during the Renaissance period, the Reformation was motivated by religious beliefs that inspired music, art, and literature. Literature celebrity in England under the rule of Queen Elizabeth 1 in the 16th century was William Shakespeare.

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Shakespeare's work was of a significant influence on the evolution of the language of English as well as the development of the Western literary tradition. One of the most quoted plays globally was Hamlet that was based on a story of tragedy and revenge. One of the most popular lines in this play was, " To be, or not to be, that is the question." This line has always influenced and continued to influence the thoughts of many individuals in the present and future generations.

Desiderius Erasmus, who was a Dutch scholar, with his vital works of translating the New Testament to Greek has led to religious revolution. As a result, this has led to disposing of radical components in present-day life.

Modern Era Culture

Modern Era culture was necessitated by the progress of reformation from the ancient civilization. As a result, enlightenment to further push the idea of analytics and intellect was introduced. The most influential in this era were Montesquieu and Immanuel Kant. According to Kant, the human mind is in a position to reason depending on the human experience as the source of such reasoning is moral values.

Charles Louis, Montesquieu, condemned slavery and defended liberty. He politically proposed the separation of powers between judicial, executive and legislative agencies. Up to date, each of these agencies plays different duties hence an impact that the modern era culture as on the today's daily life.

© 2018 Jeff Zod

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      17 months ago from UK

      There are some quite complex sentence structures here. You might want to consider offering a little more explanation so that your article will appeal to a broader readership.

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