Renaissance, Rebirth, Rinascimento

Florence • Commonly considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance

Here I am as the Mona Lisa. Sigh. I don’t think the mysterious smile and the intriguing eyes have quite worked in my version…

Dear Year 8 students,

The Mona Lisa • Leonardo da Vinci • Wikipedia

Right now, you are working your way through adolescence, a period when children turn into adults, become increasingly independent in thought and action, and begin to question all that they have ever been told. In a way, the Renaissance was rather like that. The word Renaissance means “rebirth”.

During the Renaissance, people began to rethink and reconsider all the ideas that had been accepted and assumed for centuries. There were new ideas in art, science, literature and other fields of human endeavour. Of course, in those days, ideas and movements did not spread with lightning speed as they do now in our intensely connected world. The ideas and the achievements of the Renaissance developed over centuries, beginning in Italy and spreading from there all over Europe.

Albrecht Dürer - Hare, 1502 - Google Art Project
Albrecht Dürer – Hare, 1502 – Google Art Project • An example of the growing interest in the natural world that developed during the Renaissance
Over a period of more than two centuries, artists gradually became more and more intrigued by the nature of human beings, human and natural beauty, anatomy and the natural world. They created art with several themes that artists would not have considered earlier: portraits of wealthy people (often clutching books to show their intelligence and education); detailed prints and paintings of plants, animals and landscapes; scenes and  buildings in which careful attention to the rules of perspective is evident. Later, artists began to paint ordinary people involved in everyday pursuits, such as children playing games or peasants at a wedding. There were still many religious paintings, but other central ideas became evident.

Many fields were affected by these new trends. Sculpture and architecture changed and developed dramatically as well. Writers began to employ their mother tongue and tell stories that revealed the lives of ordinary people. Scientists and astronomers started to question the long-accepted ideas of the Church and to base new theories on experimentation rather than on “deduction from fundamental principles”. The scientific method as we now know it was born.

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli • Wikipedia

This was certainly a time when creativity flourished, yet there was also a reaction against new ideas. Alongside those who embrace change in any historical period, there are also others who fear the effects of change on their belief systems and way of life. The leaders of the Catholic Church, for example, were deeply suspicious of many Renaissance ideas, did not allow dissection and accused scientists of heresy. For fear of scorn or punishment, Copernicus did not publish his theory about a sun-centred universe until late in his life. Galileo was accused of heresy after supporting this view of the universe and placed under house arrest for the last few years of his life. Botticelli, the artist who gave us “The Birth of Venus”, even burned some of his paintings because of his fear that they were sinful and wrong. Even within a single human being, there was sometimes a conflict between the desire for change and the fears that change brought.

All in all, this period was an absorbing and ground-breaking time.  Some people pushed forward into the future; others yearned for the old ways. 

As you grow older, your thinking will become more independent and questioning, like that of many people during the Renaissance. There may also be a small part of you that yearns for the security of childhood. During the time of upheaval and change of human history that we now call the “Renaissance”, there were also those who cast a lingering look back at the past.

All the best for next year!

Ms Green

Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance 

Handouts and Activities

Handout – Jigsaw Activity: Medieval versus Renaissance Sculpture  

This handout provides two jigsaws of a medieval sculpture, Crusader and His Wife, and the Renaissance sculpture Pietà by Michelangelo. After completing the sculpture (in pairs if you like), select which adjectives relate to each:

stiff • rigid • flowing • expressive • rounded • angular • charming • childish • realistic • moving • eye-catching • life-like • religious focus • upright composition • triangular composition

Then write a short paragraph contrasting the two sculptures. These sentence starters might help:

  • While the “Crusader and his Wife” sculpture is…, Michelangelo’s “Pietà” is…
  • In contrast to the “Pietà”, the medieval sculpture titled “Crusader and his Wife” is…
  • Whereas the “Pietà” depicts…, the medieval sculpture shows…
  • The composition of the two sculptures is different in the following ways: …
  • The clothing of Mary and Jesus in the “Pietà” is …, while the clothing of the “Crusader and his Wife” is…

♦ Quick Quiz on Renaissance Flashcards (based on Online Activity 1 below)

Online Activities

1 Flippity Flashcards | Quick Bingo

2 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 1

3 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 2

4 Searching for Alternative Monas

A Pinterest board that might inspire you 

My former students’ Mona Lisas 

Live Science website on the Mona Lisa

5 Some Great Minds of the Renaissance:

6 Other Recommended Links

7 Recommended Films

♦ Film on the Medici family and the birth of the Renaissance in Florence

Please note: There is a rather gruesome opening to this. In my experience, most students are less sensitive to blood and gore than I am, but avoid the first minute if you become faint at the sight of violence, blood or unbridled ambition.

♦ Khan Academy: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

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Medieval Siege Warfare

Dear Year 8 Students,

Imagine sitting somewhere for hours with no certainty of success and a growing sense of the ultimate futility of all your efforts. Does this sound rather like school to you?

Well actually, I’m referring to carrying out a siege of a medieval castle.

Besieging a castle was a tedious, dangerous and messy business. All too often for the attackers, their efforts were futile.

Besiegers surrounded a seemingly impregnable castle and tried to induce the inhabitants to leave their stone refuge.

No toilets in an age of dysentery…

The besieging army would therefore be out in all kinds of weather, living in close proximity without proper sanitation. They would be vulnerable to castle defenders taking potshots at them from the castle wall and they would often feel cold and hungry. If dysentery broke out in the camp, everyone would become ill. The symptoms of dysentery include watery diarrhoea and vomiting. Imagine experiencing that without a toilet in the vicinity! By all accounts, the smell of a besieging army was particularly unpleasant. All in all, the sheer monotony, along with the constant danger and the lack of comfort, would lead to a constant sense of frustration.

Meanwhile, the defenders who were holed up inside the castle might well have enough stores to sit out the siege for months. They were in a highly defensible position.

Longbow • In the Public Domain • Wikipedia • This weapon was powerful and accurate at long range. It required years of training and great strength to learn to use it. A skilled archer could shoot 12-15 arrows per minute, which may explain why the longbow is sometimes referred to as “the machine gun of the Middle Ages”.

Sieges took place quite often during the Hundred Years War (which actually refers to a series of battles over a 116-year period, between 1337 and 1453). The French knights, despite their long years of training, heavy armour and daunting warhorses, were no match for the longbow archers of England at the Battles of Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt. As defenders sought protective cover in castles, rather than riding into open battle, a kind of arms race between the architects of castles and the designers of siege engines developed. 

Battle of crecy froissart

The Battle of Crécy (English on the right) • From an illuminated manuscript of the writings of Jean Froissart [Public domain] Wikipedia

Knights did not appreciate siege warfare since it provided no opportunity to show their valour. There is nothing very heroic about sitting and waiting, whether you are defending a castle or attacking it. Increasingly, such warfare involved mercenaries and peasants who were pressed into combat.

I hope that this rather unappealing description of siege warfare makes you feel slightly better about your daily fate in the halls of learning.

Kind regards from Ms Green

Quiz: The Hundred Years War and Siege Warfare

Harder Version (also displayed below) | Easier Version

Handouts

The Hundred Years War – An Introduction

Siege Warfare – Fill the Gaps (an online quiz version of this handout is available at number 3 under “Online Activities”)

Handout to go with film: Siege: Castles at War

Photocopy from a very old textbook, “In Search of History”: “Knights are Born to Fight” and “The Knights Go to War”

Handout: Writing a structured paragraph about siege warfare

Online Activities

1 Key Vocabulary
Flashcards | Bingo Terms and Pics

2  Quiz: The Hundred Years War and Siege Warfare

3 Quiz on the Vocabulary of Siege Warfare

4 Kahoot: Play with the Class | Play Alone

Recommended Websites

Siege Warfare in Medieval Europe from Ancient History Encyclopedia

♦ Seven Ways to Win a Medieval Siege from War History Online

Recommended Videos

Secrets of the Medieval Siege

Siege: Castles at War

Fotothek df tg 0000158 Belagerung ^ Festung ^ Belagerungsmaschine

A Siege and Siege Engines • Deutsche Fotothek [Public domain] • Wikipedia

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The Mongols Attack Japan

I’m back – I hope to stay.

Dear Year 8 students, 

I hope you still remember me after my long absence on sick leave! After my emergency operation, I needed quite a long time to get back to normal. Fortunately, my organs appear to be functioning properly now – more or less. Here’s hoping they stay that way.

I hope that you have all been happy at school and have managed all the demands on your time.

The mini-unit below is about the Mongols and their attacks on Japan in the 13th century. I understand that you have already learned quite a lot about medieval Japan and these Mongol attacks with Ms Giesbrecht. Like other medieval events that we have encountered, such as the Norman Conquest and the Black Death, these two failed invasions illustrate the beliefs and mentality of the would-be conquerors and the desperate defenders.

Below, you will find some extra activities, quizzes and websites about this remarkable story, followed by a Kahoot.

Kind regards from Ms Green

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai Source: The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Public Domain via Wikipedia

Introduction

The Mongols conquered a vast empire in far less time than the Romans had required to conquer a smaller one. As a fighting force, the Mongols were efficient, ruthless, systematic and terrifying. When the leaders of a city realised that they were in line for a Mongol attack, they often surrendered meekly and began to pay tribute. This was a sensible idea, for the Mongols were tolerant towards their subjects but merciless towards their foes.

Below you will find some useful resources to help you discover what happened when the seemingly invincible Mongols attacked Japan in the thirteenth century. As the picture above suggests, it is always complicated to attack an island, especially one surrounded by potentially stormy seas. 

Handouts and Activities

Extension Task: Write a paragraph titled “The Story So Far” in which you use these key words and new vocabulary: Kublai Khan, Japanese sovereign/emperor, tribute, Mongols, Samurai, empire, code of honour, typhoon, brutal, armada.

Corresponding Task: Watch the video (Why were the Mongols so effective?) under “Recommended Videos” below and answer questions ⓐ, ⓑ and that are listed there.

Online Quizzes and Activities

(Simple multiple choice questions to help you focus on the main wording and details in the videos)

Recommended Websites

(The three handouts above are based loosely on this much longer article, along with other sources.)

Recommended Videos

ⓐ As you watch the video, write down key words. I shall do the same on the board. We shall have a quick quiz afterwards on the meaning of some words.

ⓑ The presenter lists 3 reasons why the Mongols were such successful conquerors. Write these down too. He repeats the reasons, so don’t panic if you miss them on the first run-through.
1♦ 2♦ 3♦ 

ⓒ Discussion question: Which three words would you use to sum up the Mongols and their style of conquest? (You can borrow words from the handout and the video.)

 

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