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Considerations and thoughts*

The plague had created the Renaissance. Will the coronavirus pandemic take humanity to the next level?

Uri Mazltov
Март 2023
Опубликовано 2023-03-12 14:00 , обновлено 2023-03-12 14:17


Liberated eroticism became one
of the challenges of the Renaissance to the dogmatism
of the Middle Ages. Advertising postcard
of second-hand bookshop
Maria Chapkina, Moscow
Humanity, proud of the achievements of medicine, relying on them, is trying to get out of the coronavirus epidemic without changing. Desire to the brink of insanity. The founder and longtime president of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Klaus Schwab, proclaimed: “The pandemic offers a rare and narrow window of opportunity to reflect, rethink and reset the world we live in.” As it happened during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance as a reaction to the plague pandemic.


In 1347, the plague came to Europe. In seven months, the Black Death wiped out 45% of the population of England. In Florence, even more died from the epidemic - only 20% of Florentines survived. Of course, the medicine of that time cannot be compared with the pharmacology of the 21st century. However, humanity did not follow the calls of church dogmatists, who saw salvation from the plague in repentance and torment of "disgusting humanity worthy of hell." New leaders appeared (writers, painters, philosophers, rulers and bankers) who saw a way out in liberation from the shackles of dogmatism and in the liberation of the spirit. Starting with erotica. It was the easiest way to free it from prohibitions, since it did not require any investments or revolutions. One of the heralds of a new understanding of man was Boccaccio, who wrote the Decameron in 1350-1353,

The revolution in the economy in the era of the ongoing pandemic that wandered from city to city occurred immediately after the sexual revolution. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was forbidden for Christians to give money, receiving a percentage of interest (in accordance with the prohibition of usury in Holy Scripture). The only ones who were allowed to be usurers were the Jews. But no economy could function without lending money. The Church used bank usury, first allowed to Christians after the start of the Great Pandemic, by default. Hence the omnipotence of the Medici bank, which collected church tithes for Rome from all over Europe.

Following the revolution in giving loans at interest, the time has come for technological revolutions. The invention of the pocket watch in the early 16th century made it possible to turn what was considered divine time into something you could put in your pocket. Thanks to the pocket watch, it became possible not only to determine the movement of the planets in space and time (without which there would be neither Copernicus nor Kepler), but also to make business appointments at a certain time.

The invention of printing by Gutenberg in 1450 is considered the most significant invention of the millennium. If the cost of a handwritten book was comparable to the cost of a country house, the cost of a printed book decreased hundreds of times. Without printing, Protestantism, with its declaration of direct interaction between God and man, could not have spread rapidly throughout Europe.

An equally important consequence of printing was the mass production of "leaflets", that is, pages with drawings and text that could be handed to passers-by, sold or hung on the wall (the latter was done by Luther, thus publishing leaflets with 95 theses against indulgences).

Slightly less important was the creation of the mirror by the Venetians. As a result, it became possible to create self-portraits. The man, seeing himself, began to treat himself more respectfully. Shoulders were straightened, humility ceased to be a virtue. Together with earthly joys, a dynamic life and new technologies, a man of the New Age was born. Not only as a result of the plague, but also under the undoubted influence of this disaster.

The next not only great scientist, but also the greatest inventor and the first popularizer of modern science, who lived in the conditions of an ongoing pandemic, was Galileo. He improved the telescope so much that he was the first to see not only the rings of Saturn, but also the moons of Jupiter. For the first time it was proved that the satellite can be not only near the planet Earth. After that, the acceptance of the theory of Copernicus became absolutely natural for the great Florentine.

In addition, Galileo demonstrated the law he discovered, according to which all bodies fall with the same acceleration - according to legend, throwing cannonballs and bullets from the inclined Leaning Tower of Pisa. But in reality, rolling balls of different weights from an inclined plane - which was clearer and safer. Galileo also discovered the law of oscillation of a mechanical pendulum, according to which the period of oscillation of a pendulum is proportional to the square root of its length. Based on this experimentally established law, Galileo invented the pendulum clock, which became widespread in the following centuries.

Thanks to the improvement of sailboats, Columbus was able to cross the Atlantic and discover America, and Magellan was able to circumnavigate the globe. However, the construction of the ship was slow, because the logs had to be sawn with a two-handled saw. The leadership in navigation passed from Spain and Portugal to Holland after Cornelis Cornelisson, the owner of several mills near Amsterdam, invented the crankshaft in 1593, realizing that wind energy could be used to cut boards.

In the crankshaft, with the help of a crank mechanism, the movement in a circle is converted into reciprocating. This made it possible to cut boards 30 times faster than with a two-handed saw, and, therefore, building ships is much cheaper. (The reverse transformation - reciprocating to rotational motion using a crank mechanism - was not used until two centuries later, when Stephenson invented the steam locomotive.) So the invention, not military conquest, allowed Amsterdam to squeeze the Portuguese in the spice trade with Southeast Asia and compete with the Spaniards on the American continent, becoming the city-empire, the most powerful in the world for 100 years, until it was replaced by London.

The plague, which came to Amsterdam in 1663, stopped its prosperity for only a few years. Just like the Great Plague that came to London two years later.

The epidemic could come to any city at any moment (just like the coronavirus epidemic in 2020). But unlike the Europeans and Americans of the era of mobile communications, no one complained about quarantines, considering them a natural part of life. Titian and Rubens found themselves in quarantine many times, but this did not affect their cheerful painting. Having retired outside the city (those who had such an opportunity) continued to enjoy the joys of being described in the Decameron.

As soon as it was announced that the quarantine was lifted, the population resumed collective and individual pleasures in the cities: carnivals in Venice, holidays in Paris and London ... In Florence, opera is invented, in France (by the way, on the initiative of Catherine de Medici, who went down in history as a poisoner) - ballet. The theater, which had been banned in Europe since the time of Theodosius the Great, that is, for a thousand years (only jugglers, acrobats, dancers were allowed in the performances of itinerant artists, and jesters at royal courts), flourished in Elizabethan England, in Spain and in France.

The plague put an end to the orders, prohibitions and rules of the Middle Ages, which, left without a fundamental change, could destroy all of humanity. A good example is the Scandinavian countries: Norway, Sweden, and also Denmark - the countries of the descendants of the Vikings, which have become almost deserted.

The revival has transformed Christendom as directed by World Economic Forum President Klaus Schwab, if he lived not in the 21st century, but seven centuries earlier. Let's hope that humanity in the era of the Internet, television and coronavirus will be no more stupid than the ancestors who inhabited Europe in the era of the Great Plague.

At a time when we hope to overcome the coronavirus epidemic with the help of vaccines, while not wanting to radically change the established customs and structures, it seems reasonable and timely to moderate our pride and look at how humanity acted during pandemics in the past. The example of the emergence of the Renaissance, which was largely determined by the plague, can inspire us to such behavior. 


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