Martin Luther is known to be the most prominent figure in the Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther was a priest and professor of theology in the sixteenth century who fought to correct the misleading beliefs of Christianity. Luther was very strict with his view about how the Bible was the only source of divinely revealed knowledge by God and execrated the Church for its erroneous practices. Two primary sources that I believe strongly appeal to his beliefs are his “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” and Lucas Cranach’s piece on “The Contrast between Christ’s True Religion and the False Idolatry of the Antichrist.” Both of these sources are different in many ways, including background and material, but merge together in purpose.

Luther long saw the corruption of the Church emerging. The Catholic Church was the only form of Christianity at the time and Luther witnessed its slow deterioration. The Church had its hands in with politics, civic matters and religion. Over the course of time it became apparent that the Church let these coincide and influence bias decisions with the motives of wealth and power. Luther emphasized strongly on two main points throughout his whole reformation rant. These were called, Sola Fide (Justification is reached by faith alone) and Sola Scriptura (The Bible is the only religious text). These two were main differences between Luther’s view and that of the Roman Catholic Church.
Before the creation of both pieces, Pope Leo X was running a campaign to finance the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Pope authorized Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest, to sell pardons for sins to raise money. This took Luther over the edge and drove him to his posting of the 95 Theses. Luther was strongly against the selling of indulgences to relieve sin. He believed one must only repent their sin before they can confess a sin. Being able to purchase forgiveness defeated the whole purpose of faith. Luther believed that salvation can be reached by faith alone. It is important to know that the purpose of the Pamphlet was not to start a dispute but to stop the Church from making a profit off of forgiveness.
What Luther did was not historical; though when the piece was taken off the door and printed/spread all over the city/surrounding cities a historical revolution was sparked. The piece was printed at the perfect timing. The church was on the verge of division but nobody was brave enough to break away or to say something. Luther had kept quiet for so long avoiding dispute but with the beginning of “indulgence purchasing” Luther’s last straw was driven. Luther watched tons of people, even those who could barely afford to put clothes on their back, pay the church to receive forgiveness. They were basically giving away their last penny for nothing but to help the church live lavishly. Luther wanted to stop the absurdity and really teach the truth.
Luther’s famously known “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (95 Theses) was a written pamphlet containing 95 propositions that he believed should be argued against the church. Luther hung these propositions on the church door in Wittenberg, Saxony on October 31, 1517 in Latin for other scholars to read and contemplate until a mass meeting was organized. It was rumored that the pamphlet may have been nailed to the door but with Martin’s intention of keeping it in Latin to avoid an outburst it is very unlikely he would do something so outrageous. Luther did not want to stir the pot or create a scene, he simply did not agree with the church and wanted to bring its actions into conversation. One could tell by looking at the piece that Luther wasn’t playing games. He wasn’t looking to start trouble although he wasn’t stirring away from it either. He was very blunt and strait to the point naming every detail that he did not agree with nor felt riotous.


Rather than a full on attack the Catholic Church, Luther’s 95 Theses sole purpose seems to be to explain the truth of God and Christianity as well as the truth behind why the Church claims to be able to do such a deed. In the piece Luther explains that the Pope does not hold the power to remit any penalties other than his own. He explains that all of the Pope’s doings is not to help the people but to help himself and the wealth of the Church. Luther also explains that the Church manipulates the word of God. The Church explains that forgiveness must be bought or earned by good deeds and Luther shoots this down saying that any true Christian can reach forgiveness without such action. He also denotes the Church, saying that any true Christian can be a priest as long as they strictly follow the word of God. This source tells a lot about the period and context in which it was produced. One can see how Christians were being guided in the wrong direction, abused and manipulated. One can only imagine how powerful and wealthy the church was after all the selling of indulgences. Also one can really grasp what the influence of the Church had on the people. Poverty probably reached incredible heights and crime levels could have erupted as well when people thought they could be so easily forgiven. It is mostly clear just how influential and important religion was in this period.

Since somebody took the Pamphlet of theses off of the door and spread them all over it is quite obvious how the source reached us today. There are thousands of copies all over the world and web. In 15 17 Frederick III of Saxony held the greatest collection of holy relics. It was believed that he was trading copies to outsiders for goods. This could have also hugely influenced the widespread. With the text becoming so popular in the 16th century and to the reformation of religion one could hypothesize that scholars, professors, museums etc. from all around the globe, more than likely collected copies and exhibited them which seemed to have carried the piece throughout history all the way until today. Luther successfully used the power of the printing press and commerce to spread his ideas. I personally found several copies in the library of the college, in several local libraries and presented in many online web pages.

The Contrast Piece is what known as a Woodcut or (xylography). This is a type of artistic printing which involves wood carving. Artist would carve pictures into a thin layer of wood and ink over top of it creating a pretty magnificent form of art. The Contrast Woodcut happens to be one Lucas Cranach the Younger’s most famous because of its insane detail and its stunning depiction of what religion under Christ’s true words would be like and how Religion is with the Catholic Church as the head.

Luther after the posting of the 95 Theses gained many followers and continued to mainstream his purpose and beliefs. While preaching Sermons and writing documents Luther continued his teachings of ‘True Religion’ and his arguments against the Church. Luther took his views of the literal bible even farther than naming it the only religious word. He then explained that if the Bible is the word of Christ than any who go against the bible or believe otherwise are Anti-Christ. This theory blatantly scolds the Catholic Church and portrays then the leader of the church, the Pope, as the Devil (Leader of Hell.) The Contrast Piece portrays a spectrum in which beauty and just are at the ‘True Religion’ end and Terror/exile are at the end where the Church leads. The woodcut displays religion influenced by the Pope having no souls in heaven due to false faith and complete chaos on earth with God looking down with disgust along with Luther, the only true believer. The side of the painting with true Christianity shows heaven filled with resting souls, peace and love on earth and people reaching out to learn more and gain faith. This theme thus depicts what Christianity is truly about, which is more of a relationship rather than a religious practice. Instead of having deeds that one should or should not do, Christianity is about a close relationship with God.
The piece was created in 1544 in the mist of all of the drama. The Pope had already been put on blast and seen for what he really was, blasphemous. Cranach was a loyal follower and friend of Luther which shows some bias towards his work. Although he was very well known for his honesty in his work. As you see in the piece, Cranach did not fabricate anything nor make any aspect look too good or too malicious. He painted exactly what was happening during the reformation and what was ‘believed’ to happen if the Church was to be in charge.
The piece has survived centuries and is exhibited in Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin at the State Museums for Prussian Cultural Heritage. I searched to find how it has been preserved and how it reached the museum but came up short with detail. (I did however email the head of the museum and am currently waiting for more information on the piece.) I do know by looking through the museum cite that the objects in the collections are preserved, safeguarded and recorded digitally.
Both of these pieces of work are huge contributors to teaching and keeping alive the history of the Reformation. Now a days Christianity is derived of 10 main sects. In the 16th century there was just the Catholic Church. Without art such as these sources, individuals would only be able to imagine how this division came about and what the world had went through. These pieces of art are extremely important pieces of history and a part of life that influences millions of individuals in today’s society.

Luther, Martin. Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. Wittenberg: Guttenberg Printing, 1517. Print. The 95 Theses.
Oberman, Heiko Augustinus. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989. Print. ‘The Contrast between Christ’s True Religion and the False Idolatry of the Antichrist.’

With the fall of Napoleon’s conquest and the rise of industrialization, Europe in the 1800s underwent a massive change that challenged the norms and traditions that had persisted for generations.  Europe’s rapid modernization brought along revolutionary thoughts and actions that shaped the world as it is today.  Oscar Wilde’s comedy The Importance of Being Earnest is one example, which underlines the flaws in England’s late Victorian Era.  Another example is Richard Strauss’ composition of Also Sprach Zarathustra, an orchestral piece based of the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  The Importance of Being Earnest and Also Sprach Zarathustra are important works in the 19th century because they paved the way for future controversial thought.

Well before the Napoleonic Wars, late 1700’s England had already begun fulfilling the requirements to be industrialized.  Far ahead of other nations, England was the first to set the standard of modern power, influence, and culture.  As the British Empire dominated the world, it also went through a “second English Renaissance,” in which a complex society developed and became known as the Victorian era.[1]  The Victorian era lasted almost 70 years under the reign of Queen Victoria and symbolizes power, wealth, and peace.  One of the works that came from this culture is The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy written by Oscar Wilde, a well-known playwright during the late 1800’s.

The Importance of Being Earnest is considered Wilde’s masterpiece and is widely known to this day.  Earnest was an immediate success when it opened, but quickly began suffering from Wilde’s arrest and imprisonment for homosexuality, and was soon discontinued.  The play was eventually brought back several years later where it regained popularity, and was performed frequently around the western world.  With the invention of film, the play has also been adapted to movies, all of which have been successful.[2]  Despite its popularity, the only version of Earnest I could find in Simpson Library was in an entire collection of Wilde’s work; I could not find the individual play.[3]

The Importance of Being Earnest is a satirical play that looks at the complex and paradoxical aspects in Victorian society.  The most important of these aspects is the concept of marriage.  Jack, the protagonist, wishes to marry his beloved Gwendolen, but must reach all of the requirements to do so.  Although Jack has the right money, education, and social status to marry, he was a ward of a now deceased man who found infant Jack in a handbag at the train station.  Without any respectable form of heritage or inheritance, Jack is turned down at the prospect.  The theme of the play shows how important heritage meant to Victorian society.  Without heritage, one cannot obtain respect because they cannot claim the importance or history of the deeds their family had accomplished for the good of society.  The wealth and power an individual obtains does not match the name of a well-respected family.  Those without noticeable heritage were locked into their positions, and were limited on what they could accomplish.             Another important theme of Earnest is the display of intelligence and power; or as Wilde presents it, the lack thereof.  Rather than science or history, Wilde suggests that wit and cleverness is essential for high-class Victorians to master.  Characters frequently make statements that contradict rational thought for the purpose of furthering their own motives, and formal education is almost completely disregarded.  Cecily, Jack’s own ward, is praised several times for ignoring her studies to pursue her own idealistic fantasies, and is even applauded by Jack!  At the same time, wealth is also best displayed by showing none of it.  The character Algernon, the “exemplarily” Victorian man, shows his power through his constant hunger and unmatched wit.  Algernon’s only power is his heritage, which allows him to lead his life of luxury.  Even his Aunt Augusta acknowledges his position: “He has nothing, but he looks everything.  What more can one desire?”[4]  The only wealth that mattered to Victorian society was the wealth that a name carried.

As the world sped up from industrialization, new beliefs and ideologies had to develop as well.  By the 1840’s, every Western European nation was taking the benefits of technology to the extreme at the cost of the workers.  Tension built up between the working and upper classes, and began resolving in 1848, after the publication of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, popularizing socialism and communism.  Only 11 years later, Charles Darwin stunned the world with On the Origin of Species.  It was the first piece of scientific literature that gave an explanation on why humans exist.  Finally, in 1883, Friedrich Nietzsche published Also Sprach Zarathustra, in which he proclaimed that God is dead and the dawn of the übermensch (superman) is upon humanity.  Nietzsche argued that with the modernization of the world and improvement in science, the reason for God’s existence no longer serves to explain the unknown to humanity, and those who will be the first to lead mankind after this realization will be the übermensch.  Nietzsche was influential enough to have his ideology adapted to various forms of art, with one musical piece being particularly noteworthy.

In 1895, German musician Richard Strauss composed a tone poem inspired by Nietzsche’s work.  He titled it after the same name, Also Sprach Zarathustra, and has been considered a classical piece since its first performance.  While mostly unknown to many, Also Sprach Zarathustra reached its height upon the release of the popular science-fantasy film   2001: A Space Odyssey, where the introduction of the song was played during the first few minutes.

Strauss strived to match the same tones and emotions as Nietzsche has with his book.  The plot of Also Sprach Zarathustra is that an enlightened man called Zarathustra descends from the mountains to human kind of God’s death.  The novel has nine major parts, and the song has nine sections.  The introduction features lots of brass instruments and heavy drums, signaling a triumphant return.  It symbolizes Zarathustra’s descent, and that the world is about to learn the ultimate truth.  The rest of the song never again reaches the splendor of the beginning, rises and falls with rebirth, freedom, and grief.  It conveys the rejection that people take towards such radical beliefs, but also the fear of isolation.  There are times of anger, but it never reaches a point of total chaos.  The tone poem ends similarly to a lullaby, with the final note being repeated multiple times.  It helps to convey the end of a long night under the illusion of God, and that tomorrow brings a better future.  These are the impressions I felt from the piece, but I think there must have been lots of people who felt the same when Strauss first performed it.  With so many explanations and the rapid pace of industrialized society, many people simply didn’t have the time for God.  They were scared and unsure what the death of God meant, but it was time to move on.

Along with the struggle of industrialization, new beliefs and societies were born in Europe.  In England, an entirely new society was created under a single monarch.  Though the Victorian era was more polite and complex than he portrayed it, Oscar Wilde revealed some of the strange and paradoxical aspects of the society.  In the rest of Europe, as humanity realized their freedom and isolation from a god, Richard Strauss’ music helped convey the fear and hope of these people.  While these two sources are unrelated to each other, both The Importance of Being Earnest and Also Sprach Zarathustra were important works of art that helped lead the way to an era of free, progressive thought.

[1] George P. Landow, “Victorian and Victorianism,” The Victorian Web, last modified August 2, 2009, accessed November 22, 2015.

[2] “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Wikipedia, accessed November 22, 2015.

[3] Wilde, Oscar. Collins Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: (Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1999), pages 356 – 419.

[4] Wilde, Oscar. Collins Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: (Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1999), page 410.

When analyzing texts and illustrations of William Harvey, a scientific thinker critical in the progression of human understanding of anatomy, it may be easy to gloss over the detail and meaning within his illustrations. Humans of the information age have likely seen diagrams of the various organ systems and structures within the human body several times over, and are thus trained to discern any detail or significance from such depictions. However, to imagine these illustrations as a ground-breaking science is imperative to uncover the true discovery and brilliance William Harvey and other anatomists of the time.






Figure 1 displays Harvey’s understanding of the location of veins and arteries along the respective muscles. The key detail to point out is the recognition that blood not only flows to the extremities, but it also cycles back to the heart through the veins. Again, this is no revolutionary explanation to a person of the 21st century, but to Harvey’s peers, this realization was monumental in understanding the cardiovascular system.


Figure 2 further demonstrates Harvey’s detail to the cardiovascular system, visualizing the veins as if it were a branching system extending from the heart.



Finally, figure 3 displays the most detailed of Harvey’s illustrations of the heart. Although these depictions have yet to dissect and analyze the inner chambers of the heart (ventricles and atria), it does show light on Harvey’s understanding of the veins and arteries running along the heart, as well as detailed depictions of the aorta and vena cava; the largest cavities leading to and from the heart.




An Italian-born mathematician, biologist, and astronomer, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679), also known as the father of biomechanics, is often underappreciated in the conversation of significant men of learning during the Scientific Revolution. Like many of the historic philosophers and scientists of his time, Borelli focused on a wide spread of sciences and questions; a stark contrast to the highly-specialized fields of science today. Borelli did not have the luxuries to exhaust years of research and resources on a single topic, which would lead to a revolutionary answer to an already well-understood topic. He additionally neither had expansive archives of previous research and answers to work from, nor the incredible network of communication enjoyed today. No, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli made outstandingly influential discoveries across many fields, using literature only readily available to him, countless hours of observation through a microscope; over many sleepless nights aided only by candlelight. One could write essays upon essays unravelling the extensive research and discoveries made by Borelli over his academic career; however, his most influential and detailed discoveries were made in the fields of biology and more specifically anatomy. Aided by the most rudimentary microscopes, Borelli was able to lay out specific actions of muscles both in humans and in animals, identify and define the constituents of blood, make interesting comparisons between the reproductive and nervous systems, and finally propose machines for exploring and investigating the underwater world. A majority of these discoveries were made in his most influential work, De Motu Animalium, meaning “On the Movement of Animals.”

Most certainly giving credit to Aristotle’s ancient work of the same name, De Motu Animalium was divided into two volumes, covering such expansive biological concepts of muscular action, physical and mathematical equations for movement, cellular structure and function, organ system functions, and finally early ideas for submarine exploration. Before one analyzes and recognizes the influences of each of these topics in more detail, let us first analyze Aristotle’s work of the same name, and later make comparisons about Borelli’s corrections and revisions to the foundations of biomechanics. Written in approximately 350 BCE, Aristotle’s “On the Motion of Animals” approached the questions of biomechanics more philosophically and logically rather than Borelli’s later techniques of extensive mathematics, physics, and observations. Primarily, Aristotle noted that “each animal as a whole must have within itself a point at rest, whence will be the origin of that which is moved, and supporting itself upon which it will be moved both as a complete whole and in its members” (Farquhason 1). Through logic and reasoning alone, Aristotle laid the foundation for the actions of muscles later described by Borelli; effectively recognizing how muscles theoretically function. Muscles may have only one action, one direction of movement. There is one insertion point and one origin point. Muscles act to pull the insertion towards the origin, and this process in perfect harmony throughout the body provides movement in skeletal muscles, as well as subconscious processes of cardiac and smooth muscles. Today, this knowledge is taught in any entry-level anatomy course. But imagine the academic atmospheres of 350 BCE, and later 1670 CE; times of great philosophical controversy and conflict between scholars and the Catholic Church. Observation, logic, and research of the natural world, against the word of God, was mocked and punished in almost all societies. For many the only sanctuary for such ideas was within a text. In addition to the ideals of the scientific method and processes of observation, Borelli shared another trait with most thinkers of his time; his greatest (and most controversial) work was published posthumously. Such ideas of simple actions of muscles generating movement and life among both animals and humans challenged fundamental beliefs of life and soul; two topics most revered by the Catholic Church. Where Aristotle struggled with logic and reasoning in scientific subjects hardly touched by higher thought, Borelli, nearly 2000 years later, struggled with a combative and antagonistic society solidified in conservative thought. Nevertheless, Borelli could not deny his observations and conclusions, many of which could not have been reached without the foundation laid out by Aristotle.

Despite Aristotle’s contributions to the topics of anatomy and biomechanics, many questions still remained. What drove the actions of muscles? What were muscles made of? How do all the muscles of an organism coordinate in such magnificent harmony? Giovanni Alfonso Borelli had these answers. Furthering biomechanics more than any thinker up to his time, Borelli specifically described how muscular action may only contract or rest. Muscles are incapable of stretching, sliding, twisting, etc. This fundamental definition of muscular action is true today, and may stand-alone be the greatest of Borelli’s contributions. Most controversial was Borelli’s conclusion that organismal movement what derived materially; that the nervous system communicated and affected action from the muscular system (Borelli 4). Although seemingly obvious and intuitive today, this was an enormous conclusion given the society and power of the Catholic Church during the 17th century. With his research and comparisons between human and animal muscular systems, Borelli was effectively denying a greater presence or agent which affects the movement of the natural world. Although not specifically proclaimed in De Motu Animalium, one can easily see the foundation for very secular conclusions in respect to the natural world.

With Borelli’s concepts of movement, perhaps humans and animals moved alike? Perhaps there is no immaterial cause for action, perhaps it is instead natural processes of an intricate nervous system. These are monumental positions that likely could’ve had Borelli killed by the Catholic Church. Luckily for the scientific community, as well as all of human medicine hence, Borelli produced much of his research far from the influence of Catholicism; under the protection of Queen Christina of Sweden. Unlike Galileo and other scientific thinkers of the time, Borelli experienced relative ease in acquiring peace and sanctuary to conduct his research, although his later life was marred by poverty and humility. Nonetheless, an environment welcome to scientific investigation and liberalism could only have assisted in Borelli’s experiences and ultimately his discoveries.

So what are the lasting effects of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli’s works? What today is shaped by his fundamental discoveries of biomechanics during the scientific revolution, nearly four centuries? Primarily, anyone who has ever undergone any form of physical therapy or orthopedic surgery has some amount of thanks to give to this most gifted and forward-thinking Italian. With his foundation of biomechanics, including how muscles coordinate with each other, human civilization has a much greater understanding and by this point mastery of treating injuries sustained to the musculoskeletal system. It’s impossible to assume whether or not humans would have ever made these discoveries (as they likely would have) without Borelli, but that does little to discredit his monumental findings. Borelli perfectly characterizes the scientific revolution of the 17th century in that he was highly eclectic in his studies, lived by the methodologies of observation and hypothesis, and challenged the authority of the ideologically and scientifically conservative Catholic Church. It is for these reasons he exemplifies this period of thinkers much like Descartes, Galileo, and Newton.


Works Cited

Borelli, Giovanni Alfonso. Borelli’s On the Movement of Animals — On the Force of Percussion. Translated by Paul Maquet. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 1989.

Farquhason, A. S. L. “The Internet Classics Archive | On the Motion of Animals by Aristotle.” The Internet Classics Archive | On the Motion of Animals by Aristotle. Accessed November 24, 2015.




One of the great transformations in global environmental history has been the plowing up of the world’s grasslands to grow grain. The process began at the western end of the Eurasian steppes, in present-day southern Russia and Ukraine, in the second half of the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the great plow-up spread to vast areas of the prairies and Great Plains of North America, the Pampas of South America, the veldt of southern Africa, lands in Australasia, northern India, and north Africa, and the plains of Hungary and Romania.

This process was driven by the transport revolution aided by the construction of railroads, cargo ships, ports, and grain elevators. Facilitated by domestic and international markets, the grain was consumed by the globe’s burgeoning urban population.

The conversion of large parts of the world’s grasslands to arable fields was achieved with great social and environmental cost. Indigenous populations were forcibly driven of the land and their ways of life, which were based on herding or hunting livestock, was destroyed. The Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century and wars on the Eurasian steppes, over many centuries, between states based on farming and pastoralism opened the way to the plow.

The plowing of the fertile soil to grow grain, was also followed by ecological disasters, of which the Dust Bowl on the southern plains of the USA in the 1930’s is probably the most famous.

The plowing up of the steppes is a story that is directly related to the rise of oil, nitrogen fixation as well as the transport revolution and is part of the environmental legacy of the 19th and 20th century.

  1. Jan Oosthoek, Environmental History Resources, Accessed: 09 Dec. 2015
  2. Jan Oosthoek, Environmental History Resources, Accessed: 09 Dec. 2015

The industrial revolution of the eighteen century was a time of great change across the western world. The effects of these changes were felt by the economies, environments, and industries of each of the nations of the western world. Most affected of all by the changes brought by the industrial revolution were the people of the eighteenth century. The greatest change was the economic status of the commoners. Those not born of noble blood, or the commoners, noticed the largest shift of wealth due to the combination of the new technologies and industries that rose during the industrial revolution. The commoners included the capitalists, bourgeoisies, and the average workers. Of these three groups, the workers did not nearly see the increase in wealth that both the capitalists and the bourgeoisie felt. While these classes noticed an increase, the aristocracy noticed a decrease in wealth. This decrease in the wealth of the aristocracy can be primarily attributed to the increase in land owned by the capitalists. Even with, or perhaps due to, the changes across the classes, there was a great deal of social mobility that prior to the industrial revolution, had not been seen. In order to preserve their thoughts, workers would typically keep journals, logs, or letters that they had accrued over time. While the workers took the time to record for themselves, the wealthier members of society were able to commission paintings from contemporary artists. While the workers were able to describe life from their humble means directly, the wealthy had paintings that romanticized and understated the problems of the poorer workers. Together, the juxtaposition of the both the actually recount of the workers lives, as well as the disconnected view of the workers from the capitalists formed a look into the industrial revolution.

The first source used to look into the industrial revolution is and excerpt of Peter Gaskell’s The Manufacturing Population of England, which was found in Hard Times; Human Documents of the Industrial Revolution. Gaskell himself was the son of a cotton dyer, and at 15 was a laborer (Hall and Homer 1985). Due to this firsthand knowledge of being a worker of the industrial revolution, he had the experience necessary to provide and accurate account of the lives of the workers of the industrial revolution. The source itself seems to have been preserved by the British Library, with the original in their archives (British Library 2015). For this reason, the source does seem to have been mostly cataloged on the internet, due to its presence in one of the largest libraries in the world, as well as being contained in compilations such as Hard Times, found in the Simpson Library.

This source was first published in 1833, and the excerpt details several things about the workers, their lives, and their living conditions. For example, Gaskell describes the average worker as having a “complexion [that] is sallow and pallid – with a peculiar flatness of feature, … Their stature low – the average height of four hundred men, measured at different times, and at different places, being five feet six inches. Their limbs slender, and playing badly and ungracefully. A very general bowing of the legs. … Nearly all have flat feet, accompanied with a down-tread, differing very wildly from the elasticity of action in the foot and ancle, attendant upon formation, Hair thin and straight, … A spiritless and dejected air, a sprawling and wide action of the legs, and an appearance, taken as a whole, giving the world but ‘little assurance of a man’, or if so, ‘most sadly cheated of his fair proportions’.” (Pike 1966). Overall, the description of the English workers describes the workers, the class from which Gaskell himself grew up among, as being almost neanderthalic. The bowed legs, “ungraceful” movements, and most of all the “spiritless air” gives an image of a bumbling thug as the quintessential worker, not the perceived image of a strong, cooperative individuals.

An Iron Forge 1772 by Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797The second source is the painting An Iron Forge, painted by Joseph Wright of Derby. The painting’s method of preservation seems to not be completely clear, however, is currently seems to have been purchased in 1992 with “assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery in 1992 (Tate 2015).

Wright was a painter of portraits and subject-pictures who spent most of his life in his birthplace, Derby (Tate 2015). From the mid-1760s, Wright began to paint scenes of contemporary scientific and industrial life (Tate 2015). An Iron Forge was painted in 1772, and depicts and small blacksmith’s workshop, and several individuals.

The most prominently placed is the iron-founder, the overseer of the work that takes place in the workshop. The iron-founder’s role as overseer and his relaxed attitude – even his faintly dandyish striped waistcoat – suggest that the introduction of new machinery in his forge has brought about a lightening of his workload (Tate 2015). This seems to romanticize the new technologies brought about by the innovations of the industrial revolution. However, “the technology that Wright depicts was not especially advanced. Rather, the modernity of the painting lies in its heroic treatment of a theme from common life,” leading to the panting to be a romanticization of the worker, rather than the technology (Tate 2015).

The iron-founder is standing next to his wife and children. This aspect can be seen as a representation of the strong familial ties among the workers. This also shows that the families of the industrial revolution primarily relied on the husband’s ability to provide for the family. I addition to his wife and children at his side, there is an older man seated to the left of the iron-founder. While “most forges were still family operations and the inclusion of the extended family is not necessarily out of place. However, the presence of the iron-founder’s wife and children, one of whom has run to the elderly man seated on the left, suggests that Wright may have deliberately introduced the theme of the ‘Ages of Man’, showing three generations of the family. The old man appears to be his father, perhaps himself once the smith and a link to the methods of the past.” (Tate 2015). The ages of man is a symbol in art that dates back to the 14th century.

In addition to the iron founder and his family is a workman, “with his back to the viewer, holds the glowing metal over the anvil with a pair of tongs, ready to be hammered” (Tate 2015). The worker represents the past in which trades were learned through an apprenticeship system. The iron-founder represents the master of the trade, and the workman represents the apprentice. As the industrial revolution progressed, the apprenticeship system began to fall out of favor, leading to the rise of factory jobs. This point could also be made of the blacksmithing trade itself, which had remain relatively unchanged for centuries, and the changes brought about by the industrial revolution led to a change in the way in which metal was worked (Tate 2015). It went from an extremely time consuming and tedious process to something that became quite efficient considering the technology of the time.

The industrial revolution was a time of great shift amongst the working class, and the wealthy members of society. Though the conditions of the workers were truly terrible, and the wealth divide widened, the people of the industrial revolution overcame the changes. In addition, the changes in technology brought about changes that affected more than just the tasks they were meant to improve on, they even made some professions less desired.



Hall, David, and R Homer. 1985. PETER GASKELL (1824-1896). Ebook. 1st ed.…..7.pdf.

Pike, E. Royston. 1966. “Hard TimesHuman Documents of the Industrial Revolution. New York: Praeger.

Tate,. 2015. ‘Joseph Wright Of Derby, ‘An Iron Forge’ 1772′..

The British Library,. 2015. ‘The Manufacturing Population Of England’.


Some view the Renaissance as a break away from religious dominance of humanity.  While it did distance itself from religious influence it didn’t completely drop religion either.  In fact many great renaissance paintings and sculptors are church works, be they commissioned or otherwise.  Indeed christian influences seem intertwined with the renaissance almost as much as science and progress have been entwined in it.

Christian work painted by various Renaissance men are plenty: The Last Supper, The Creation of Adam, Wedding at Cana, various Madonnas, Salome with the Head of John The Baptist.  This fusion of renaissance culture with religious stories forms one of the backbones of Renaissance culture.


The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese, a painting of a bible story in which Jesus performs his first miracle by turning water to wine.  Here you can see the entwined nature of the renaissance and religious story.  The characters all wear the clothing associated with the renaissance and not of the bible.  Therefore Veronese has melded christianity into Renaissance culture.

The Italian Renaissance, was a time period of intellectual revival and culture after the relative stagnation that characterized the dark ages.  Many great minds and amazingly talented people are attributed to the Renaissance era.  These men were artists, politicians, scientists, mathematicians, doctors, philosophers, and otherwise great thinkers.  The term “Renaissance Man”originated with regards to these Renaissance thinkers.  “Renaissance Man” refers to one who has many talents and great knowledge in multiple fields.  In this era of incredibly gifted men one man shines above the rest and he is considered the definitive Renaissance Man.  This man’s name is Leonardo da Vinci, he was all the embodiment of the Renaissance within in one man.

Leonardo was born in Anchiano, Tuscany in the year 1452, his parents never married and he was raised at his father’s family villa.  He was taught only basic reading, writing and math, but was apprenticed to the painter Andrea del Verrocchio at the age of 15.  During his tutelage with Andrea he refined his artistic skills as well as his mechanical arts skills.  In the year 1478 Leonardo became an independent master painter.  His next conquest of the arts would be sculpting which became Leonardo’s prime job when he began working for the Sforza family around 1482. Very little of Leonardo’s artworks survived, however two of his most famous works have stood the test of time.  The Mona Lisa and the last supper, both famous works of Leonardo’s.

Leonardo would also begin to draw up the designs for advanced weapons of war, several of his theoretical weapons resemble tanks, helicopters and submarines of today’s modern weapons.  His understanding of mechanics and the accuracy of which his designs represent true genius.  Da Vinci also had a keen understanding of the human body and anatomy, his views on nature and medicine far beyond others understanding.

Truly Leonardo da Vinci was The Renaissance Man.  His understandings of so many fields of intelligence giving credence to the brilliance of this man.



As was happening in Germany in those years, also in Italy the propaganda was one of the factors contributed the most to the affirmation of the regime. New generations understandably constituted the main targets of the campaign of fascist indoctrination. The sense of virility and power had to be communicated to them through an educational system. In 1930 Mussolini proclaimed that the whole complex of the habits of the Italians must be reformed. For this reason, the regime staged a vast system of vetoes and requirements that invested every area, from the formulas to be used in official letters,to forms of greeting (was abolished the handshake), clothing (which imposed to men black shirt) and especially the language, which who considered particular attention. The radio, more than the cinema, will be a powerful new method of propaganda. However, even television continued to be a way of controlling the masses, especially with the establishment of the “Istituto Luce” who took care to present to the audience the events of contemporary history in a way that seemed more appropriate to the fascist propaganda. In the video shown below, the Istituto Luce illustrates Italians images of the bombing of Rome.

← Previous PageNext Page →