In 1347, a merchant ship traveling from Crimea in central Asia docked at Messina in Sicily with a crew of desperately sick sailors. As they were taken ashore, rats also left the vessel, carrying with them fleas infected with the bacterium for Bubonic Plague. The Black Death had arrived in Europe. The plague in its several forms would eventually kill up to half the population of Europe, initiating a catastrophic economic depression, peasant revolts, and fierce power struggles among the nobility. Yet from this near total disaster, a new spirit arose. The exhaustion of medieval society inspired intellectuals in northern Italy to make a new start-to create a new society through a search for revival and rebirth that would come to be called the Renaissance. And this radical break with the past was just the beginning. In this course, you will explore the political, social, cultural, and economic revolutions that transformed Europe between the arrival of the Black Death in the 14th century and the onset of the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. An Award-winning Teacher Probes the Ideas Behind Events Your guide in these 48 lectures is Professor Andrew C. Fix, an award-winning teacher and scholar who specializes in the history of ideas in early modern Europe. Dr. Fix does much more than recount the events of this intriguing era; he consistently puts things into a wider context, discussing the causes, implications, and ultimate effects of the unfolding drama that is taking place on the European stage. For example: The Renaissance: Why was the Renaissance born in northern Italy in the late 14th century and not, say, in France in the 15th century or Britain in the 16th century? Professor Fix examines the social and political factors that explain the time and place of this extraordinary explosion of creative energy. The Protestant Reformation: One of the key trends that prepared the way for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was the growth of popular piety. Unsanctioned by the church, this movement had its roots in the preoccupation of the medieval papacy with power politics, which hindered clergy from focusing on the spiritual needs of the people. Martin Luther himself was affected by this need, and his own solution showed the way for millions of others. An Eventful Course: History in Context Throughout this very eventful course, Professor Fix puts history into a context that makes it more immediate and understandable. For instance, the European discovery of the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries is such a familiar story that it's difficult to appreciate it from the point of view of people living at that time. "But imagine," says Dr. Fix, "the excitement if, all of a sudden, we discovered another earth, right next to ours that hadn't been explored at all." The impact on us would be analogous to that felt by Europeans who awoke to the existence of two previously unknown continents with all their potential riches. When you listen to these lectures, you'll understand why Professor Fix has been lauded by his students as one of the most influential teachers of their college careers. He is a friendly and knowledgeable guide through a crucial stage of history-a period that is vastly different from our own but also recognizably the same, in which we see ourselves in what historian Barbara Tuchman called "a distant mirror," that affords a glimpse of our own civilization in its nascent, budding phase.