Humanist Generation

Last Updated: Mar. 15, 2008

The Humanist Generation (Artist, born 1461–1482) passed a sheltered childhood during a bloody civil war, many of the elite attending safer schools abroad. Coming of age, they understood their mission was to embellish the new order. As young adults, they became the “new humanists”—Greek tutors, international scholars, ballad-writing poets, law-trained prelates, and literate merchants and yeomen. Hit during midlife by the Reformation, they adjusted awkwardly. Some wrapped themselves in Wolseyan opulence and refused to pay attention. Others waffled. A few (like the famed “Man for All Seasons”) exquisitely satirized the reigning hypocrisy, stood firm for the old order, and paid the ultimate price. In old age, they were startled by a ruthless new radicalism that overwhelmed their own gracious refinements. (ENGLISH: Thomas More, Thomas Linacre, John Colet, Cardinal Wolsey, Stephen Gardiner; FOREIGN: Michelangelo, Copernicus)

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