This assessment allows you to demonstrate your ability to think critically about the past and to understand its significance to modern life.
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:
Describe the historical development of the humanities from the pre-historic era to the present. Identify significant cultural developments from a variety of historical eras. Assess the influence of past expressions of the humanities on present-day life.
Examine the forms of expression that instantiate the arts and humanities. Describe the forms of expression that instantiate the arts and humanities.
Integrate the humanities with everyday life. Explain how the arts and humanities affect everyday life. Assess the role of philosophical, religious, and aesthetic values in everyday life.
Communicate effectively in forms appropriate to the humanities.
Assessing the influence of past expressions of humanities on present-day life
Cultures have developed from time immemorial and have had an impact on people’s lives and the society in general (Susman, 2012). To have a deeper understanding of the different cultures and their development in different eras, it is important to trace the development of humanities. Humanities, as the term suggests, is about studying the human life, their evolution, their literature, arts and tradition. However, complications and controversies regarding the definition of humanities have baffled the readers and the confusion is still prevalent (Gidley, 2016). The basic definition of humanities describes it as the study of human culture, arts, literature and tradition. It is considered a part of social science by some.
The essay tries to provide a clear depiction of humanities and analyses the cultural developments that took place in the past. It also provides the various affects cultural development had on human life and on the present. A systematic approach is followed to describe and analyze human culture and its evolution.
Twenty major cultural developments are discussed in the report with a view to address humanities issue prevailing in the present world. In addition, the essay also explains the link between the past and the future and means by which the future leaders could adjust into and utilize the cultural developments (Theguardian.com, 2017). The essay then explains the affect of cultural changes in the past on everyday life in the present.
It is not possible to mention all the cultural developments that took place in the past but some major developments could be listed.
Apart from the discovery of fire, invention of wheel that changed the way humans live many other developments occurred over the years that shaped human life.
Twenty major cultural developments could be listed from the past. These are:
- The classical era saw the transition from the Baroque period to the classical period that was marked by the genius of J. S .Bach and G. F. Handel (Buechler, 2016). These two musical geniuses invented new forms of music popularized as Rococo or pre-classical style. This age is termed as classical for the very reason that it witnessed the growing interest amongst people for the classical arts of Greece and Rome.
- The classical age was also characterized by the changes in the philosophical scenario with the likes of Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire making significant contributions. This led to the classical age being termed as the Age of Enlightenment. Talking about power of reasoning and value of humans to overcome any problem, these philosophers revolutionized the way people thought of and approached life. These refined thinking led to conflicts of old and evolving ideologies.
- Musical discoveries and inventions dominated the medieval era as well. This was marked by the discovery of Polyphony, a kind of musical texture during the twelfth century. In the western context, polyphony refers to the music composed during the middle ages. The introduction of polyphony played a significant role in shaping the future of music Leonin and Perotin, the creators of polyphony soon began to be referred to as Notre Dame School of Polyphony. The influence of this style of music is still visible in the western musical world.
- The medieval era also witnessed the rise of many new religions including Buddhism although it saw gradual decline in followers in the region of its origin – India. The teachings of Lord Buddha – founder of Buddhism – soon began to spread throughout the West. Buddhist principles found a place in the heart of the people and they began to attain salvation by following those principles. Lord Buddha conveyed the message of self-renunciation as means of escaping suffering. Self-renunciation refers to the sacrifice of the self to attain salvation (David, Lynn & Das, 2013). This principle found much voice during the period and transformed the way religion is viewed.
- Lord Buddha, who popularized Buddhism was an Indian prince originally known as Siddhartha Gautama. In search of enlightenment, Siddhartha abandoned his home, left behind all the luxuries of royal life and went out in search of truth. He decided to lead an ascetic life but soon found out that it cannot lead him to the truth. Siddhartha found Nirvana or salvation after sitting under a tree for hours and then delivered his first speech at Sarnath, India (Kelen, 2014). This was the crucial moment in history as that marked the beginning of Buddhist teachings. The four noble truths and the eight-fold ways of achieving them were taught by Siddhartha to his disciples. This important cultural development gave birth to a new religion with new ideologies.
- One of the most important cultural developments of the past is undoubtedly the creation of Christianity. The religion was founded by Jesus Christ, regarded by his followers as the son of God during the early first century. Jesus spread the message of peace, goodwill, sacrifice and love to his followers and this soon began to spread in other parts of the world. Today, Christianity is the most followed religion in the world with more than two billion followers practicing it (Maddox, 2012). In the modern world, with growing chaos, terror, corruption and other evils, Christianity gives a peaceful meaning to life.
- Emergence of new religion continued to dominate cultural developments during the medieval and post medieval age. Although the origins and founder of Islam is a topic of debate until date, many followers consider Muhammad as their divine leader. The followers of Islam as known as Muslims and worship Allah, meaning God (Volf, 2012). Islam, like every other religion spreads the message of unity and peace among people. With the turn of the century, Islam became the second largest religion in the world with billions of followers around the globe. However, this cultural development had some negative implications as well. Anti-social elements began to make wrong use of the religion and the holy Quran misinterpreting it to spread terror.
- Muhammad is considered the founder of Islam whose teachings influenced innumerable minds and helped Islam spread all over the world. He was born at Mecca, the city of Arab. He later became an Arab merchant who began preaching the message of renewal of religion during the seventh century. His teachings spread quickly even after his death at around 630 AD and laid the foundation of Islam (Dabashi, 2017). This cultural development influences people’s lives even today, as debates over Muhammad’s origin and his teachings and the meaning of Allah are still ongoing.
- The teachings spread by Muhammad led to the formation of the holy book of Muslims- the Quran. The creation of Quran gave evidence of the development of written tradition of passing on teachings, ideas and beliefs. This development was significant for the fact that people now had written sources that could be accessed without much trouble and passed on from generation to generation.
- The revelation of the epic poem ‘Beowulf’ brought out the thoughts, beliefs and lifestyle of the native English people before the advent of Anglo-Saxons and the Scandinavians. That is why; the poem is considered one of the most revered pieces of literature. The poem is written in Old English and has stories of the Danish and Swedish Royal family before the Anglo-Saxon era (Harvey, 2013). Beowulf is an important cultural development because it paved the way for the later English scholars to present it as the first authentic work of English.
- Before Charlemagne began ruling, Europe was stuck in a century long dark age of ignorance, prejudice and false pride. He was the first Renaissance man who encouraged education, arts and culture. His achievements in the battlefields led him to create his Pan-European identity. After the fall of Roman empire, Europe was disintegrated into fragmented kingdoms that marked the period with frequent warfare (Davis, 2014).Charlemagne ruled Germany from where he started expanding thus conquered all of Europe and provided the people a common identity. By abolishing gold standard, he initiated the use of silver currency that decentralized the power from nobilities to common people.
- Feudalism was a military and political arrangement among the lords and their vassals during the middle ages. It began in France and then spread into all of Europe. Under this arrangement, the lords used to grant their lads to the vassals in return of various services, primarily military protection. Feudalism was originated from the chaos after collapse of the great Roman Empire and these lords aimed to protect their assets. In this arrangement, king was on the top, he had lords under him and peasants working below these lords (Halperin, 2015).They had castles where they lived and knights to protect them. Magna Carta was the most important prove of the feudal power. It assumed power limitation of the kings.
- Norman Conquest of 1066, when William of Normandy seized the crown from Harold II, is credited with ushering in a host of new social, legal and political changes to England. Historians used to believe that modern England inherited from the Anglo-Saxons after this conquest but their elites were replaced by these Franco-Romans. The existing church governments and earls were replaced by the king. Norman Conquest, began feudalism in England, increased use of written documents in government, new court was established. Society became more patriarchal where male heirs gained more importance (Hollis, 2014).
- After the decline of Roman Empire, civil authority came into the hands of the churchmen, as they were only educated class. The church was the only organized institution and became a seat of temporal and spiritual power. In 800, Charlemagne restored king’s power and this political manipulation led to decline of clerical zeal. It was the period marked by struggle between church and king. In 12th and 13th century papal power increased but this struggle between secular, religious power reached climax, and papal power met disaster.
- Romanesque style had multi-storied entrance facades of geometric appearance buildings. Stone was popular material for buildings. Huge vaults with arches main characteristics of the time. Gothic architecture began in the 12thcentury and came to be known as the French style. It was influenced with the previous architectural genre that was Romanesque. There were no differences between these two styles. Brunelleschi restored the classical style of architecture in Renaissance Florencein the 15thcentury. Gothic architecture was brought to Italy by the French who preferred limestone for building. However, regional influences brought variation in the designs as well as preferences for the various building materials.
- In the popular epic poem Divine Comedy, Dante fictionalises himself and travels the farthest reaches of Inferno or hell, purgatory and paradise. His description of afterlife had a great impact on the western imagination for more than half millennium (Ferrante, 2014). The relationship between Dante’s description of Christian afterlife and the consequent period arts was a reciprocal one. Despite the fact that what Dante described in his works, already existed in the Bible, but Dante’s portrayal created well developed concepts and solidified imaginations which remained familiar for countless generations.
- Francis of Assisi was the most venerated religious figures in western religious history. He was popular as a Christian goodness during his time. St Francis started only with11 followers called 'Lesser brothers’ and became recognized rapidly. He spread Christianity even to the Muslims hostile to the Crusaders. He emphasized on poverty as well as relying on God’s will than having wealth for living a good life. He gave up all his essentials and lived a life of poverty only worshiping God (Simkins et al., 2017). Therefore, people started recognizing him as an idol of monasticism. He was the founder of Friars Minor and Franciscan order, which had a great influence on many of the people of his time.
- The invention of Chinese porcelain was such a development, which changed the concept of art all over the world. According to the historians, the use of porcelain began in Eastern Han Empire. Porcelain was made so durable that porcelain pieces made about 2,000 years ago still have the bright colors as well as translucency. During the Tang dynasty Tea drinkingbecame prevalent that estimated the production of durable as well as beautiful tea ware.Chinese porcelain used to behighly prized in the West as well as in Islamic World. Personalized porcelain art became very popular in America and Europe. The Europeans started replicate this art in the 1700s.
- Religious iconography is the basic and complex artistic forms used to convey the religiousconcepts through auditory, kinetic, visual representations of the religious ideas (Berger, 2014). Iconography has been utilized by every religion in the world. Systems of symbols, which are constitutedin a certain ordered relationship with the forms, contents and intentions of presentation have been believed to be amongst the most significant means of knowledge and expression of religious facts.
- Monasticism is a religious way of life where one rejects all earthly pursuits and devotes oneself completely to a spiritual work. In both Orthodox and Catholic tradition, monastic life has a huge impact. Monasticism exists in other faiths like Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Monasticism was practiced in the monasteries where the monks and nuns live a life of ascetics. However, there are different styles of monastic living regulated by religious rules. These people quest to attain their spiritual goal of life through simplicity, detachment and celibacy (Casey & Frow, 2015).They are expected to remain indifferent in all pain and pleasure.
These cultural developments had and still have a great influence in the lives of the people. Every event mentioned in the essay had emerged either from a change in the way people live or changed the way people lived. The essay thus focuses on the cultural developments that took place from the classical to the medieval, from the renaissance to the modern era.
Berger, R. (2014). ‘From the Blood of My Heart’: Christian Iconography in the Response of Israeli Artists to the Holocaust. The Actuality of Sacrifice: Past and Present, 377.
Buechler, S. M. (2016). Understanding social movements: Theories from the classical era to the present. Routledge.
Casey, R. P., & Frow, J. (2015). A Reactivation of the Apocalyptic Genre in Early Egyptian Monasticism. Episteme in Bewegung, 307.
Dabashi, H. (2017). Authority in Islam: From the Rise of Mohammad to the Establishment of the Umayyads. Routledge.
David, D., Lynn, S. J., & Das, L. S. (2013). Self-acceptance in Buddhism and psychotherapy. In The strength of self-acceptance (pp. 19-38). Springer New York.
Davis, J. R. (2014). Emperor of the World: Charlemagne and the Construction of Imperial Authority, 800–1229 by Anne A. Latowsky. German Studies Review, 37(3), 637-638.
Ferrante, J. M. (2014). The Political Vision of the" Divine Comedy". Princeton University Press.
Gidley, J. M., & Gidley. (2016). Postformal Education. Springer.
Halperin, C. J. (2015). Feudalism in Russia, Then and Now: Vladimir Shlapentokh’s Concept of a «Feudal Society». Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana, (2), 208-225.
Harvey, R. (2013). Medieval Folklore: A Representation Of The Cultural Shift And Development Of The “Hero” In Medieval Society.
Hollis, S. (2014). The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England: Laurence Nowell, William Lambarde, and the Study of Old English by Rebecca Brackmann. Parergon, 31(1), 187-189.
Kelen, B. (2014). Gautama Buddha: In Life and Legend. Open Road Media.
Maddox, G. (2012). Religion and the Rise of Democracy. Routledge..
Simkins, R. A., Cameron, M. G., O'Keefe, J. J., & Harmless, W. S. (2017). Bibliographies for Theology: Medieval Christianity: Francis of Assisi & the Mendicants.
Susman, W. (2012). Culture as history. Pantheon
Theguardian.com. (2017). The 10 greatest changes of the past 1,000 years. the Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/30/10-greatest-changes-of-the-past-1000-years
Volf, M. (2012). Allah: A Christian Response. HarperOne.
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