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date: 05 August 2020

early modern period in Europe 

Source:
The Companion to Theatre and Performance

The early modern period includes overlapping epochs that have been variously called the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Restoration, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, and the Age of Revolution. Each of these terms designates specific intellectual, artistic, religious, economic, political, and scientific developments in Western culture. Influential cultural historians of the late twentieth century used the term ‘early modern’ to describe Europe and England from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries; for historians it encompasses a totality of cultural practices including, but not limited to, aesthetic production. Phenomena as diverse as guild memberships, plague effects, the formation of cities, enclosure acts, demographic migration, child-rearing practices, and material production are considered crucial to understanding the social history of the period. Scholars of the various arts, who used to be unconcerned about the term ‘Renaissance’, have become interested in the wider cultural context, and ‘Renaissance’ became the target of historicist and materialist critiques for its elitism, privileging of humanism, and narrow concern with aesthetic values. Consequently, it is now used with a degree of discomfort, regarded by some as an uncritical word that celebrates the revival of classical learning and the flowering of the arts at the expense of what was happening among the peasantry, the lower classes, and in women's lives. There is no satisfactory compromise available between the competing terms, but because ‘early modern’ is a more encompassing one, it has been preferred as the default term in this book, partly because the theatre of the time was particularly related to developing social, financial, and organizational issues. (The historical and intellectual ramifications are explained in detail in a lengthy essay in the parent volume, ... ...

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