Humanism placed more emphasis on the works of humans, rather than the works of God. Northern Europeans embraced humanism with the aid of trade with the Italian city-states during the Renaissance. Johannes Gutenberg was quite influential in humanistic thought, as his printing press put more books into the hands of the masses. While the Bible was the most popular book printed, several other books went into circulation, such as novels, plays, and self-help books. The printing press also popularized the languages being spoken in the German states, France, and England. People began to see themselves as part of a "nation" rather than part of Christendom. While kings would still maintain that they had a right to rule thanks to God, leaders now sought to consolidate power in themselves rather than asking the Pope for permission.
Humanism also appeared in scientific thought. Military science became popular during the Renaissance as strategists looked at how ancient Romans fought their battles. Political science also became a field of study. Though the most influential political thinker of the period was the Italian Machiavelli, Thomas More, of England, also contributed his own political ideas through the satire Utopia.
Humanism also appears in art from the period. People began to be the focus of artwork from this period. Artists mimicked the ancient Greek and Roman sculptors. Individuals such as kings could commission more ornate buildings and artwork as a way to glorify themselves. One famous artist from this period was Jan van Eyck.
While the Italian city-states were at the cutting edge of the Renaissance due to their close trade ties with Constantinople, northern Europe also made many valuable contributions to this movement.