The Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement which began in Italy in the later Middle Ages and, by the sixteenth century, had enveloped the rest of Europe. One of the defining characteristics of this movement was a revival of interest in ancient texts and ideas which is best reflected in the art, music and literature of this period.
Secondly, the Renaissance was characterised by an emphasis on individual ability. This belief, also known as humanism, held human dignity in high regard and emphasised the potential of individuals to achieve and succeed. It is best summarised by the contemporary architect, Leon Battisti Alberti, who said: "Man can do all things if they will."
Economic recovery is another defining characteristic of the Renaissance. In the decades preceding this movement, Medieval Europe was ravaged by the Black Death, an outbreak of plague which killed around one-third of the European population. It also heavily disrupted trade and brought about an end to the system of feudalism.
Finally, as trade picked up again during the Renaissance, there was a growth of new industries across Europe. As people's wealth increased, a number of new luxury industries came into being which supplied people with silks, glassware and handcrafted items made from precious stones. This period also witnessed the birth of printing and mining which grew at a phenomenal rate and came to rival more traditional industries, like textiles.