During the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, little progress was made in the arts and sciences. However, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, during a period known as the Renaissance, profound advances were made in literature, science, and the classical arts through a cultural movement called humanism. These changes also had significant impact on the field of education.
Humanism posited that man was the center of the universe and that education could create a universal man striving for physical and intellectual excellence.
One of the most significant developments in the early Renaissance era was Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1450. Before the printing press, books were copied by hand, and most people did not have access to them. The printing press enabled books and ideas to be spread much more widely. This, of course, encouraged education.
Renaissance humanism encouraged reasoning and scientific inquiry rather than unquestioning acceptance of religious tenets. Empiricism—that is, guidance by observation, experience, and experimentation—prompted the widespread study of sciences such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, anatomy, architecture, and geography.
The fall of feudalism and rise of a capitalist market economy diminished the gap between royalty and peasantry, and this created the beginnings of a middle class. This made education accessible to larger amounts of people.