McKay, John P., Bennett D. Hill, and John Buckler. A History of World Societies: Volume B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
The Fifteenth Century saw the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance in its full flowering. It was an era of change in all areas of human thought because of a shift to humanistic thinking, placing man in a more central position than had previously been the case.
Much of the social change in the Fifteenth Century was forced by the reality of the Black Death, continuing from the previous century. The Black Death of the Middle Ages has long held a mythic place in history as a story of a terrible pestilence visited upon Europe, a pestilence that perhaps could return one day. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Black Death decimated Europe and caused massive economic and social damage to the nations of Europe. The Black Death was the first major epidemic disease to strike Europe since the seventh century, and this also made it all the more horrible to a people not accustomed to this sort of tragedy. Historians note that the absence of this sort of devastation was one of the explanations for the remarkable population growth of medieval Europe. the great plague originated in Central Asia, and it is believed that it was first spread by the Mongols as they expanded across Asia and also by ecological changes causing Central Asian rodents to move westward, taking the fleas and the disease with them. The symptoms of the bubonic plague then began to appear in Europe--high fever, aching joints, swelling of the lymph nodes, and dark blotches caused by bleeding beneath the skin. The bubonic form was actually the least toxic form of the plague, but it still killed 50 to 60 percent of its victims. Pneumonic plague was less frequent in occurrence than bubonic plague, which was fortunate because it is more virulent:
The human-centered nature of Renaissance expression can be seen in a number of artwork