Before the civic spirit and individuality evident and necessary to the Renaissance came to fruition, there had to have been something to trigger a change in the mentality of the medieval civilization. The medieval manorialism fostered illiteracy and ignorance and a very narrow view of the outside world, people did not question their place, the church, or the need to prepare for the after life. The "awakening" of the Renaissance came after the dawn of a new Roman Empire way of thinking. Humanism is the intellectual, literary and scientific movement of the 14th to the 16th centuries without which the Renaissance would never have evolved. Humanism is a rediscovery and reevaluation (analysis) of classical civilization and the application of the aspects of this civilization to intellectual and social culture in the current time. It is a blend of concern for the history and actions of human beings, mainly the ancient Greeks and Romans, such as, Cicero, Ceaser, and Augustine, with the belief that man was at the center of the universe. Contrary to Christian teachings, humanist believe that man is subject and creator of his own destiny, governed by ideals of beauty, grace, and harmony and the glorification of individual freedom. These ideas provide the vehicle, in which the transition from medieval thinking of vassalage (servitude) and the afterlife to a return to the principles of the Pax Romana occurred. Christian humanism came to mean individualism and the value of life in the present.
Italy, and specifically Florence, is said to have been the birthplace of humanistic thinking and the Renaissance for a variety of reasons. Geography, more than anything, gave Italy the advantage over the rest of Europe. During the time when the rest of Europe was in the throes of medieval Feudalism and Manorialism, all commerce had stopped, but merchants and artists in northern Italy had maintained trade and commerce activities with both the Byzantine East and the European West.