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Modern historians continue to look further and further into the past to understand its origins. Ironically, by killing a large percentage of the population, the plague improved the economy, allowing wealthy people to invest in art and display, and engage in secular scholarly study.Francesco Petrarch, the Italian humanist and poet called the father of the Renaissance, died in 1374.Leon Battista Alberti published "On the Art of Building" (1443 to 1452), Thomas Malory wrote (or compiled) "le Morte d' Arthur" in 1470, and Marsilio Ficino completed his "Platonic Theory" in 1471.The last quarter of the 16th century witnessed an explosion of important sailing discoveries in the Age of Exploration: Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, Columbus reached the Bahamas in 1492, and Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498.In 1485, Italian master architects traveled to Russia to aid in the rebuilding of the Kremlin in Moscow.In 1491, Girolamo Savonarola became the prior of the de Medici's Dominican House of San Marco in Florence and began preaching reform and becoming the de facto leader of Florence beginning in 1494.

Henry VIII came to power in England in 1509 and Francis I succeeded to the French Throne in 1515.

In 1423, Francesco Foscari became Doge in Venice, where he would commission art for the city.

Cosimo de Medici inherited the Medici bank in 1429 and began his rise to great power.

Much of this was driven by humanism, a philosophy that emphasized the ability for humans to act, rather than simply rely on the will of God.

Established religious communities experienced both philosophical and bloody battles, leading among other things to the Reformation and the end of Catholic rule in England.

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