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Question 1:

Which elements of Greek and Roman culture were revived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries?


The fourteenth and fifteenth century saw a revival of the Greek and Roman cultures. This bygone era of the Greek and Roman cultures is referred to as the era of classicism. Classicism as a philosophical discipline was expressed in literature, arts, music and architecture during the period of Renaissance.

The focus of this classical revivalism was human beings .It advocated the principle of dignity of man as man. Human life was no longer regarded as a halting point for achievement of eternity but as an end in itself.

To unearth this philosophy, all lost ancient Latin manuscripts were translated into the language of the masses. Other than literature, Italian artists found inspiration in the old art and sculptures. The use of columns in architecture and bronze casting in sculpture also reflects the revival of classicism.

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Question 2:

Compare the details of Italian architecture of the period with Islamic architecture.


The Renaissance period saw a renewed interest in classic architectural forms. The Gothic architecture was replaced by elements of the classical Greek forms.  Domes, columns, arches and vaults became prominent in Italian renaissance architecture.  Planar classicism or flat classicism is what most Italian structures of the 15th century depict. The walls of these buildings are ornamented with classical motifs. These walls are also divided into well-defined sections using pilasters, columns or string courses. The most common buildings types constructed in renaissance Italy were urban mansions (palazzo), country mansions (villa) and churches.

Islamic architecture, on the other hand, is mostly visible in the religious buildings such as madrasas and mosques. Islamic architecture is often referred to as the architecture of the veil due its chief characteristic of privacy predominant in all its structures. The most important form of Islamic architecture is the hypostyle mosques. The basic unit of the hypostyle mosque was the bay. The bay is an area covered by four columns. In hypostyle, this bay could be expanded so as to allow the mosque to grow along. This could enable the growing community to find space for prayers.  These mosques had an inner courtyard surrounded by riwaqs or arcades on three sides.  The courtyards usually have a fountain to conduct wudu. Minarets also made their appearance in Mosques in this form. The most famous hypostyle mosque is the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia.

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Question 3:

Why were Italian towns the first to experience the ideas of humanism?


The idea of Humanism was a direct off-shoot of the Renaissance spirit. Very similar to the Renaissance, humanism emphasized on breaking the medieval practice of outright reliance on religious teachings to gain holistic knowledge. The ancient Greek and Roman philosophies, literatures and historiographies, according to the humanists, were the best means to establish the long lost tradition of rationality.  Italy had a persistent connection with Rome. Already exposed to the classical tradition of the old civilisation, the launch of humanism in Italy was inevitable.

Apart from Italy's connection with ancient the Rome and Greece, the commercial revolution in Italian towns provided an important ground for the launch of humanistic thoughts.  The active trading with the Byzantine Empire, China and Western European countries revived several Italian trading towns like Florence and Venice.  Trading activities created a class of people who were rich and educated. The exposure of the emerging class of lawyers and notaries to the ancient Roman civil law opened new spaces for the deeper understanding of Roman institutions. These changes in the lives of Italian population served to better inculcate the spirit of humanism that emphasized on individual accomplishments and not transcendental achievements.

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Question 4:

Compare the Venetian idea of good government with those in contemporary France.


There lies huge difference between the Venetian and the French governments. The best way to describe the Venetian Government is 'Venice über alles', meaning 'Venice above all’. This statement proves that Venice had a more just and efficient government as compared to any other European governments in contemporary times. On the other hand, the 15th century French government has been referred as ’Feudal barbarism’ by Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Venetian administration was mostly controlled by the Great Council. It comprised some of the prominent members of the city. The state to these patricians was a mere extension of their family and individual interests.  These people realised that only the efficient administration of the state could ensure the effective functioning of the trading, which was the primary source of revenue of the land.

People of the lesser ranks such as the merchants, doctors and lawyers also had an important role to play in the state. They served as the ambassadors and diplomats. The lower ranks also had important rights and obligations. Thus, the administration of Venice was a participative practice.  The government made all efforts to fulfil the needs of the poor. Provisions were made for the supply of food, conducting great ceremonies and celebrations, and assurance of legal system with justice for all.

The French government stood polls apart from the Venetian style of governance. It was based on the system of Feudalism. Feudalism was a social and economic system that existed in France, England and Italy during the 9th and 15th century. Here, the agricultural production was based on the relation between lords and peasants. The lords owned huge lands, and the peasants had to cultivate their own lands as well as the lords' land. In return for the services rendered by the peasants, the lords provided military protection to them. The lords also extended judicial control over the peasants and the settlement. This practise was highly exploitative. The worst sufferers were the serfs, who were devoid of all rights. The serf had extreme low status in the society. The word of the master was the law. He could not raise a voice against the master. Legal rights also did not exist for either of him.

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Question 5:

What were the features of humanist thought?


Predominant social philosophy and literary and intellectual currents of the period from 1400 to 1650 is known as humanism. With trade expansions, growth of prosperity and luxury resulting in development in social values and secular attitudes, there was a shift from theocentric to anthropocentric world. The general emancipation of man was focussed upon. Humanism was a restoration of true civilization after the Dark Age that had set in after the fall of the Roman Empire. The main features of humanism are given below.

1. Humanism stressed on the individual skills. A person with many skills and interests have been referred to as the Renaissance man. The emerging belief in individual potential helped to identify a town by its citizens.

2. The Humanist thought had a very different idea of history. According to this thought only humanism could revive the long past true civilisation. This revival would enable to end the Dark Age that Europe was then passing through.

3. The establishment of the New Age would mark an end to the period of the supremacy of the Church. The basis of humanism is naturalism, which is antithetical to the beliefs of Christianity.

4. Humanism revived the classical Greek literature. The works of Aristotle and Plato were translated. Along with these subjects modern faculties such as chemistry, mathematics, natural science and astronomy also became a part of the college curriculum.

5.  Not only formal education but also art, architecture and books were effective mediums of transmitting humanist ideas. Drawing realistic paintings and sculpting perfectly proportioned figures of men and women were expressions of humanism. Painters and sculptors started to rely on anatomy, geometry and physics to recreate reality.

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Question 6:

Write a careful account of how the world appeared different to seventeenth-century Europeans.


By the end of the 17th century, the world had stepped into the modern age. This was the age of modern and rational thinking, an age that questioned old ideas and beliefs. These new thoughts enabled man to see the world in an entirely different light than what he did before.

The world in the 17th century was very different from the bygone 16th century.  

Evolution of Modern Science and Philosophy

The 17th century has often been referred to as the Age of scientific revolution. Scientific finds of this period changed the way man perceived the world.  The age of scientific revolution moved a step ahead from the preceding age of Enlightenment by explaining the relationship of man with nature.  Men like Rene Descartes (philosopher) and Isaac Newton (mathematician) went ahead the authority of medieval intellectuals such as Galen, Aristotle and Plato.  All available ideas of the medieval age had to pass through the litmus test of 'doubt' to be established as the 'truth.' This new idea of the 'truth' created a world that was very different from what existed earlier. This idea of scepticism was  the determining factor that led to the questioning of the Church's authority too.

Age of Military Revolution

The 17th century has also been referred to as the period of military revolution of the pre-modern age.  The zeal for colonisation led the Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese to fight repeated wars in the colonies and in the Europe too. This fostered the spirit for technological military inventions, which could assure an upper hand in the wars.

Thus, the 17th century can be regarded as a big leap, from ignorance to awareness, for the Europeans. The European world was more progressive than in the past century.

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