Erasmus and Christian Humanism
Stewart MacDonald introduces the humanist scholar whose writings made him one of the most significant figures of 16th-century Europe.
In exploring the lives and works of historical personalities there is a natural tendency for historians to accentuate those aspects of an individual's legacy which they deem to be important from their own particular perspective. Great figures like Erasmus of Rotterdam therefore face regular reappraisal, as the historical vantage point changes. Erasmus has been seen, for example, as an embodiment of Renaissance individualism and both as a precursor of Protestantism and as a champion of liberal Catholicism. Others have viewed him as a forerunner of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. In our own century he has been claimed as an apostle of religious toleration and even as a founding father of European integration. However, it is always important to evaluate historical figures, as far as possible, in the historical circumstances of their own day.