The development of Western Civilization has been characterized by a few golden moments when a number of factors came together to make possible a burst of culture and humanism.  The term “Renaissance” is generally equated with the cultural period beginning with the fifteenth century,  principally in Italy.  But most scholars now agree that to consider this period as the rebirth of civilization after the dead “dark ages” is to be unfair to the Middle Ages.  After all, most of the classical manuscripts rediscovered in this period were copied by medieval monks, and some medieval humanists such as Alcuin and John of Salisbury would shine culturally in any century.  These pages deal with some of these cultural bursts or "renaissances," as well as the traditional fifteenth century Florentine renaissance, emphasizing the common themes of humanism and the love of learning.