The rise of commerce brought about important cultural changes. It created a wealthy middle class which helped to raise the cultural level of western Europe. This in turn stimulated education. Education aroused interest in the past. The Italian cities then became important centers for scholars, who revived the interest in the glorious past of the Greeks and the Romans. The scholars came to Italy to study the language and literature of these ancient peoples. In their study they turned away from the long-accepted methods of reasoning known as Scholasticism. Through the study of the literature of the past, scholars began to study man as a human being, and were therefore referred to as the Humanists.
During the feudal period education had been at a low ebb. The day for universal education was not yet at hand. Several social classes were excluded from the benefits of educational opportunity which only the privileged classes were permitted to enjoy. The curriculum gave little emphasis to the natural sciences. There were, however, some who looked toward a broader basis for education. Outstanding among these was Roger Bacon 1214-1294), whose activities led to some reform in the system of education.
The somewhat modernized system of medieval education produced a large number of universities, which became more important during the Renaissance, or the Revival of Learning. During this period the limited educational opportunity of the Middle Ages began to give way to an intellectual and cultural awakening which ushered in the Modern period.