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The dawn of modern Europe formed a central theme, and Burckhardt presented his thesis by expounding on the elements of Renaissance culture that influenced modern Europe.

The two most salient examples of Burckhardt's interest in connections between historical periods lie in his sections concerning the "Revival of Antiquity" and the state of morality and religion in Italy. Renaissance Italy renewed a connection to the classical world, a revival approved wholeheartedly by Burckhardt:

It needed a guide, and found one in the ancient civilization, with its wealth of truth and knowledge in every spiritual interest. Both the form and the substance of this civilization were adopted with admiring gratitude; it became the chief part of the culture of the age.29

What impressed Burckhardt was not the mere fact that classical culture became admirable in Italy, but that the spirit of Renaissance Italy found the culture of ancient Italy and Greece worth incorporating into itself. Clearly, he wished for the Europeans of his own day to make such an adoption, instead of admiring Hegel's march towards an optimistic yet unpredictable future.

Renaissance Italy, nonetheless, possessed its own vices. By examining the state of morality and religion, Burckhardt demonstrated the shortcomings in the character of Renaissance Italy. Concerning the study of morality, he wrote:

What eye can pierce the depths in which the character and fate of nations are determined?--in that which is inborn and that which has been experienced combine to form a new whole and a fresh nature?--in which even those intellectual capacities, which at first sight we should take to be most original, are in fact evolved late and slowly?30

Burckhardt recognized morality as the hardest of all cultural subjects to study, yet he examined it carefully, hoping to uncover enough evidence to form a picture. The emphasis on morality, a difficult subject that appears on the fringes of traditional historiography, illustrates the essence of Burckhardt's cultural history, as it established a dynamic relationship between "that which is inborn," and "that which has been experienced." The interaction of

29. Ibid.
30. Ibid., 426.

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