The Renaissance was a period of rebirth after the grueling years of the Dark Ages, or Medieval period. It had its beginnings in Italy—Florence in patricular, then spread across Europe. Some historians believe that the devastation caused by the Black Death (Plague) from 1348 to 1350, in which Florence suffered badly, made way for a new worldview. According to Wikipedia, it may have shifted the mindset of great thinkers from the spiritual/afterlife to their present life on earth. Generally, the period from the 14th- to the 17th-centuries is considered the Renaissance Era.
The Renaissance was a cultural movement, especially known for its art and artists such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, and Titian. Lorenzo dé Medici was the ruler in Florence at the time and a great patron of the arts.But developments in politics and science were important aspects also.
In England, this era was known as the Elizabethan era, after the great Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Renowned playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe lived during this period, as well as well-known writers, including Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas More, and John Milton.
For further reading on this complex period in European history, please see the article at Wikipedia.