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This volume arrives with high praise. The book ‘[d]eserves to become another classic’, opines Peter Burke at the top of the front cover. It ‘[c]ompletely overhauls our view’, observes Ronald Hutton somewhat further down. The work itself is not shy of ambition either. Both the title—The Decline of Magic—and the subtitle—Britain in the Enlightenment—promise sweeping panoramas.
Mark Goldie has been one of the most influential interrogators of England in the later 17th and early 18th centuries.
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
The aim to cover, in a single monograph, patterns and trends in memory across early modern Europe is an ambitious one. Yet if anyone could achieve this it would be Judith Pollmann. This is an ambitious book in its chronological and geographical scope, but is also pioneering in providing a meta-narrative of continuity and change in early modern memory practices.
The historiography of 17th-century English republican thought is a largely women-free zone.
It is becoming increasingly clear that our understanding of the Mughal Empire, and early modern empires in general, is benefiting greatly from work dedicated to overcoming preconceptions of power, authority and imperial culture.
On the 18th of June, 1556, Mr Francesco, a second-hand goods dealer with a shop near the clock tower in Piazza San Marco, borrowed two Greek manuscripts from the collection that would later become the heart of Venice’s famous Marciana library: Proclus on Platonic Theology, and The Commentary of Hierocles on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras.
Every mode of writing history has its attendant dangers. The problem with so much conventional political and religious history is that it is an attempt to explain what actually happened. This seems sensible enough, of course, but it inevitably privileges the ways in which the successful historical actors valued their actions, as well as almost inevitably concentrating on an elite.
Frances Yates’ seminal book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), which established a longstanding scholarly orthodoxy that Renaissance magic derived from interpretations of the Hermetic Corpus, has been challenged in its details by Bruno scholars and others.
Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment is an unusual work. Little more than an extended essay, its brevity and lucidity belie the complexity and force of its central thesis. Whilst there is no doubt that the book represents an important historiographical intervention, it is rather harder to explain why or where it does so.