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A. C. Grayling's latest book claims that the modern mind emerged from a series of events which took place, and ideas which materialised, in the 17th century. The Age of Genius argues that the forces of democracy, secularism, enlightenment and science triumphed at this time over divine-right monarchy, religious faith, ignorance and tradition.
This is a deeply flawed book, although it is not completely without merit. Mayer, who died (in January 2014) as this book went to press, may have been an accomplished scholar of ecclesiastical history (1), but was a relative novice in Galilean scholarship.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Dr Jordan Landes talks to Professor Jan Plamper about his new work on the history of emotions, a subject which he has memorably described as a 'rocket taking off'.
Jan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The history of emotions, a rocket taking off according to Jan Plamper, seems to be screaming ‘know thyself!’ at psychology in all its various forms, but most specifically at neuroscience. The development of a hard science of emotions has involved, with every step ‘forward’, the forgetting of the previous step.
Electromagnetism, photographic reproduction, grand operas, phantasmagorias, automatons and socialist utopias: what do these have in common? According to John Tresch, they were all manifestations of a common ‘mechanical romanticism’ that permeated Paris between the fall of the first Napoleon in 1815 and the triumph of his nephew Napoleon III in 1851.
In his first book, Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe (1), Andrew Curran focused on the different means by which corporeal and moral monstrosity were figured and evoked in the celebrated Enlightenment thinker's work.
Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven: Jacobites, Jews, and Freemasons in Early Modern Sweden / Marsha Keith Schuchard
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) claims an exceptional place in history as a famous scientist, theosopher and visionary.
A History of Intelligence and ‘Intellectual Disability’: The Shaping of Psychology in Early Modern Europe / C. F. Goodey
Intelligence is a peculiar idea. Most human beings have some sense of the meaning of the word, yet they are all too often left with insipid definitions when they assign meaning to it. Some definers have been reduced to acknowledging that intelligence is what the intelligence tester is testing. Others have claimed that intelligence is merely the absence of lack-of-intelligence.
In spite of the time period implied in her subtitle, Ann Thomson’s book covers debates about the materiality of the soul from 1650 to the early 19th century. She deals with a vast range of thinkers – primarily in England and France, but also in the Netherlands.
Edward Daniel Clarke, the primary British Traveller considered in this book, asked his readers to consider the purpose of travel; Brian Dolan, the author of this book, asks his readers to consider how and why people write about travel.