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To leaf through Barzun's sweeping, densely detailed but lightly written survey of the last 500 years is to ride a whirlwind of world-changing events. Barzun ponders, for instance, the tumultuous political climate of Renaissance Italy, which yielded mayhem and chaos, but also the work of Michelangelo and Leonardo--and, he adds, the scientific foundations for today's consumer culture of boom boxes and rollerblades. He considers the 16th-century varieties of religious experimentation that arose in the wake of Martin Luther's 95 theses, some of which led to the repression of individual personality, others of which might easily have come from the "Me Decade." Along the way, he offers a miniature history of the detective novel, defends Surrealism from its detractors, and derides the rise of professional sports, packing in a wealth of learned and often barbed asides.
Never shy of controversy, Barzun writes from a generally conservative position; he insists on the importance of moral values, celebrates the historical contributions of Christopher Columbus, and twits the academic practitioners of political correctness. Whether accepting of those views or not, even the most casual reader will find much that is new or little-explored in this attractive venture into cultural history. --Gregory McNamee
If you love history, this is the book to read if only for a great arguement with yourself.
Many times histories can be very dry and difficult to read, but this 877 page book covers 500 years of Western Cultural Life in a very readable manner.
This book sketches out the past 500 years of Western culture through history's true shaping force--ideas.
Bought as gift for a 65 year old. Poorly bound book. Doubt the spine will hold up to much use, but it's the only way I could get this excellent piece of writing in print, so there... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Robert Ellis, Jr.
Not for the faint of heart. More here than you'll cover in a two-semester college course. More breadth here than any other twenty-five non-fiction books on my shelves.Published 3 months ago by Music Lover
I finished reading this today, but I wish I had stopped about a hundred pages before the end. The first 700 pages have a historian’s distance and breadth and I found the chapters... Read morePublished 4 months ago by R. Mumma
A stunning book written by a stunning man. Barzun seems to be the most well-read, well-educated scholar, classicist and historian on the planet. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jeffrey Thompson