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The Enlightenment Paperback – February 8, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Norman Hampson was Professor of History at the University of York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 8, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140137459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140137453
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,927,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
In The Enlightenment, Norman Hampson describes the period in European history where a more reasonable and scientific view of the world was being developed. "The object of this book, in other words, is not to attempt a scholarly and systematic investigation of this or that aspect of the Enlightenment. My aim is to convince the general reader that the authors I have quoted are well worth his reading for himself and my ambition, to help him towards a better understanding of what they were saying. I trust he will regard it, not as intellectual nourishment in its own right so much as an invitation to a banquet of his own." (p13).
Mr. Hampson must be given credit for his modesty. The introduction does relieve some of the tensions and address any apprehensions a reader might have when picking up a book like this. It seems to say "don't worry, I'm not intentionally going to make this book difficult. I'll try my hardest to keep it light." To some extent, Hampson succeeds. Norman Hampson's purpose for writing his book was to promote the reading of the primary historical texts on which it is based. It was not intended to be the end-all-be-all Enlightenment survey, but in fact an advertisement for books written during the period. Promoting primary sources is a noble purpose, but one that leaves the reader wondering why it takes 300 pages to generate such enthusiasm. This being established as the purpose, it now must be asked if Hampson accomplished his goal. The reader will not be impressed by his style, which is bad, or his attempt at wit, which is worse. The pages are filled with abstruse paragraphs, and archaic language. It is questionable whether, after finishing The Enlightenment, a reader is likely to run for the primary sources.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Hampson's treatment of the Enlightenment is encyclopedic as he attempts to show it as the intellectual foundation of modern thought. In this, he succeeds. As a previous reviewer noted, Hampson also attempts to encourage the reader to take on the acutal sources by the thinkers themselves. In this, he misses his mark.

The book is divided into two sections: 1715 - 1740 and 1740 - 1789. The first half looks at the effects of the Scientific Revolution on European thought with specific attention given to Locke, Newton, Montesquieu and Voltaire; the second half examines Linneaus, Rousseau, Diderot, Smith and Kant. His summary and observations of these intellecutals is excellent - which, of course makes it difficult to convince readers to tackle their work first-hand.

It is not light reading, geared probably towards the serious student of history. But is is worthwhile, and it may in fact whet the reader's appetite for more.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W.T. Oosterveld on July 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this book, prof. Hampson attempts to discuss a number of very diverse topics within the movement of the Enlightenment. This makes the book very interesting but perhaps also unclear in the purpose of the chosen structure and the subjects of the book. Because it tries to span the entire 18th century in only 300 or so pages, it is bound to run into unhelpful generalisations and creating a lack of coherence of the general subject discussed. Yet the book supplies some interesting insights into the Enlightenment not found elsewhere. However, for those looking for the broader historical view of the period of the Enlightenment, I would recommend turning to W. and A. Durant's "The Age of Voltaire" and "Rousseau and Revolution", which are huge but exhaustive in historical background, while for the philosophical perspective, one should turn to Peter Gay's "The Enlightenment, an Interpretation". Thus, Hampson's book is a good starting point, but not much more than that I'm afraid.
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By Dato on August 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
The book gives an impressive number of names and titles of the actors in the XVIIIth century, but without any reference. Not a single quote is referenced an the reading is really dry, dull, simply enumerating political, economic and bibliographical facts.
At the end of the book, the author presents some adversaries of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. He simply calls Joseph de Maistre "mentally ill" (p.264), and don't take any of these persons serious. By reading this book, you will pass some hard time for reading a book that doesn't help you to understand the Enlightenment, nor the context.

Don't spill your money for this book. This work of Hampson hasn't any scientific value. I recommend all the works of Isaiah Berlin instead.
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