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3.8 out of 5 stars
9
The Enlightenment (Studies in European History)
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on May 15, 2010
this succinct text is basically a very high quality, informed and judicious "cliff's notes" overview of the sprawling academic literature on the enlightenment -- summarized at the end as an annotated, 13 page bibliography and a detailed, 7 page index. with repeated hat tips to peter gay's landmark, two volume study (1960), porter reviews subsequent confirmations and dissents from gay's narrative and major conclusions about the enlightenment in an "on the one hand ... on the other hand" style. the compact, briskly written chapters cover definitions of the enlightenment, the enlightenment project of creating a secular "science of man," the politics and religious attitudes of the philosophes, and the unity or diversity among the various enlightenment participants, both as individuals and as national, social and class movements. Porter's verdict: "The Enlightenment helped to free man from his past. In so doing, it failed to prevent the construction of future captivities" (tyrannies such as the french revolution and napoleonic era, exploitation of labor by capital, technological alienation, etc.).
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on November 7, 2012
Make sure you realize how few pages there are. This is an exceedingly brief treatment of a topic, the Enlightenment, on which others have written volumes of full-length books-only 68 pages of text, quite pricey per page.
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on November 3, 2013
This work surveys as well as interprets an enormous field. It does so, and does it well. It is an illuminating guide, especially pertinent to the student and general reader.
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on September 16, 2015
OK gift to student
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on June 27, 2005
I recently discovered the late Roy Porter through his last book Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul. After devouring that book I ordered both The Enlightenment and The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. The latter book lives up to my expectations but I was disappointed in the shorter book, which was no doubt constrained by the publisher's expectations since it is part of a series.

My chief complaint is that because the book is so short, it seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with the main characters of period. For me this was only partially true. Therefore, I would not recommend this as a introduction to the subject.
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on December 26, 2012
The book is too short for being taken very seriously, It looks like a book such as "Everything that you should know about the enlightenment in 2 hours".
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on February 21, 2013
I'm totally enlightened now. I feel like a went to Haavad and not just to paak my cah like usual
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on January 4, 2004
130 pages of endnotes in fine print for under 500 pages of text, plus another 77 pages (again in fine print) of bibliography, and then a full index - this book is a scholar's dream. Yet its easy style is aimed at a wide readership too.
Who can doubt the seminal role of Britain in the Enlightenment? The French may have started it. But Britain carried the movement forward. I'm impressed by the evidence.
Porter gives prominent place to the roles of Hume, Locke, and especially Priestley, with justice. Also mentioned are Gibbon, Swift, Malthus, and Samuel Johnson, and of course Adam Smith. Ben Franklin was a giant of the Enlightenment, but not of BRITISH Enlightenment, although he spent many adult years living in London, and knew many of these men. (Indeed Franklin brought Priestley over to America.) So Franklin is not covered in depth here. He was American.
This is the kind of book I'd love to read on the couch in many a long Canadian winter night. I also recommend Jenny Uglow's "The Lunar Men," which covers similar but not the same ground (and has much to say about Priestley too, who was also a "Lunar Man")
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on January 5, 2004
It appears that Roy Porter has a full-length book on British Enlightenment published by Penguin, and my review refers to that book and not this one, although both have the same title.
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