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The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford Cultural Editions Series)

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312179977
ISBN-10: 0312179979
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is an excellent collection. The clear and elegant introduction usefully discusses many current topics of interest regarding the Enlightenment, including the role of religion; the cultural processes of criticism; the social and gender status of the 'enlightened, ' and attitudes towards non-European societies and peoples. The well-chosen documents, combined with the author's fine introduction, should make this a very effective text for use in the classroom."

About the Author

Margaret C. Jacob is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has published widely on science, religion, freemasonry, and the origins of the Industrial Revolution. A past Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow, Jacob has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her first book, The Newtonians and the English Revolution (1976), won the Gottschalk prize from the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, of which she was president from 1997 to 1998. Her most recent book is Scientific Culture and the Making of the Industrial West (1997).
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Product Details

  • Series: Bedford Cultural Editions Series
  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's (October 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312179979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312179977
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert C. Wheeler on May 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Enlightenment: Brief History with Documents (Bedford Series in History and Culture)
This is a brief, but concise, overview of the ideas spawned by the Enlightenment. The author provides documents to illustrate the the ideas of major figures of the enlightenment. The author indicates this book as suitable for a one week course session on the Enlightenment. Here we see the formative ideas of individual freedom, religious tolerance, and government by the will of the people displayed in the various source documents. Not an exhaustive treatment, but an excellent tickler to the study of this most important period in the history of human freedom.
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One of my hobbies is reading history text books, and recently I wanted to focus on the Enlightenment. I was especially interested in finding out how this movement integrated into the concurrent and subsequent events in Europe, like the Glorious Revolution in England, and the Dutch and French Revolutions. Ms. Jacob organizes the information perfectly, and writes in a comfortable and easily read narrative style. Her comparisons of one player to the next, i.e. Diderot vs. Rousseau, render clear and valuable distinctions. She also includes the documents of these same players, which allows for an easy and deeper understanding of these fine "thinkers."

I did find it amusing that Ms.Jacob presents Lady Mary Montague on a par with Voltaire, Locke and Hobbes. We would have to guess that Ms. Jacob is probably a serious feminist, and being such, that it sometimes gets in the way of her otherwise healthy perspective.

Previously, I had read Jonathan Israel's "Revolution of the Mind" in which he tries to focus on the more radical, and later period of the movement. While Israel's grasp of knowledge of these times seems robust, his organization and writing are wanting. Because of his employment of extraordinarily long, and extraordinarily compound sentences, without the convenience of commas, reading his book becomes a tedious labor.
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Format: Paperback
After reading a bunch of these Bedford series in History books for a history class, I have really come to appreciate them. They are all pretty short, smooth reads that give a historical overview of the time, then include selections of documents written during that time related to the topic or whatever. As only having a vague knowledge of such things as the Enlightenment before reading these books my knowledge and understanding of such has been greatly increased, and I feel like the history is pretty well covered for the purpose of simple survey; in any case it's a good way to start learning about the time and point one in the right direction if further interested. I plan on reading a bunch more of these just on some parts of history that I'm rather ignorant about or only partially interested in, just to have a basic idea of the period and place. I particularly enjoyed this book on the Enlightenment simply because it was a really exciting time in history to reflect on and see the variety of new thoughts of new thinkers.
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Interesting book. The first half is the story about the Enlightenment and is well written. Philosophers and activists transforming society into free speech, lack of censorship, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, rule by democratic republic instead of kings, ending slavery, women's rights and many other causes. Many met in secret Masonic Lodges to avoid prison and possibly death for their views.

The second part has essays from some of the great philosophers of that era.

John Locke talks about the best way to teach children is through niceness, rather than physical punishment (It seems obvious now, but was something new back then), and other practical advice.

Treatise of the Three Imposters was written with a fake name and published in secret. Penalties would have been harsh for anyone involved. It describes Moses, Jesus and Muhammad as regular people tricking people into believing for their own benefits.

Voltaire has some great essays. My favorite being that Francis Bacon was the greatest philosopher, even above Issac Newton, because he discovered the scientific method, which made all modern science possible.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had some fun essays about her travels. Freer German areas were nice and prosperous while the ones with greedy kings were poor. While in Vienna, It was common for wives and husbands to have lovers on the side. If you invite the man out to the theater, don't be surprised if he brings his wife and mistress there together. In Turkey, many wives would meet their lovers for a secret fling at the Jewish shop, and no one would notice, because they always wore those Arabian robes which covered their face and body.
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