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Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics, 1500-1700 Hardcover – July 31, 1998

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"A superb synthesis of popular politics in early modern western and central Europe. . . . Te Brake has cut across the barriers to find common properties and principles of variation in the politics of ordinary people."—Charles Tilly, Columbia University

About the Author

Wayne te Brake, Professor of History at Purchase College, State University of New York, is author of Regents and Rebels: The Revolutionary World of an Eighteenth-Century Dutch City (1989), and coeditor of Challenging Authority: The Historical Study of Contentious Politics (1998).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 237 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (July 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520211707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520211704
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,217,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I have read on early-modern European history. It wisely avoids the elite-centered accounts of the big events and big names of history that for the most part did more harm than good to their nations. Instead the author details the micro-economic impact of ordinary people in these two pivotal centuries--a time when the efforts of ordinary entrepreneurs developed the institutional mechanisms that allowed both political freedom and economic prosperity to flourish.

Most popular recent history books attempt to point to a specific time or place when the West pulled ahead of the Rest. And they usually attempt to "discover" a particular catalyst that rendered that point in time a Major Historical Divergence. But Western history, properly understood, unfolded as an ongoing political process, with progress occasionally flooding forward and then ebbing backward in recurring patterns of change. The author charts these historical patterns throughout the two centuries he concentrates on--the period that witnessed the end of the Renaissance, the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. He desribes where, when and how the ordinary people of this period broke down their political and religious leaders' exclusive claims to authority and thereby opened the door for economic and political freedom. It is a refreshing and exciting account of how the Davids slew the Goliaths.

It is notable that progress was never widespread, but occurred briefly, if at all, in only a few locales. This understanding of how history was shaped has been applied to world history in
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