The Early Modern World, 1450-1650

Book - 2016
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This fast-paced survey of Western civilization's transition from the Middle Ages to modernity brings that tumultuous period vividly to life. Carlos Eire, popular professor and gifted writer, chronicles the two-hundred-year era of the Renaissance and Reformation with particular attention to issues that persist as concerns in the present day. Eire connects the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in new and profound ways, and he demonstrates convincingly that this crucial turning point in history not only affected people long gone, but continues to shape our world and define who we are today. The book focuses on the vast changes that took place in Western civilization between 1450 and 1650, from Gutenberg's printing press and the subsequent revolution in the spread of ideas to the close of the Thirty Years' War. Eire devotes equal attention to the various Protestant traditions and churches as well as to Catholicism, skepticism, and secularism, and he takes into account the expansion of European culture and religion into other lands, particularly the Americas and Asia. He also underscores how changes in religion transformed the Western secular world. A book created with students and nonspecialists in mind, Reformations is an inspiring, provocative volume for any reader who is curious about the role of ideas and beliefs in history.
Publisher: New Haven ;, London :, Yale University Press,, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780300111927
Characteristics: xviii, 893 pages : illustrations, maps, facsimiles, portraits ; 26 cm


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Jun 19, 2017

It is not an accident that Carlos Eire's study of the fragmentation of Western Christianity in the early modern era, between the start of construction of the new St Peter's Basilica and the end of the Thirty Years War, is titled Reformations rather than "the Reformation". Taking a broad view of his subject, Eire traces the development of a diverse range of expressions of the perennial Christian desire for reform, given new force and direction by the humanism of the Renaissance. This is complemented by a distant but nevertheless real appreciation of the intimate relationship between religion, politics, economics, and culture, as well as a conscious commitment "to allow the past to be understood on its own terms" and avoid "either-or reductionism."

While it is much too late to avoid variations on the value-laden word "reform", it might be hoped that a better effort might be made in the employment of such ambiguous terms as "Scriptural", "superstition", and "rational". Of course, to thread one's way through all of the theological niceties would require at least a dozen books each as long as Eire's, which makes some simplification a necessary evil. While Reformations is hardly the final word on such a complex and contentious period, neither does Eire imagine it to be. It is, however, an excellent beginning for anyone seeking to understand the era and its legacy.


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