From Dawn To Decadence (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

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9780613708500: From Dawn To Decadence (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
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FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. From Dawn To Decadence chronicles a detailed account of our history since 1500, from what Western Man wrought from the Renaissance and Reformation down to the present day.

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Review:

In the last half-millennium, as the noted cultural critic and historian Jacques Barzun observes, great revolutions have swept the Western world. Each has brought profound change--for instance, the remaking of the commercial and social worlds wrought by the rise of Protestantism and by the decline of hereditary monarchies. And each, Barzun hints, is too little studied or appreciated today, in a time he does not hesitate to label as decadent.

To leaf through Barzun's sweeping, densely detailed but lightly written survey of the last 500 years is to ride a whirlwind of world-changing events. Barzun ponders, for instance, the tumultuous political climate of Renaissance Italy, which yielded mayhem and chaos, but also the work of Michelangelo and Leonardo--and, he adds, the scientific foundations for today's consumer culture of boom boxes and rollerblades. He considers the 16th-century varieties of religious experimentation that arose in the wake of Martin Luther's 95 theses, some of which led to the repression of individual personality, others of which might easily have come from the "Me Decade." Along the way, he offers a miniature history of the detective novel, defends Surrealism from its detractors, and derides the rise of professional sports, packing in a wealth of learned and often barbed asides.

Never shy of controversy, Barzun writes from a generally conservative position; he insists on the importance of moral values, celebrates the historical contributions of Christopher Columbus, and twits the academic practitioners of political correctness. Whether accepting of those views or not, even the most casual reader will find much that is new or little-explored in this attractive venture into cultural history. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Jacques Barzun was born in France in 1907 and moved to the US in 1920. After graduating from Columbia University he joined its faculty as Professor of History, becoming Dean of Faculties and Provost. The author of over thirty books he received the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president.

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