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There is little debate that the Renaissance began at the end of the fourteenth century. Its end, though, is much more difficult to pin down. Here, for the first time, renowned classicist Theodore Rabb defines the changes that marked the shift away from the Renaissance to Modernity, and explains why these changes took place. The European Renaissance is usually characterized by the belief that a distinct antique civilization represented the ideal for all human endeavors. But there were other unities that defined the era: a shift in the role of the aristocracy from a warrior class to a cultural elite, a growth in education, a more thoughtful probing into the sciences, and the use of the arts for nonreligious purposes.By the dawn of the seventeenth century, four developments had swept over the world, altering these unities and ending the Renaissance: a break with the period's obsession with the past, which invited openness to innovation; a quest for central political control to cure increasing instability; a change in direction of people's passion and enthusiasm; and a new commitment to reason. With thoughtful, wide-lens scholarship and close, detailed looks throughout at the significant moments of change, Rabb offers us a radically new understanding of one of the most pivotal shifts in modern history.
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Theodore K. Rabb is a professor of Renaissance and early modern history at Princeton University. He has written or edited more than twenty books, including Renaissance Lives.From Booklist:
Modern historians are often loathe to utilize periodization in describing the transformation of civilizations. Rabb, a Princeton professor of Renaissance and early modern history, does not shy away from the term as he describes the emergence of "modern" Western civilization in the seventeenth century. While acknowledging that any historical transformation has evolutionary aspects, Rabb convincingly asserts that the civilizations of seventeenth-century Europe were based on a radical break with the period usually referred to as the Renaissance. That period was characterized by certain "unities" and common assumptions, including an idealization of classical civilization, a domestication of the aristocracy that modified their role as warriors, and the end of clerical monopoly of education. In the seventeenth century, Rabb sees a forward-looking civilization that, in some cases, seems to disdain and discard the past as it opens to innovations that shatter assumptions about society, science, and man's role in the cosmos. This is an engrossing and often provocative work geared to those with a solid knowledge of European political and intellectual history. Jay Freeman
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