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The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559 (Norton History of Modern Europe) Paperback – 1 Mar 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Mar. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393963047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393963045
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 285,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Eugene F. Rice, Jr., is William R. Shepard Professor of History at Columbia University. His most recent book is Saint Jerome in the Renaissance. Anthony Grafton is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University. His recent books include Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science and New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and The Shock of Discovery.

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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dewdrop on 27 July 2010
Format: Paperback
We were instructed to get this book as part of required reading for a uni module on the Renaissance and Reformation in Europe.
Virtually from the first I took exception to some of the views stated in the book. The idea that Western European scientific discovery overtook and outdid the discoveries by Arab/Muslim and Asian scientists, implying that it needed western European scientists to develop scientific ideas because those in East were incapable of doing so!
In fact, the attitude throughout is one in which the developments in Western Europe far outweighed any elsewhere in the world, and in fact all that was produced - including the visual arts - was far superior to that produced anywhere else.
so the book is full of fairly solid facts and chronological recitation of events, but you need to read other texts to get a fully balanced view of the period.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Succinct yet insightful, scholarly yet readable. A classic. 3 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Rice's work is a superb short survey of the technology and ideas that created our modern world. Despite the high level of scholarship, the text is eminently readable with a graceful, lucid style that successfully walks the tightrope of summarizing without oversimplifying. The chapter on the impact of the invention of printing is alone worth the price of the book. Excellent illustrations and maps throughout, and the typeface is exquisite. I read this book twenty years ago for a college history course and recently reread it in the second edition. An unparalleled account of the early modern period and undoubtedly on its way to becoming a modern classic.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
excellent on many points 15 July 2006
By Wyote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The chief strength of this book is its coverage of economic, military and political history. Of course in this period (basically the Renaissance and Reformation) most of us focus on the artistic, religious, philosophical and scientific developments--so we can use this background information very well. This was my situation, and I found this little book (just 200 pages) perfectly illuminating. In fact, it's the most well-organized, concise, informative text on this period that I know of.

The only strong criticism I can make is that it covers cultural developments only very briefly, since its focus lies elsewhere. Evidently the author realizes that if you know nothing about the period you need an introduction; but if you are going to study the cultural history in any depth, this is at best an introduction.

So, to compliment this book, I strongly recommend something like Jansen's Art History, and something like Naxos' "Discover Early Music" (ASIN: B000B6N6BI).

Besides that, I recommend moving on to the other books in the Norton History of Modern Europe series--next is Dunn's "The Age of Religious Wars," itself a fine book.

If you want to learn the history of the period, or to brush up, I can happily recommend starting here. But if you want more depth, I especially recommend Diarmaid MacCulloch's "Reformation." Unfortunately I do not know what book to recommend if you want to study the Renaissance in any depth. I believe Peter Burke's "The Italian Renaissance" is a classic, perhaps the classic, coverage, but I can't really recommend it since I haven't read it. I strongly recommend complimenting all this with a history of the Ottoman Empire such as Lord Kinross' "Ottoman Centuries"--a too often neglected but undeniably central part of early modern European history.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Guildsmen of the World, Unite! 19 May 2008
By A. Briggs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Has there been a more eventful century than that between the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and Charles V's abdication (1556)? These are the years, after all, which saw the high water mark of the Renaissance in art and literature; the continent-wide crisis of faith in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation; and in politics, the apex and downfall of the north Italian city-states - not to mention the voyages of discovery and commercial adventure overseas and burgeoning of capitalist enterprise which set Europe on the path to world domination. Given its position at the fulcrum of the modern world, survey histories of this period are badly needed.

Unfortunately, despite intense scholarly interest in the early modern period, they are also in short supply. The present effort by Eugene Rice (Columbia) and Anthony Grafton (Princeton) provides a useful and needed remedy. Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559, the first volume in the History of Modern Europe series from Norton, succeeds in summarizing the important issues. Unfortunately it also suffers from shortcomings of interpretation and omission.

It's not a great mystery why few general works are available on 15th-16th century history. It's an incredibly complicated and controversial period. Rice and Grafton tackle the subject with a thematic approach, and the book successfully conveys the essential facts. The great names appear in due course: Columbus and Cortes; Petrarch and Erasmus; Brunelleschi and Leonardo; Luther and Loyola. The reader gets succinct and capable accounts of the spread of the printed word, advances in technology and warfare, and the reinterpretation of the Classics by the great humanists.

The book is particularly successful on the political front. The authors succeed in reducing the potentially bewildering array of French dynasties, Habsburg marriages, Italian dukes and German princes to a clear schematic of Renaissance power dynamics. A coherent picture of the pivotal rivalries between Habsburgs, French and Turks, and the federalist struggle in Germany, emerges - if one painted with a necessarily broad brush. In its final third, the book also provides a good summary history of the Reformation.

So much for the good; now for the not-so-good. Perhaps it's unfair to criticize a sin of omission when our authors have to deal with such a vast subject in only 200 pages. However, there is one item I'm compelled to note. The great Thomas More figures prominently in the discussion of humanism, and the book's last pages provide a nice summary of the English Reformation. Would it be too much to ask, then, that More's execution for refusal to take the oath to Parliament find even a single word of mention?

But this is a quibble, as is that the dates in the book's subtitle seem to have been chosen at random. The book's most serious flaw occurs at the narrative's most critical point: the discussion of capitalism. It could be argued that the development of capitalism is the key to the early modern period, so it's critical to get this part right. Our authors fail miserably, and I fear that an ideological bias has a lot to do with that failure.

We can all agree that this period saw (in general) a transition from the medieval guild-based economic model to a capitalist model. I will refrain from referring to these models as "modes of production", as our authors do, because that is a technical term drawn from Marxist economic theory. But the author's usage is a good signpost for what's to come.

The gist of the authors' account is that craftsmen, who had previously enjoyed independence as guildsmen, lost that independence to the capitalist. As capitalism advanced, the typical industry became "controlled by a merchant who had reduced the master craftsmen in his employ to varying degrees of economic dependence." I think this means that the capitalist hired workmen on different pay scales, but there is no clear explanation in the text so we can't be sure. The point is that previously, the guilds protected the craftsman. Now he was on his own, and therefore ripe for exploitation by the capitalist. This is lamented as a loss of independence and pride: for the guildsmen, "Their pride was their independence." The villainous capitalist robbed them of both.

How, may I ask, was the guildsman more independent than the craftsman free to sell his labor and abilities to the highest bidder? Simply put, he wasn't. The guilds were protectionist. Their function was regulatory and restrictive - so it's strange to read that "The craft guild had been a flexible institution." (The same paragraph goes on to contradict itself by detailing the restrictions a guild placed on its members.) In a medieval world the guilds had their place. But by the late 15th century the groundswell of creative energy was too great to be contained by the old restrictions.

Unfortunately the class-conflict theory of capitalism permits no such insights. The authors speculate that capitalism operated on a smaller scale in this time period relative to (for example) state-organized defense projects because "only the state had... the coercive power necessary to recruit and control the great number of workers they required." (p. 54) In the authors' world, if a man is working, he must have been "coerced" into doing so. The prospect of getting paid could have nothing to do with it.

Further, in their discussion of developments in banking, the authors remark that the international expansion of the silk trade "opened the industry to control by the merchant bankers" (p.58). Perhaps they fail to consider that merchant banking was itself the innovation which made the growth of this industry possible? But that would be to admit a non-pernicious influence.

Our authors seem not to recognize the critical psychological fact of the Renaissance: the new appetite for risk of all kinds - artistic, exploratory, and yes, financial. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that their perspective is informed less by social-scientific rigor than by allegiance to scientific socialism.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Excellent in Scope and understaning: Great Indroduction 4 Feb. 2005
By Robert E. Murena Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Eugene Rice has summed up the age of reformation very well in this book. It is very readable and quite scholarly considering the broad scope of time and place the author covers in this work. This work provides a great introduction to the subject in a couple hundred pages of relatively easy reading. Before reading deep into Luther or Charles V, begin to read primary sources of the age, or even read fiction like Dan Brown's "Davinci Code", it makes sense to get some introductory material. This book covers that subject well.

Taking the period from all angles, Rice describes lifestyles of all economic strata while also explaining the cultural shifts of Humanism and the rise of the early modern state. He also explains in great clarity the factors that brought reformation about. I appreciate the fact that he also discusses other protestants and why they did not stick tightly to Luther's views. Further, Rice organizes this book in a way that makes it very accessible to someone who doesn't want to read the work from cover to cover.

Overall this is really an excellent work that I recommend highly to all students and to anyone who wants to learn about our past. The books provides a great read without oversimplifying issues like William Manchester's "A World Lit Only B Fire". I think after reading you will agree this book opens the door and sheds light on the early modern era nicely.

-- Ted Murena
The Foundation of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559 by Eugene F. Rice, Jr. 28 July 2013
By ann powell dewart gleason - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for a class. The book is good for learning a lot of information in a short amount of time. This book was in good enough condition. Also, the shipping time was reasonable.
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