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Gibbon (Past Masters) Paperback – Mar 1985

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; First Edition edition (Mar. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192875523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192875525
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1 x 17.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,163,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gibbon 13 Jan. 2008
By Stephen Balbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, what a delight to read about Gibbon in a mere 111 pages (harmonious with Gibbons under five foot stature). A short treatment about such a large subject as Gibbon and his work could have been a problem, but Burrow pulls it off. After an opening mini biography of Gibbons life, the remainder of the book is an overview of 'Decline and Fall': chapter titles include "Rome", "Christianity", "Barbarism" and "Civilization". The best chapter is "Civilization", it can be read as a standalone essay about Western history, it is full of fascinating ideas and insights. The last chapter "A possession in perpetuity" ties together some loose ends and has an interesting discussion on the nature of art and immortality. Any book of this nature has to rely heavily on quotes and because Gibbons writing is so powerful he can steal the show, but Burrow more than holds his own, the cadence between Burrow and Gibbon is sheer pleasure. Yet, as Burrow says:

"To present a vast historical work like the 'Decline and Fall' as I have done, chiefly in terms of its organizing concepts and the explanations it offers, is necessarily to travesty it: to reveal the bones is to make hard, angular, dry and summary what in the experience of reading is enjoyed as flexible, rich and leisurely."(p.80)

The "bones" revealed by Burrow include Gibbon's stylistic device of black/white polarities underlying his arguments: Liberty/servility, vigor/enervation, manliness/effeminacy, simplicity/luxury, fanaticism/moderation, superstition/reason, theology/morality, asceticism/nature, unsocial/social and of course barbarism/civilization. This is not to say Gibbons has reduced history into a child-like "good vs bad" view, he does show ambiguity in human action, but his style or technique is to create polarities and then play off between those positions. This is an excellent work of historiography and intellectual history, I highly recommend it for anyone who has read Gibbon to better understand his context and ideas, Burrow treats Gibbon with a great deal of sympathy and the reader comes away with an even deeper appreciation and passion for the man and his work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A masterful introduction to the life and work 21 Feb. 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the finest volumes in the ' Past Masters' series. Burrow tells Gibbon's story and outlines the major themes of 'The Decline and Fall' with concision and clarity .He sets Gibbon in the context of his time and shows how his Augustan eighteen century values effect his judgment of the second- century Roman height of development, and the decline from it. Gibbon sees the decline and fall as a movement away from Roman independence, hardiness, military self- sufficiency and virtue to social indolence brought by prolonged prosperity and luxury. The measured and balanced tolerant religions of paganism are weakened and defeated by the enthusiastic superstition of Christianity. The civilized West is overrun by those of the barbaric East. Burrow does a wonderful job presenting Gibbon's biography, the background and preparation leading up to the writing of his great masterpiece. He shows too how Gibbon's great style however it aligns itself in support of Roman social virtue contains a subtlety and elaborative greatness that enables it to capture the positive qualities of Rome's barbarian opponents. Burrow shows how Gibbon's masterful style of antithesis and balance, work to give his account a kind of aesthetic and moral subtlety and ambiguity.

This is a very good introduction to one of the greatest of all classics of historical writing.
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