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Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (Hinges of History) Hardcover – 29 Oct 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (29 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495578
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.6 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 975,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is Volume VI in Thomas Cahill's "Hinges of History" series and as he explains, the European rediscovery of classical literature and culture precipitated "two very different movements that characterize the sixteenth century: the Renaissance, first in Italy and then throughout Europe. New knowledge of Greek enables scholars to read the New Testament in its original language, generating new interpretations and theological challenges that issue in the Reformation. Though the Renaissance and the Reformation are very different from each other, both exalt the individual ego in wholly new ways."

The timeframe extends from 1282 and the Sicilian Vespers until 1615-1669 when there are extraordinary examples of believers "who have internalized their faith so personally and deeply that it has lost all comradeship with the combative religious assertions of the partisans who waged the Thirty Years' War." There are hundreds of examples of those Renaissance artists and Reformation priests who established the foundation for subsequent ancestors throughout what is generally referred to as the "civilized" world.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because Cahill is as eloquent as he is erudite, eager to share what he has learned almost four centuries during which he examines exemplify the best and worst of the human race. His vivid, at times unsettling descriptions of various forms and techniques of torture and execution are juxtaposed with almost rhapsodic celebrations of great works of art and those who created them. There is also a wealth of information and insights about economics, exploration, politics, warfare, religious intrigue, secular corruption, cowardice, heroism, martyrdom...as indicated earlier, the best and the worst of the human race.
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By Stanley K. Scott on 14 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 96 reviews
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Riveting, Surprising History from One of the Best! 11 Nov. 2013
By LucyBell2 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First please let me say that this book is a beautiful physical object. The jacket and end papers are simply gorgeous. As is the design of the book--it is generously illustrated with full color art plates to help the reader better understand the periods that Mr. Cahill is writing about.

Now on to the content. Mr. Cahill writes so engagingly about the distant past. That's why I eagerly await his books, even if I think I might not normally be interested in the topic. Take this book. If you asked me before reading it if I would enjoy learning about Martin Luther and the Reformation I'd say "probably not." But Cahill makes it come so thrillingly alive and now I know WHY I should care about Martin Luther and most importantly I now do.

From the Black Death to the Borgias to Michelangelo to yes, Martin Luther, HERETICS AND HEROES is full of riveting stories about the past. The NYT today had an excellent article about education and in it was a quote about the study of history: "The goal of teaching history has always been to make good citizens." This is from a professor at Yale named Thomas Thurston. Well, I think Mr. Cahill's books can go a long way towards making good citizens out of readers. And you'll enjoy the ride!
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Diminishing Returns 28 Jan. 2014
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I wish I could say that in the intervening seven years since the publication of Mysteries of the Middle Ages, the previous volume in this series, Mr. Cahill had been able to get back to the simple pleasures of history that made the first four volumes of “The Hinges of History” fun to read. Unfortunately, though he rights the ship somewhat in Heretics and Heroes, he struggles to find the voice of his earlier, better work.

His biggest problem remains the digressions that have become so prominent in his recent work. Though he kept most of his comments in the extensive footnotes this time rather than (irritatingly) in the body of the text, his thoughts on modern controversial issues are distracting from his topic. At least he kept his tone more subdued and less offensive this time around, but his blatant editorializing really has no place here.

Additionally, for the first time, Mr. Cahill’s subject led him to no real through-line for his history. In the past we’ve learned (at least from Mr. Cahill’s argument), how the Irish saved civilization, why the Greeks matter, how feminism rose during the Middle Ages, etc. This time, however, though we get some nice background on Renaissance art and the Protestant Reformation, there’s nothing toward which we are pointed other than, vaguely, “our world”. This book lacks some of the punch of his earlier work.

In many ways, this series has been one of diminishing returns, particularly in the last two volumes. But, out of respect for the enjoyment I had in the first four volumes, I keep sticking with Mr. Cahill. One volume left, we’re told. I hope it’s not too late for him to get back to the kind of book with which he started—fewer footnotes, clear argument, a focus on history, and, most importantly, and enjoyable ride.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Painless History 27 Nov. 2013
By Bonita A. Brinamen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read all of Cahill's history books and this one continues where "Mysteries of the Middle Ages" left off. I find his writing to make for an interesting read while discussing sometimes complicated material. So if you're into history, philosophy or theology , I highly recommend this book.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A SINGULARLY BAD BOOK 21 Feb. 2014
By David Keymer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Cahill is a charming writer but a misleading one, who in the interest of promoting himself and enticing the reader, trivializes and misrepresents the past. This is not the first book in which Cahill has misrepresented a complicated and alien past as something easy to assimilates and, well, you know, kind of fun. There is something terribly wrong in this type of oversimplifying complicated phenomena.

I reviewed this book for a journal when it came out and wrote:

In the sixth volume of his Hinges of History series, Cahill takes on the Renaissance and Reformation and mangles them as badly as he did the Middle Ages in his earlier Mysteries of the Middle Ages (2008).

He tries to make history accessible through the gratuitous anachronism: comparing something old with something contemporaneous and thus familiar: Columbus, a “completely self-made man,” is likened to a character “in a David Mamet drama. Francis of Assisi, meet Bernie Madoff.” Historians both amateur and professional will cringe.

Cahill does have things to say --on Catholic theology and sensibilities, Italian Renaissance art for instance- but even here, his views are hackneyed. What’s missing in this mish-mash of the past? There’s little on Machiavelli, or Renaissance science or the mundane changes in Italian business practices that Elizabeth Eisenstein and others argue paved the way for a new, more mathematical mind-set. But this is High History, leaping from mountain peak to mountain peak, with little interest in what went on in the valleys between. this book is too idiosyncratic to deserve attention from the serious lover of history.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Hinges of hstory wins again 26 Nov. 2013
By James D. Held - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This series is terrific! Cahill makes history come alive like one was reading a great novel--the story is great. I decided I had to have each of them in hardback, so Amazon has been a great help in acquiring the older ones, too.
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