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History and the Enlightenment [Hardcover]

Hugh Trevor-roper

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Book Description

23 Feb 2010
Arguably the leading British historian of his generation, Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003) is most celebrated and admired as the author of essays. This volume brings together some of the most original and radical writings of his career - many hitherto inaccessible, one never before published, all demonstrating his piercing intellect, urbane wit, and gift for elegant, vivid narrative. This collection focuses on the writing and understanding of history in the eighteenth century and on the great historians and the intellectual context that inspired or provoked their writings. It combines incisive discussion of such figures as Gibbon, Hume and Carlyle with broad sweeps of analysis and explication. Essays on the Scottish Enlightenment and the Romantic movement are balanced by intimate portraits of lesser-known historians whose significance Trevor-Roper took particular delight in revealing.

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History and the Enlightenment + The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation and Social Change + The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (23 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300139349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300139341
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`History and the Enlightenment is a rallying cry for those who cherish history. The reading of it left me exultant.' --Richard Davenport-Hines, Literary Review, June 2010

`...sardonic, witty, elegant and shrewd, these essays confirm [Trevor-Roper's] status as one of the finest writers of the last half-century.'
--The Oldie, July 2010

`Intellectually stimulating and a delight to read.'
--Sunday Herald, 28th November 2010

About the Author

The late Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre of Glanton) was Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford and a prolific scholar. His last two books, 'Europe's Physician' and 'The Invention of Scotland', were published by Yale. The (silent) editor of this title is Dr John Robertson, specialist on the Scottish Englightenment, at St Hugh's College, Oxford.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A coherent, elegant philosophic edifice constructed with well-crafted essays 22 Sep 2010
By Michael S. McGill - Published on
This is a superb book. The editor has assembled a carefully crafted collection of pieces that, brick by brick, make the author's case for his perspective on Enlightenment history. And the author, of course, has provided the essays themselves, written with elegance, maturity, and wisdom. Each chapter takes a piece of the puzzle, whether it deals with the Enlightenment in Scotland, or change and ferment in religious orthodoxy, or a willingness by early historians of the period to break from a deductive, religious causality, or the different approaches to history in various European countries, and gradually builds the case for the profound change in writing history that occurred in 18th century Great Britain. For an American, the author's analysis has the added appeal of putting in perspective the intellectual milieu that existed at the time our Founders were formulating their views on independence from Great Britain and how a new nation should govern itself.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Superb Collection of Hugh Trevor-Roper Essays 15 Sep 2010
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This collection of essays by the late Hugh Trevor-Roper, who died in 2003, is particularly welcome given the recent publication of Adam Sisman's fine biography of Trevor-Roper (also reviewed on Amazon). As Sisman explains, T-R was looked down a bit, despite his fine accomplishments, because he never published the "big book" that was expected. But as Sisman also explains, and this collection demonstrates, T-R more than made up for this shortcoming, if that is what it was, by publishing scads of wonderful essays which established his reputation as the finest historical essayist of the 20th century. T-R's unique mastery of this form of historical writing is much evident in this collection, edited by John Robertson of St. Hugh's College, Oxford.

Robertson's "Editor's Introduction," puts the various essays to follow into a helpful context, especially for those who are not familiar with T-R and his interests. Robertson has also taken much care with the essays' notes, supplementing some and adding references where none was published with the essay. In his appendix, "A Guide to Later Scholarship," he discusses some more recent work that pertains to T-R's topics. This update is very helpful because the essays were published mainly in the 1960's, 1980's, with the most recent being published in 1997.

The essays themselves, all tied somehow to the enlightenment and the writing of history, reflect some of T-R's most central interests. For example, there are three perceptive essays on Edward Gibbon, long a T-R favorite. I came to a much better understanding of why Gibbon is so important, both to the discipline of history, as well as to our substantive knowledge. The Scottish Enlightenment, an area in which T-R got even the Scots to take an interest, pops up in several of the essays, including a very interesting one on David Hume. Surprising to me, T-R devotes one essay to Sir Walter Scott and his contributions to the "romantic movement and the study of history." Thomas Carlyle was introduced to me in a study of his historical philosophy; I knew the name but never had read any of his work. Similarly, Lord Macaulay and his dominance of English history is examined under T-R's microscope. Finally, an essay on the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt concludes the collection. Other essays discuss Pietro Giannone, Dimitrie Cantemir, and Conyers Middleton.

A typically trenchant T-R essay on "The Historical Philosophy of the Enlightenment," commences the volume, and it is T-R at his best. Great in learning; incisive in analysis; uniting in one thesis many different strings of topics; and just a pleasure to read. This essay gives T-R a chance to discuss another of his favorite topics, Montesquieu and his enormous impact on both the writing of history and the enlightenment. An interesting theme developed in this essay is how the French Revolution impacted on the writing of history. One can only stand in amazement as to how much one learns from reading these essays, which are packed with information and challenging ideas, and yet are just fun to read as well. If only more intellectual history were this sparkling!
5.0 out of 5 stars Trevor-Roper/s Miscellanea 3 Oct 2013
By Philip Brantingham - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This collection of miscellanea from Hugh Trevor-Roper's oeuvre gathers together assorted articles that have not been issued in a single volume before. Far from being a scrappy omnium gatherum, the book has a theme: the Enlightenment. However, in one respect this is a stretch, since the last four articles deal with the Romantic Movement, Macaulay, Carlyle, and Burckhardt, hardly epigones of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, the bulk of the articles do touch on Enlightenment figures, such as Gibbon, Giannone, and Hume. .
Trevor-Roper is at his best in short pieces, and previous collections, such as 'Historical Essays" and "Renaissance Essay", show him at his insightful best, witty and wise. In the book under review the touch is less popular and more academic. His editor, John Robertson, has even provided more detailed footnotes than Trevor-Roper had originally.. (Oddly, for all his work, Robertson is not even listed on the title page as editor.).
If the title "History and the Enlightenment" is a bit heavy-handed, the contents are less ponderous. Trevor-Roper's breezy style is open to every reader, He reminds us chiefly of David Hume, whose clever and readable history of England, Trevor-Roper praises the essay "David Hume, Historian," almost the last word on the philosopher's English history. A valuable essay is that of the little-known Italian Enlightenment historian, Pietro Giannone, who deserves to be better known. Trevor-Roper calls him "the real founder, and indeed protomartyr,of the 'civil history' of the Enlightenment.' Along with Vico, Giannone blazed a trail for Italian historians to follow, but for this he was persecuted, while Vico was praised. His "The Civil History of Naples" exposed the power that the Church held over the city in no uncertain terms. For this, he was driven from Naples, and pursued to the north of Italy.
Other essays deal with the triumphs and failures of historians, with no mercy shown (especially in the case of Macaulay).
This new collection is certainly a jewel in the crown of Trevor-Roper's work, and adds considerably to the history of ideas, It can be considered equally valuable, alongside those well-known miscellanies of Isaiah Berlin and E.H. Carr.
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