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 warmly.in 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.