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Kings and Philosophers, 1689-1789 (The Norton history of modern Europe) Paperback – 1 Apr 1970

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition edition (1 April 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393099059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393099058
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,432,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
C minus 27 April 2013
By Peter Smallhill - Published on
Format: Paperback
Most of the Norton History of Modern Europe series are balanced, readable, well-illustrated surveys of their periods. Not this one.

Krieger's book is sometimes insightful. He decided to spend one third of the book on the thinkers of the Enlightenment, highlighting developments in intellectual history and their subsequent influence on rulers and ruled.

Unfortunately, this effort is marred throughout by Krieger's attempts to fit ideas and events into a higher academic framework. Many sections are long-winded and dull, culminating in tangles like this:

"Government was relevant to the social classes because it required their support and because the policies it adopted affected their destinies, but government was also independent of its social base because of the specifically political dimension - external and internal security - in its policies."

The section on intellectual history is equally disappointing. Krieger tends to catalog and list, sort and organize, rather than to elaborate and explain the doctrines of the many thinkers he mentions. He does not define terms used, such as empiricism and utilitarianism, or distinctions such as empiricism versus "primacy of facts". His discussion of Rousseau is misleading, tending to portray him as a democrat while skimming over other implications of his "general will" concept.

Even when he gets to revolution, Krieger continues to categorize rather than to enlighten the reader on the dynamics that drove change.

The insights provided do not justify the effort needed to slog through this tedious book. Even the illustrations are below Norton's usual standard.

For a better alternative, Isser Woloch's Norton book is also not the best choice because it overfocuses on social history at the expense of politics and other developments.

A much more balanced and very readable, comprehensive survey of exactly the same period covered by Krieger is M. S. Anderson's "Europe in the Eighteenth Century".
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