on 17 May 2010
Written by academics associated with the Warwick Department of History, this book is an excellent stepping-stone into the world of early modern Europe. The book is a textbook for 'The European World 1500-1750', a central undergraduate module at the University of Warwick which is obligatory for all history undergraduates. As such, as an undergraduate studying the early modern period, I have found it to be a well-balanced and readable introduction to all the crucial topics of early modern history. It is not simply a collection of semi-related essays but has a coherent, integrated structure that divides the history of the period into four major themes: society and economy, religion, culture, and politics. The short and tastefully written chapters are all concluded with a useful bibliography containing the seminal texts of the historiography of the topic. The editor has ensured that the book is fully compatible with the internet era and URL links to helpful web resources are to be found sprinkled throughout the book. At the end of the book there is a glossary of specialised terms such as 'transubstantiation' and 'scholasticism' which I have found a particularly helpful feature as a newcomer to the jargon of the period. In short, I can heartily recommend this book to any student of European history - it is really an essential tool for essays, seminar preparation and gaining general knowledge. I can also recommend it to the general reader, who wishes to quickly gain an overview perspective of the key events and topics of European history as the continent progressed to modernity.
on 10 June 2011
You might be unsure about buying a "textbook" if you are no student. but don't hesitate getting a copy of this one! It is excellent and very readable (at least if you make appropriate breaks between chapters that sum up specific themes or aspects in 12-15 intense pages).
Here are, in my opinion, this book's main assets:
-- To the difference of many other history books, this one does not consider Europe from one specific country, to which other countries would be compared.
In many cases, the mentioned regions or countries are chosen because they most appropriately exemplify the chapter's theme.
--The book, which is globally chronological, covers a very wide range of subjects:
*Part I gives a welcome global picture of Europe... and the rest of the world at the beginning of the studied period of time (1500)
*Part II deals with "society and economy" (including gender and family --- at the very beginning, which is very unusual--, rural and urban society, marginals and deviants, early modern economy).
*Part III is about religion (situation at the end of the Middle Ages, followed by the Reformation--Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic--, and a chapter on the Jews and Muslims.
*Culture is the general theme of Part IV (concept of "Renaissance", discovery of new territories/colonies, art and society, importance of the printed press, scientific revolution, witchcraft and magic, popular culture(s), Enlightement)
*Part V deals with politics. Quite unusually - and refreshingly, I think-- that section is placed at the end. In addition "politics" are considered in an open and deeply structural way. You won't face endless lists of conflicts and treatises or details of dynastic successions. "Politics" here includes the political and judicial relationships between the monarch (prince, pope, king/queen, ...) and his/her direct circle (court), and between that central power and local government. Chronological lists and dynasties can be found at the very end of the book, together with welcome maps.
*Part VI gives a picture of Europe and the rest of the world round 1800.
--Historiography is occasionally discussed.
E.g.: the usual connection that is established between "Italy" and "Renaissance" seems to originate in a work by a Basel-based professor in 1871. But do historians still agree that (Italian) Renaissance was a new era? (p. 151).
-- Specific terms and concepts such as transubstantiation vs consubstantiation, morisco, millenarian, bridewells, city-states, signori or cartesianism, are explained (a little in the text, and mainly in a specific glossary at the end).
-- Much attention is given to nuances, to (implicit or explicit) exceptions, that can be regional or social, and to the limits of what is known. It appears very clearly in the chapter on prosecutions for witchcraft (p.203), for instance. Numbers (of cases) are questioned; the European geography of prosecution is analysed and explanations are given, referring to/opposing several historians. Finally, reasons are suggested for the decline in prosecutions. Both primary sources (judicial archives) and essays are mentioned.
-- Each chapter is written by an expert on the subject and ended with a reading list (sources, literature, web resources). There is a convenient index at the very end of the book.
Beat Kümin's editorial job is excellent, seamless. No overlapping, no gaps, adequate invitations to go to another chapter where a subject is developed in more depths. A few illustrations and "boxes" with examples or excerpts of original texts liven up the lay-out.
on 29 December 2010
This book is great if you are studying the subject at university, A level or even just have a general interest in the subject of early modern Europe. It contains a collection of chapters written by a number of historians and edited by Kumin on everything ranging from the Reformation to politics and the Renaissance to exploration.
I have used this book throughout my semester. The amount of information provided is good considering it is just a textbook and at the end of each chapter there is a brilliant compilation of the sources used by the author, even directing the reader to useful primary sources, which are incredibly helpful if you are, like me, doing an essay based on the period. It should be noted that the book has a companion website, offering yet more information and sources on the issues discussed.
Overall, a book full of information yet concise and easy to understand. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone studying early modern Europe.