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Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648: Europe 1500-1650 Bk. 5 (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 3 Jul 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713990864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713990867
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Mark Greengrass succeeds brilliantly in bringing to life a vanished world that is consistently strange and surprising-and sometimes disturbing and repellent-even as he encourages us to recognise the ways in which it prefigures our own (Peter Marshall Literary Review)

The Penguin History of Europe series ... is one of contemporary publishing's great projects (New Statesman)

With five volumes now out, the Penguin History of Europe series ... is shaping up to be the best general account available, superseding all previous ones (Economist)

Greengrass's learned book explores the bloody history of Europe . . . Nothing escapes Greengrass's gaze, from the arrival of pineapples to the making of maps. For sheer scholarly breadth, there is nothing to touch it this year (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

The political and religious conflicts of early modern Europe receive high-quality treatment from Greengrass . . . But he also gives a detailed account of changes in ordinary people's lives, from diet and clothes to language, making the book an excellent addition to the new Penguin History of Europe (Tony Barber Financial Times BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

Christendom Destroyed captures a great deal of truth about the wrenching transitions of the early modern age. As difficult as this history is, Mr. Greengrass narrates it with admirable clarity and a notable lack of condescension (Jeffrey Collins Wall St Journal)

About the Author

Mark Greengrass is Professor Emeritus at the University of Sheffield. His books include Governing Passions: Peace and Reform in the French Kingdoms, 1576-1585, France in the Age of Henri IV and The European Reformation, c.1500-1618.


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3.9 out of 5 stars
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'This book has been written by an intellectual jackdaw, let loose in large libraries' (from the introduction to Further Reading). There is an incredible amount of information contained in this quite long book. As a book for the general reader rather than the specialist, there are no footnotes or inline references, but every paragraph is packed with information.

The Christendom that is destroyed is the concept of belonging to a single community. The reformation and the counter-reformation resulted in a series of political battles that have marked Europe to this day. And in the ensuing conflicts, people suffered. Their suffering was compounded by climatic conditions that resulted in years of poor harvests. This book covers the English Civil War, the Thirty Years War, the wars against and the alliances with the Ottomans, and the power struggles in central Europe.

A very rewarding read, if one that requires concentration.
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Greengrass argues that the events of the long sixteenth century marked the disintegration of a European understanding of Christendom in which nations and their peoples shared common universal assumptions united under one faith. This consensus was shattered by religious reform, the rise of national identity and challenges to dynastic rule across the continent. Catalysts for change included the communication revolution and economic transformation.

The book starts with a dense detailed overview of European demography, economy, society and culture from the Renaissance to the seventeenth century. The following chapters then describe how Europe was shaped by the Reformation, the growth of state power and by the diplomacy which culminated in the tragedy of the Thirty Years War.

Greengrass builds a panorama stretching from Galway to Moscow. His account draws on copious sources from contemporary memoir to recent scholarship. The book's wide ranging approach is a major strength. Unfortunately, sometimes the writing style can be rather over-complicated, with chronologies switching back and forwards, meaning that this reader, at least, found it hard to always follow the narrative.

Whilst there will be other histories with better accounts of, for example, the Reformation or the Thirty Years War, readers looking for a broad overview of the forces that built early modern Europe will find this an interesting, useful, book.
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This was reviewed in the Economist magazine, and I had similar sentiments to the reviewer there. It's quite readable and I like the order of putting the general background stuff first to give the context for the era. However, sometimes there's a profusion of names and dates that become too complicated to follow. It does a good job of giving the overall background of the era, but the detailed parts are too confusing, leading to frequent re-reading to unravel the plots and events described.
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Another reviewer names the two outstanding volumes in this series, produced by Blanning and Wickham, and it is difficult to understand how this vastly inferior book was allowed by the series editor to join them. I would describe myself as a general reader with some knowledge and real interest, yet having finished it, somehow, I really do not know why I bothered. It is not the only book in the series to fall into the trap of mixing intimately the pursuit of themes and of different nations, so that it becomes bitty, repetitive, and confusing. With its near-endless recital of quotes from people who are likely to be known only to specialists, without adequate explanation of their importance, it comes over as a book for a few 'insiders'. Surely it should not have been too difficult to focus on the great matters of the period, the Reformation, the 'Hapsburg' century, and the opening up of the world to European trade and conquest, and to have ditched lesser events and about 200 pages.
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The high-points, so far, of the new Penguin/Allen Lane history of Europe are Tim Blanning's and Chris Wickham's contributions, which tower over the rest. This is not one of the high-points. In the end I was left wondering what purpose it was supposed to serve. This is essentially a history of the reformation bookended by relatively brief descriptions of, on one side, what can only really be described as the phase transition in the political economy of the world that occurred in the middle of the 16th century, where Europe became the undisputed dominant presence, and on the other by the 30 years war - In the middle is a long detailed description of the Reformation that is surely intended as a replacement for Geoffrey Elton's 'Reformation Europe' which is the old standard. I suggest you don't bin your copy of Elton yet.

Elton published his history in 1963, and one might have thought that the seismic cultural shifts of the intervening 50 years would have provided the opportunity for a bit of sober revisionism, but apparently not. This is supposed to be a survey of the sweep of European history, and it will someday - I hope - finish with Ian Kershaw discussing the catastrophe of the 20th century. Given that end goal, it is remarkable that in spite of hundreds of pages of discussion of the Reformation, Greengrass manages never to mention that Martin Luther was an gibbering eliminationist anti-Semite, who variously called for jews to be driven from the state by violence, be enserfed, or simply murdered. In fact it barely mentions european antisemitism at all (there is one entry in the index, and there is one - unindexed - remark about how 'Christendom's panic about its integrity turned into spasmodic pogroms' - but this remark is not enlarged upon).
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