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Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane History) Paperback – 1 Nov 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (1 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014025028X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140250282
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Amazon Review

Roy Porter is Professor in the Social History of Medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine in London and among his previous publications is the first-rate The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity From Antiquity to the Present. Porter's general concern in his latest book Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World is with "the interplay of activists, ideas and society" and to this end he examines innovations in social, political, scientific, psychological, and theological discourse. The key figures (the "enlightened thinkers") read like a Who's Who of the 17th and 18th centuries: Newton, Locke, Bernard de Mandeville, Erasmus Darwin, Priestley, Paine, Bentham, and Britain's "premier enlightenment couple" Mary Woolstonecraft and William Godwin, as well as the men who helped popularise and disseminate their ideas such as Addison, Steele, Defoe, Pope and Sterne. The book is peppered with brilliant quotes throughout and despite the fact that it covers such a vast area of ground in a rapid and sometimes breathless manner, Porter just about manages to hold it all together. Traditionally "The Enlightenment" has been associated with France, America and Scotland rather than Britain which, strangely enough, is thought not to have had an enlightenment to speak of. Porter's main argument effectively upsets this view but also he provides a persuasive general defence of Enlightenment against its Foucauldian, feminist, and/or postmodern critics who still "paint it black". Perpetually dismissed as "anything from superficial and intellectually naïve to a conspiracy of dead white men in periwigs [who] provide the intellectual foundation for Western imperialism", one of the strengths of the book is that after reading it one finds it hard to understand how these "critiques" gained such influence in intellectual circles. One of the shortcomings of the book--as Porter is well aware--is that "too many themes receive short measure", such as literature and the arts, political debate, the forging of nationalism and more. Several chapters, if not all, could have been given, and perhaps deserved, book-length treatment and this is the reason why a book of nearly 500 pages seems so short. But if Enlightenment leaves the reader unsatisfied, it is in the best possible way--one would have liked to hear more from Porter rather than less. Word has it he is already planning an encore. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'...[a] magisterial survey...an enlightened text itself, a tribute to progress and to happiness.' -- Peter Ackroyd, The Times

'...an exhilarating book...A provocative and illuminating survey.' -- Jenny Uglow, Sunday Times

'An extraordinarily accomplished book...Simply superb.' -- Kathryn Hughes, New Statesman

'His new book is exhilarating, because it attempts to provide a coherent map of the jostling highways of ideas that drove through the century...' -- Jenny Uglow, The Sunday Times, 8th October 2000

'In tackling the Enlightenment head-on, Roy Porter's new book can be seen as the culmination of an astonishingly prolific and impressive career' -- Allen Lane, The Scotsman, Monday 9th October 2000

'Porter doesn't so much argue as hammer home his brilliantly selected evidence.' -- Tim Radford, The Guardian, Saturday 30th September 2000

'Ranging through everything from sermons to small ads, from surgery to shopping, he evokes with overwhelming vividness a transforming, if essentially tacit, revolution.' -- Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

'This is a remarkably rich book that carries its length and impressive learning with great style. .' -- Linda Colley, Financial Times, 8th October 2000

'This is a splendid book... a tonic to those dismayed by the current writing-down of English history.' -- Paul Johnson, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 15th October 2000 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By A Customer on 29 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
A tour de force of Enlightenment nostalgia, Roy Porter encapsulates the dynamism of this intellectually saturated epoch with charm and wit.
Focusing on Great Britain's contribution to the enlightenment transition, a wealth of heavyweight characters and intellectuals transports the reader through the great debates and episodes of the 'birth' of modernity, elegantly woven together with pithy prose and scattered quotations. This is a gratifying book which will leave you thoroughly furnished with ideas.
There are, however, a substantial quantity of notes supplementing the main text, which are definitely worth perusal, but may deter some readers.
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An interesting book which illustrates well that our much-vaunted present-day Christian heritage is actually in my new estimation, the oppressive Christianity of up to about 1750 then heavily modified by the Enlightenment (which flourished particularly in Scotland) to become Post-Christian (all praise to Rowan Williams).
Porter's vocabulary is/was clearly about four times wider than my own and I struggled (pleasurably) with his text in nearly every sentence.
Overall, using stamina, a very enjoyable and enlightening read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is very well documented. Scholars will enjoy the fact that maybe a quarter of it is made of bibliography. Actually, the references and illustration to documents and books of the period under study, which can be found in the main text are very valuable already: read it with an internet access at hand to explore further the hints given by Roy Porter to the important facts and opinions mentioned.
The French and German enlightenments are world famous, with Rousseau this philosopher who was so much referred to by the French Revolution, but who in private did not support his own children, who had the fate of orphans.
Now Newton and Locke where probably the figures who shaped most the British Enlightenment, according to this book. The author shows how the thought of Adam Smith was... Newtonian. The "invisible hand" of this economist was his re-purposing of the gravitational field keeping the planets in stable motion.
Every page in this book has a discovery, a new idea, a concept re-visited. How the past statu quo was challenged is discussed. Definitely a very interesting book, where one learns a lot with no effort, because the story is told well.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent book.
Very well arranged chapter's which makes it easy to get a clear idea on the key topics, this also makes it easy to re-read specific aspects ie women, religion, the print explosion etc.
It puts a cross Britain's contribution (creation?) of a fascinating period of rapid development in spheres from philosophy to science and throughout society at all levels.
Only very slight criticism would be that on a few occasions he tends to list things within the text. Good for giving quick impact of a movement or view of something but towards the end got a little tiresome.
I feel one indication of a good book is if it inspires other purchases/interests. It passed this test quite easily.
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Format: Paperback
Read this book in a week-end, dipping in and out of different chapters. A tour de force that introduces the reader to the British enlightenment, in a very balanced way. Traditional views of the enlightenment are presented against alternative interpretations.
The book is well structured, supported by excellent references and notes. As an introduction to the very British dynamics of this fascinating period, it cannot be recommended too highly.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent book.
Very well arranged chapter's which makes it easy to get a clear idea on the key topics, this also makes it easy to re-read specific aspects ie women, religion, the print explosion etc.
It puts a cross Britain's contribution (creation?) of a fascinating period of rapid development in spheres from philosophy to science and throughout society at all levels.
Only very slight criticism would be that on a few occasions he tends to list things within the text. Good for giving quick impact of a movement or view of something but towards the end got a little tiresome.
I feel one indication of a good book is if it inspires other purchases/interests. It passed this test quite easily.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very pleased with this addition to my home library!
Thank you seller.
Harry
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Format: Paperback
Porter presents a clear and reasonably concise history of the contribution to the European enlightenment from the British Isles with a depth of knowledge and flowing prose which is never dull.
The contributions of the main proponents, Scots, David Hume and Adam Smith are given the appropriate coverage with their philosophies and resultant universal impact explained in an adroit manner.
The philosophies of these two men had a major impact on the American founding fathers' writing of their constitution and are still as relevant today as they were over 200 years ago.

The more perceptive amongst us may perhaps believe that the time has come for a second enlightenment wherein those who today would try to return us to the fear of non-existent supernatural entities or a belief in the divine rights of kings or dictators are ridiculed and dismissed.
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