From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present

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HarperCollins, May 15, 2001 - History - 912 pages
124 Reviews

Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500.

In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have "Puritans as Democrats," "The Monarch's Revolution," "The Artist Prophet and Jester" -- show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.

The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth -- tomorrow or the next day.

Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.

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A very readable overview of Western Civ. - Goodreads
Excellent introduction to western cultural history. - Goodreads
He was vastly knowledgeable and researched. - Goodreads
Anecdotal, fascinating, overview history. - Goodreads

Review: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

User Review  - Tso William - Goodreads

This article reviews two masterpieces of intellectual history: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (by Jacques Barzun) and The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th ... Read full review

Review: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

User Review  - Noelle M - Goodreads

Yes, Virginia, I read the WHOLE thing! Mahvelous dahling, but then I do like Jacques B.'s thinking most of the time. Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Born in France in 1907, Jacques Barzun came to the United States in 1920. After graduating from Columbia College, he joined the faculty of the university, becoming Seth Low Professor of History and, for a decade, Dean of Faculties and Provost. The author of some thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller From Dawn to Decadence, he received the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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