From dawn to decadence: 500 years of western cultural life : 1500 to the present

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HarperCollins, 2001 - History - 912 pages
114 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 Renaissance 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  - Dave Peticolas - Goodreads

A majestic sweep over 500 years of Western Civilization. Barzun charts the rises and falls of the West in the arts, philosophy, politics, literature, and science. His writing is lively and ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Michael - Goodreads

This is quite likely the best history book on Western civilization I have ever read. When reading this book, you literally feel as though you are sitting in a well-informed and well-educated professor ... Read full review

About the author (2001)

Jacques Barzun, a historian and cultural critic, is one of the most prolific and wide-ranging American writers of the twentieth century. Barzun was born in Greteil, France, in 1907. He came to the United States in 1920, entered Columbia University in 1923, and graduated magna cum laude in 1927. He joined Columbia's faculty in 1929 as an instructor while continuing his studies in graduate school there, earning a doctorate in French history in 1932. Barzin was been associated with Columbia University for more than forty years. He became a full professor in 1945, was dean of graduate faculties from 1955 to 1958, dean of faculties from 1958 to 1967, and one of the sponsors of the university's two-year Western Civilization course, featuring the great books of Western literature. He retired from Columbia University in 1975, but has continued to write extensively. The core of Barzun's work, which he has intended for both a general and an academic audience, is the importance of studying history to understand the present and a fundamental respect for intellect. Although he has written on subjects as diverse as detective fiction and baseball, he is especially known for his many books on music, nineteenth-century romanticism and education. His works include Darwin, Marx and Wagner: Critique of a Heritage (1941), Romanticism and the Modern Ego (1943); The House of Intellect (1956), Race: A Study in Superstition (1965), Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers (1976) A Stroll with William James (1983), and The Culture We Deserve (1989). All feature Barzun's broad scholarship, careful thinking, and clear, witty style.

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