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

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A tour de force that allows Barzun to show off his knowledge. A great review of western culture. But I had to read the introduction a few times to figure out the main point he was making. Read full review

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

User Review  - Goodreads

How did we get to where we are today in Western culture? One of my favorite books of all time, A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, seeks to answer that question. Specifically, Taylor looks at how we ... 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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