I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is the 8th book of the 11 book excellent, integrated history, Story of Civilization series. For my review of the series as a whole see my review of “Our Oriental Heritage”.
This is one of the most enjoyable and interesting books of the series. It blends art and philosophy, war and commerce, politics and finance into an enlightening whole. The author gives well balanced portrayals of many of the pivotal figures of the time. The long section on Leibniz was particularly fascinating as Leibniz is often overlooked.
This book starts and ends with the long life of Louis XIV (1643-1715), and he plays a large part in the narrative, but the action is all replayed several times viewed from France, England, Russia, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. This repetition of events from different points of view is one of the great things about this book and this series.
The narration is superb, projecting the material with clarity and nuance, including well representing the author’s subtle and wry humor.
This is not quite my favorite book of this series, but it is one of the best.
See my review of Volume I for comments of the series.
This is book seven of Durant’s The Story of Civilization.
This, like the other volumes of this series, is wonderful. It is beautifully written, integrated history of Europe over the period between 1559 and 1648. Notwithstanding the title, this only touches on the age of reason at the very end of the volume. Most of the text is dedicated to the struggles in England and the Thirty Years War. The details of war, other than the reasons for the war and the peace, are historical, but not intensely interesting (unless you are really into war). Thus, I did not enjoy this book as much as most of the others, nevertheless the sections on Shakespeare and Bacon, and the very end which covers Galileo and Descartes was fantastic and well worth the 30 years of warfare.
The integrated history attempts to cover all aspects of society in the period, living conditions, industries and commerce, crafts, arts, politics, economics, religion, fads, leaders, and spirit. There are dates, but that is not what it is about. The writing is targeted at general readers with an interest in history, and is a very easy listen.
The narration is clear and powerful and erudite.
I highly recommend this series – at least twice (separated by 10 years). This is my third time.
See my review of Our Oriental Heritage for my notes on the series as a whole.
This is another great volume of Durant’s great History series. This volume covers the Renaissance outside of Italy, the Reformation, and Counter-Reformation and overlaps quite a bit in time with volume 5 (The Renaissance).
The Reformation is not quite as dramatic as most of the other volumes of this series. There is a lot of politics and religion and strong historical figures but not a lot of heroes or inspiring stories. As always Durant provides a compelling integrated history of the period, going over the same period several times from the different perspectives of the historical individuals. Particularly compelling is a long overview of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation as a set of monologs by a hypothetical composite character representing the reformers, the traditional catholic, and the humanist.
This was well worth the time and I (re)learned a lot. It is quite amazing how decisions of people hundreds of years ago still effect our daily lives today. Durant tells the story of History is a way that makes one feel a part of history. He shows us quite normal individuals that made a difference centuries ago and how that difference has flowed through time all the way to us (and lets us see our own power to make such differences).
The narration was excellent with a lot of character and passion which helped keep me engaged in the stories.