Radical Enlightenment

Radical Enlightenment : Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750

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Arguably the most decisive shift in the history of ideas in modern times was the complete demolition during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - in the wake of the Scientific Revolution - of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophes, culminating in Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. In this revolutionary process which effectively overthrew all justicfication for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery, substituting the modern principles of equality, democracy, and universality, the Radical Enlightenment played a crucially important part. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of the late eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have been astonishingly little studied doubtless largely because of its very wide international sweep and the obvious difficulty of fitting in into the restrictive conventions of 'national history' which until recently tended to dominate all historiography. The greatest obstacle to the Radical Enlightenment finding its proper place in modern historical writing is simply that it was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time. In this novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents, particular stress is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 832 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 48.26mm | 1,360.77g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 16 pp plates, 5 halftones, map
  • 0198206089
  • 9780198206088
  • 1,880,567

Table of contents


About Jonathan I. Israel

Jonathan Israel is a professor in the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princetonshow more

Review quote

Massive and brilliant book ... Israel displays a profound, and contagious, sympathy for the intellectual movement he describes ... Israel has given us a vast panorama of the unfolding of Enlightenment thought during the crucial century between 1650 and 1750 ... The book is a real tour de force ... magisterial. History Workshop Journal A brilliant achievement, piecing together some highly elusive strands of the early enlightenment in a way which not only makes compulsive reading, but is also bound to have a major and permanent impact on enlightenment scholarship as a whole. English Historical Review This book gives the early radical enlightenment a clarity and power which historians of the early modern period will find impossible to ignore. English Historical Review As a formidably well-researched history of radical thinking from the mid-seventeenth century through to the French Revolution, and of the scholars who confronted each other at the time in sometimes ferociously bitter disputes, this book has no rival. English Historical Review In an age of historical miniaturists, it is exhilarating to encounter a scholar who is willing to cover walls and ceilings with a magnificent sprawling historical fresco. Israel has put forward a Grand Historical Thesis of the sort that historians once revelled in, but that has largely gone out of style. He has done so, moreover, with panache and in detail, revealing a command of texts and archival documents, local milieux and international currents, that compels admiration Radical Enlightenment swarms with fascinating material of every sort, so rich and varied that no review can do it justice. Anthony Grafton, Times Literary Supplement Radical Enlightenment deserves to be widely read because it is an example of ground-breaking, vastly well-informed and thoroughly new history. David Horspool, The Guardian Jonathan Israel's ardour, erudition and willingness to challenge widely accepted notions make his book a great achievement - one that entitles him to the gratitude of the entire world of learning. Times Literary Supplement Magnificent and magisterial, Radical Enlightenment will undoubtedly be one of the truly great historical works of the decade. John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph Magnificent ... sumptuous in the energy, clarity, and of the breadth of its scholarship ... [A] masterpiece. LA Times Remarkable historical study ... the author succeeds in turning a mountain of evidence into crisp, fresh prose. Out of the Pen That Israel has taken so much learning and compressed it into such an informative and stimulating read is a remarkable achievement ... The book must be considered the standard by which future histories of philosophy will be measured. The Philosophers' Magazine We have gained a much more detailed and fine-grained view of the sheer diversity and intellectual creativity not just amongst those who may have been influenced by Spinoza, but also amongst their critics, and those who may be deemed part of either the moderate Enlightenment or even a Counter-Enlightenment. Professor Thomas Munck, Reviews in Historyshow more