Over the past year I have read extensively about the 17th century. "The Age of Louis XIV" is the best book which I have found on the period. Volume VII of Will and Ariel Durant's multi-volume "Story of Civilization", this book documents more detail of the era than any others which I have read.The book begins with sections on France and England. The next section is "The Periphery" dealing with Russia, Poland, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, and Iberia. After the geographically oriented sections, the reader is treated to sections organized along intellectual topics, such as science, philosophy, and faith and reason, which contain chapters dealing with specific philosophers or scientists. The conclusion wraps it all up with the denouement of Louis XIV.This book makes the 17th century understandable. The premier character of the era was Louis XIV, the Sun King of France. During his reign, the policies of he and his ministers established France's day in the sun. Absolute ruler of the most populous and powerful kingdom in Western Europe, Louis made France the center of Western Civilization. On these pages we learn about the Fronde, the revolt by the nobility at the rising of his Sun, from which Louis acquired his life long aversion to Paris, Louis' aggressive support of Catholicism, while at the same time maintaining illicit personal relationships, and his generous support for the arts. This era, rich in French literature and theatre, as represented in Moliere, is revealed.The forces threatening to rend the Catholic Church further asunder, as well as the relationship between King and Pope, are dealt with in detail. I was surprised to learn that Louis exercised a power over the Church in France similar to that which Henry VIII had previously established over the Church in England.England, meanwhile, endured Cromwell, The Stuart Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution, while spawning Milton, Dryden, Swift and other literary giants.Interesting contrasts are illustrated. Whereas in France the monarchy was strengthened into absolutism, England was making hesitating steps toward democracy. Whereas Louis excluded much of the nobility from government and military service, essentially forcing them into the role of idle rich, the English nobility gradually gained power and responsibility for the governance of their country. We can see how these trends may have encouraged the resentment of the aristocrats on the part of the French peasantry, which may have contributed to the intensity of feeling during The Terror of the French Revolution. By contrast, the empowerment of the English nobility may have helped solidify the tradition of peaceful political maturation.On the Periphery, Charles XII brought Sweden to the zenith of its international power, while Peter the great modernized Russia. Germany survived the onslaught of the Turks, while Italy and Iberia, the "Old Europe" of the day, slid through an era of decline.Intellectually the era was one of g
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
Though the central figure of this book is Louix XIV, this book is not about French history, but about European history as a whole. The focus of this book is not on political and military history but on the history of religion, art, literature, science and philosophy. Or I can say politics is deeply involved in religion, art, literature and philosophy. I have never studied European philosophy before, and I thought it would be exttremely difficult to understand philosophy. But while I was reading this book, I found that phlosophy could be much easier when it was explained in a political context of the times.And in this book English history was emphasized as much as French history. It is quite natural because Louis himself was deeply involved in and greatly responsible for the 17th century English history, and Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were Englishmen. I believe that this book is the best book I've ever read. I'd like to read all 12 volumes of Will & Ariel Durant's "The History of Civilization" series. By the way, I found 2 trivial mistakes in this book. According to p 505, Halley identified another comet, seen in 1680, with one observed in the year of Christ's death; he traced its recurrence every 575 years, and from the periodicity he computed its orbit and speed around the sun. According to my own calculation, however, 575 x 2 + 33 = 1183, while 575 x 3 + 33 = 1758. According to p 513, Mariotte amused his friends by showing that "cold" could burn: with a concave slab of ice he focused sunlight upon gunpowder, causing it to explode. To focus sunlight, however, we need a convex lens, not a concave lens.
A wonderful history book ever we have
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 23 years ago
You don't have to be a historical researcher or student to understand and enjoy this book. The well-written style of the book makes it much easier to read. Will Durant very successfully putted the whole Europe together of the age without lost you in the jungle. The words from Will Durant were so elegant and entertaining. There is no word could explain how good the book is! Go get one, and you will enjoy it! I heat to carry a thick book with me but this one is the only exception because you don't want to stop reading it. That's how good the book is!
Tour de force! The best book on the period!
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 23 years ago
Durant covers Western Civilization and European history with an in-depth clarity that no historian of the 20th century can match. If you like history, don't pass on Will Durant. With regard to this book, it does an excellent job of covering all aspects of European history at the time of Louis XIV. Durant delves far deeper than a mere political and social history of the times.
An ample picture of an age.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 24 years ago
Will and Ariel Durant once more met with success in writing about a period of history exposing all fundamental aspects of the european life during the age of Louis XIV. Politics, Science, Economy, Arts, Religion, Philosophy... Nothing escapes of the Durants' accurate appreciation. Essencial episodes for a better understanding of that age are detailed explained: The incredible France's power; the enormeous vitality of Netherlader Republic; the revolutions that shaked England; the transformations in the Holy Empire; the spanish decadence; the russian ascension. But even analysing the usual looks, the Durants didn't forget the great individual personalities of the seventeenth century: The subtle political strategy of Mazarin; The sarcastic Moliére's novels; the confusing philosophy of Spinoza; the masterly campaigns of Marlboroug; the extraordinary physics of Newton and - of course - the most powerful caracther that gave his name to the book's title: Louis XIV. When writing about this man, the Durants showed, not only their historical kowledge, but - very important - their deep phisicological analysis of a man and his age. The greatness and the misery of the most mighty overlord of the seventeenth century. Probably this is the great merit of this book. The authors expound the details, without losing the general focus.
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