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Reformation: 006

(Book #6 in the The Story of Civilization Series)

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Book Overview

The Story of Civilization, Volume VI: A history of European civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564. This is the sixth volume of the classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning series. This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Standard

Though only one in a broader scope of study, Dr. Durant's volume on the reformation is perhaps the standard work on that tumultuous period of history. His work is correct in beginning not with Martin Luther but with the church in the centuries preceding Luther. In this way, he is able to draw on the corruption of the church which led to the reformation but also to the root causes of that corruption and trends in human action. The influence of the death of so many clergy in the plague giving rise to declining standards in clergy requirements are one example. As well as the declining standards in clergy feeding the desire of individual purity as a driving force toward reform among mystics and heretics. Both orthodox and heretical teachings of teachers like Wycliff and Hus are given to ponder how and why the church reacted as it did to their influence. The flirtations with such "modern" philosophies as communism and individualism are shown in their full force as insurgents roam Europe causing nations to sit on the brink of revolution long before the age of 18th and 19th century revolutions. All of this is given in the backdrop context of the times so that we do not judge too harshly in light of hindsight. Nor are we tempted to see that time as so foreign as to be incomprehensible. Though Dr. Durant admits in the introduction his Roman Catholic upbringing inevitably biases his understanding, none of that bias seems to become apparent. It is likely his lectures to Presbyterians that softened his bias to the point of being virtually undetectable even in this hotly debated topic. There will likely never be another work so enjoyable to read and worthy in detail as a standard text like this one. It will never grow old.


If you are interested in overall history, as I am, or merely interested in a certain era, then you cannot go wrong with Durant's wonderful series, this volume included. Covering the period of time which changed the world from what was to what we know now, Durant's wonderful style brings home fact after fact in a very readable format and text. Durant's work can read like a novel and I actually found myself learning very obscure facts all the while enjoying every page. There are many smaller works covering the Reformation, some very good ones also, but this one covers in in more depth than any I am familiar with and is much more readable than most. Like the rest of his work, this volume is well researched and like the rest of this particular series, can be read alone, no worse the wear. Don't be daunted by the 900 plus pages, they go much faster than you think. Recommend this one highly. Don Blankenship The Ozarks

The Sixth Volume in The Story of Civilization!

In this, the Sixth volume in the classic series, "The Story of Civilization," Dr. Will and Ariel Durant have compiled a detailed recount of Europe's tumuluous emergence from the Middle Ages. At over >940 pages in length, the reader will be treated to a historical narrative of: The Great Schism. The Hundred Years' War. Ferdinand and Isabella. Christopher Columbus. Martin Luther. Suleiman the Magnificent. Henry VIII. Ignatius Loyola. And much, much more including plates and maps. <br /> <br />Although written to stand alone, or within the series, the Durants have created a smoothly written prose of unparalleled, authoritative historical value. It is to be enjoyed by professional and layperson alike. I rate it as five stars as part of the Magnum Opus known as "The Story of Civilization."

Catching Up With Our Past

Reading Will Durant's History of European Civilization from Wycliff to Calvin 1300-1564 will be an illuminating experience for readers unacquainted with factual descriptions of life during those years. For having views on religion or government contrary to time or country thousands died slow deaths tied to a stake surrounded by a pile of burning wood. Those who committed less serious crimes against the church or state received the kinder, quicker death of one strong blow of a sword removing their head. Even belonging to royalty was no insurance for living to an old age. With the death of a ruling king or queen, only one member of the family could inherit the throne. Therefore it was not unusual for the quick murder of potential heirs who commonly were family members. The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus is commonly taught as a wonderful event in world history. How many know that of the three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, only two returned, the largest, the Santa Maria having been destroyed in a storm. The harrowing return trip in two tiny, badly over-crowded open ships, stands as one of the miracles of ocean travel. In our observation of Columbus Day do we know the initial good will of the natives was quickly lost. On a later trip Columbus observed "The Europeans had roamed the island robbing the natives of gold and women; they had established a tropical paradise with five women to each man; they had quarreled and murdered one another, and nearly all the rest had been killed by the outraged Indians.Later on in the Spanish conquest of Yucatan, the Aztec Empire and the socialistic civilization of the Incas Durant observes the conquered people were more civilized but not equal to the guns of the conquerors. Many knowledgeable insights such as these explain why Durant continues to hold the readers' attention throughout his lengthy books. It is understandable that reading nine hundred page books is anything but common practice in current times. Our average families find both husband and wife spending more hours at work with less time in the home. Nevertheless, for those who never got beyond grade school or high school Will Durant's historical books will build a factually informed education about the nature of government and religion in previous centuries preparing us for beginning the challenges of the 21st century. If you feel your mind being diminished by television's long commercials and the mere bits and bytes of news, start reading Will Durant's fascinating accounts of what was really going on inside the twists and turns of life in our European fatherland. You will soon find yourself building a more accurate picture of the countries from which we have come from and what our special gifts to the human race have been. This education will heighten your competence and self esteem as we wrestle with the changes within the United States and the world in the 21st century.

Voila un homme!

Just as he does in the other volumes of his "Story of Civilization," Durant bites off a huge chunk of history and manages to chew it all. "The Reformation" is encyclopedic, but he still manages to achieve penetrating depth and detail about many trends, events, and people amid the three centuries that he covers. The tone of his prose is always just this side of mirthful. You will learn of the lifelong contest between Charles V and Francis I. You will learn about a day in the life of an average Briton in Henry VIII's time (dinner at 10:00 am, "supper" about 4:00, no utensils). You will read the life of Rabelais and the French Paul Bunyan that he created. You will develop an appreciation of Hans Holbein the Younger, the painter of almost photographic portraits at Henry VIII's court. You will learn of saintly popes, greedy popes, and power-hungry popes. You will read passages from Martin Luther, whose violent intolerance (and whose attitude toward bigamy) will shock you. You will learn an enormous amount from this book, and you will enjoy doing it.
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