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The Awakening: A History of the Western Mind AD 500 - 1700 - Hardcover, dust jacket
Author: Charles Freeman
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Year: Aug 2020
A monumental and exhilarating history of European thought, from the fall of Rome in the fifth century AD to the Scientific Revolution thirteen centuries later.
The Awakening traces the recovery and refashioning of Europe's classical heritage from the ruins of the Roman Empire. The process of preservation of surviving texts, fragile at first, was strengthened under the Christian empire founded by Charlemagne in the eighth century; later, during the High Middle Ages, universities were founded and the study of philosophy was revived. Renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought provided the intellectual impetus for the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, whose ideas - aesthetic, political and scientific - were disseminated across Europe by the invention of the printing press. Equally momentous was Europe's encounter with the New World, and the resulting maritime supremacy which conferred global reach on Europe's merchants and colonists.
Vivid in detail and informed by the latest scholarship, The Awakening is powered not by the fate of kings or the clash of arms but by deeper currents of thought, inquiry and discovery, which first recover and then surpass the achievements of classical antiquity, and lead the West to the threshold of the Age of Reason. Charles Freeman takes the reader on an enthralling journey, and provides us with a vital key to understanding the world we live in today.
The subject of this stimulating and erudite book is nothing less than the development of the Western mind from the demise of classical civilisation in the fifth century AD, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. The Awakening is a work of serious scholarship by an author who has clearly been everywhere, seen everything and read voraciously. But it is also a work written with great elan and, given its scope, undertaken with considerable courage ... An arrestingly clear design, combined with numerous judiciously chosen illustrations, completes an extraordinary achievement
-Christopher Lloyd, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, 1988-2005
The Awakening recounts the slow evolution of Western thought that restored legitimacy to independent examination and analysis, that eventually led to a celebration, albeit a cautious one, of reason over blind faith. In the process, Freeman reminds us that quality, engaging narrative history has not gone extinct, while demonstrating that it is possible to produce a work that is so well-written it is readable by a general audience while meeting the rigorous standards of scholarship demanded by academia
The Awakening is a very timely book and an excellently written and produced one. Freeman is a good host, a superb narrator and tells his story with aplomb ... His elegant prose is a treat for the mind and the accompanying illuminations a treat for the eye.