by J.R. Hale
Category: History / European
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 18 November 1993
Number of pages: 672
Prizes: Winner of Royal Society of Literature Award 1993.
Winner of Time-Life Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction 1994.
This is a rich portrait of Europe and its civilization in the 16th century - the moment when "Europe" first became an entity in the minds of its own inhabitants. It does not simply survey "high" culture, but paints a gigantic portrait of the age, enlivened by a mass of detail about the lives of often obscure figures who Hale brings to life to give point to his multiplicity of arguments. What precisely is meant by "civilization"? How usefully descriptive of the period as a whole is "Renaissance"? What, indeed, did "Italy" (for example) mean to contemporaries? These are some of the questions which Hale addresses in this challenging book.
This is one of those invaluable books which is the product of a lifetime of study and reflection by one of the country's foremost Renaissance scholars. Professor Hale has produced what he calls 'an investigative impression' of Europe during 'the long 16th century' from 1450 to 1620 when in the words of Marsilio Ficino (writing in 1492) 'a golden age... restored to light the liberal arts that were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music.' But it was also an age of dramatic religious, political and economic upheaval and this too is encompassed in this magisterial study, rich in themes, perspectives, insights and ideas, of one of the highest points in the history of European civilization. (Kirkus UK)
What the papers say:
'This magnificent book is the product of a lifetime's scholarship by someone with a quite irrepressible curiosity and prodigious breadth of reading ! together with the enviable gift of writing clearly and beautifully.' TLS 'This study deserves to stand alongside Braudel's classic account of the Mediterranean in the time of Philip II. Hale is as generous as he is knowledgeable; his life's work has culminated in a meticulous masterpiece.' Frederic Raphael, Sunday Times 'John Hale has produced a vast and enthralling mosaic. Only someone who had devoted a lifetime to studying history, literature and the art of the 15th and 16th centuries could draw so effortlessly on what seems a limitless range of texts and illustrations ... His curiosity never fails, his learning constantly surprises, and the wit and energy of his style never flags ! Extraordinary.' Anthony Grafton, LRB
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