From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun
1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

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Synopsis

Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500.

In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have "Puritans as Democrats," "The Monarch's Revolution," "The Artist Prophet and Jester"--show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.

The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth--tomorrow or the next day.

Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.

 

About Jacques Barzun

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Born in France in 1907, Jacques Barzun came to the United States in 1920. After graduating from Columbia College, he joined the faculty of the university, becoming Seth Low Professor of History and, for a decade, Dean of Faculties and Provost. The author of some thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller From Dawn to Decadence, he received the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president. He lived in San Antonio, Texas, before passing away at age 104.
 
Published January 1, 2000 by HarperCollins. 877 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Rather than conventional footnotes or lists for further reading, he gives direct, parenthetical exhortations (“the book to read is .

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The Guardian

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From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life Jacques Barzun 877pp, HarperCollins, £25 Buy it at a discount at BOL In assessing the French revolution, Jacques Barzun describes it as an upheaval that occurred "not so very long ago".

Mar 03 2001 | Read Full Review of From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 ...

Publishers Weekly

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In Barzun's glum estimate, the late 20th century has brought decadence into full bloom--separatism in all forms, apathetic electorates, amoral art that embraces filth or mere shock value, the decline of the humanities, the mechanization of life--but he remains hopeful that humanity will find its ...

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NPR

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NPR coverage of From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.

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