The Shape of the New by Scott L. Montgomery
Four Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World

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A pleasure for students of modern history, especially useful for those seeking an introduction to the broad field of intellectual history. Barzun, Berlin, and Needham would likely argue at points, but this fits squarely in their tradition.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

This panoramic book tells the story of how revolutionary ideas from the Enlightenment about freedom, equality, evolution, and democracy have reverberated through modern history and shaped the world as we know it today.

A testament to the enduring power of ideas, The Shape of the New offers unforgettable portraits of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx--heirs of the Enlightenment who embodied its highest ideals about progress--and shows how their thoughts, over time and in the hands of their followers and opponents, transformed the very nature of our beliefs, institutions, economies, and politics. Yet these ideas also hold contradictions. They have been used in the service of brutal systems such as slavery and colonialism, been appropriated and twisted by monsters like Stalin and Hitler, and provoked reactions against the Enlightenment's legacy by Islamic Salafists and the Christian Religious Right.

The Shape of the New argues that it is impossible to understand the ideological and political conflicts of our own time without familiarizing ourselves with the history and internal tensions of these world-changing ideas. With passion and conviction, it exhorts us to recognize the central importance of these ideas as historical forces and pillars of the Western humanistic tradition. It makes the case that to read the works of the great thinkers is to gain invaluable insights into the ideas that have shaped how we think and what we believe.

 

About Scott L. Montgomery

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Scott L. Montgomery is a consulting geologist and university lecturer. He is the author of The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-First Century and Beyond, and several books on the history of science and scientific language, including Science in Translation: Movements of Knowledge through Cultures and Time.
 
Published September 20, 2016 by Princeton University Press. 499 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Shape of the New
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Kirkus

Above average
on Apr 01 2015

A pleasure for students of modern history, especially useful for those seeking an introduction to the broad field of intellectual history. Barzun, Berlin, and Needham would likely argue at points, but this fits squarely in their tradition.

Read Full Review of The Shape of the New: Four Bi... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by FAREED ZAKARIA on Aug 21 2015

The authors are most effective in describing the longstanding and ongoing distrust of liberal democracy that one sees today in places as diverse as Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China.

Read Full Review of The Shape of the New: Four Bi... | See more reviews from NY Times

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