In Pursuit of Civility by Keith Thomas
Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England (The Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures)

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...the drawback of reading a history made up of quotations is that we never get to consider any individual source or person in depth. But In Pursuit of Civility is nonetheless a beautifully written and continuously stimulating tour de force. It would be ill mannered to ask for more.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Keith Thomas’s earlier studies in the ethnography of early modern England, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Man and the Natural World, and The Ends of Life, were all attempts to explore beliefs, values, and social practices in the centuries from 1500 to 1800. In Pursuit of Civility continues this quest by examining what English people thought it meant to be “civilized” and how that condition differed from being “barbarous” or “savage.” Thomas shows that the upper ranks of society sought to distinguish themselves from their social inferiors by distinctive ways of moving, speaking, and comporting themselves, and that the common people developed their own form of civility. The belief of the English in their superior civility shaped their relations with the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish, and was fundamental to their dealings with the native peoples of North America, India, and Australia. Yet not everyone shared this belief in the superiority of Western civilization; the book sheds light on the origins of both anticolonialism and cultural relativism. Thomas has written an accessible history based on wide reading, abounding in fresh insights, and illustrated by many striking quotations and anecdotes from contemporary sources.
 

About Keith Thomas

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Keith Thomas is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was formerly President of Corpus Christi College and, before that, Professor of Modern History and Fellow of St John's College. RELIGION AND DECLINE OF MAGIC, his first book, won one of the two Wolfson Literary Awards for History in 1972. He was knighted in 1988 for services to the study of history.
 
Published June 5, 2018 by Brandeis. 424 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Guardian

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Reviewed by Fara Dabhoiwala on Aug 08 2018

...the drawback of reading a history made up of quotations is that we never get to consider any individual source or person in depth. But In Pursuit of Civility is nonetheless a beautifully written and continuously stimulating tour de force. It would be ill mannered to ask for more.

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