Customer Reviews for

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

Average Rating 3.5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 1
  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Expanded Table of Contents for Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence

    This book covers a lot of ground at different levels. It is "mountainous" as the author said of one of his favorites, Montaigne. To help readers over the terrain, I have constructed an expanded table of contents of the book: http://www.murphywong.net/d2d.htm. Enjoy the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2000

    Historical Origins of the Contemporary World

    Let me begin by quoting from Jacques Barzun. He sees the book as ' . . . a chance to describe . . . some aspects of present decadence that may have escaped notice and and show how they relate to others generally acknowledged.' The forms of decadence that he identifies in comtemporary society include excess use of television, public images of a sexual and immoral nature, a decline in traditional religion and an upsurge in various sects, a decline in the nation state, a decline in support for the nation state, the rise of professional sports operated in an undistinguished way morally, and a general withdrawal from traditional forms of education and high culture. I mention this upfront because you may feel differently about the meaning of these same trends. At the end of the book, he writes from the perspective of the year 2300 about what happens in the next 300 years. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. He predicts that boredom will eventually drive people back into being interested in the traditional intellectual, social, and artistic paths of western civilization. At one level, he may well be right because the current technological revolution will rapidly reduce the amount of employment required for every day goods and services. Until more interesting ones are developed, a surfeit of cheap goods, services and entertainment may quickly become boring -- particularly if they are primarily consumed in a passive way. Barzun also tell us who his audience is: '. . . this book is for people who like to read about art and thought, manners, morals, and religion, and the social setting in which these activities have been and are taking place.' He also has assumed tht readers ' . . . prefer discourse to be selective and critical . . . .' His hypothesis is a defense of western civilization. 'I hope to show . . . that the peoples of the West offered the world a set of ideas and institutions not found earlier or elsewhere.' This is an unusually long book, but the nature of the subject requires it. Certainly, I saw no place where the book provided too much or extraneous detail. To help the reader, the book is delightfully broken down into smaller units. The first is from 1500 to 1660 (the key issue was what to believe in religion), the second from 1661-1789 (the status of the individual and the mode of government predominate as topics), the third from 1790-1920 (government as a means to provide social and economic equality as the central issues), and the fourth from 1921 to the present (a mixture of all these past issues). Then, within each section, there are a series of essays that look at the primary religious, artistic, scientific, social, governmental, and thought developments. To tie all of these essays together, he uses concepts that he feels are continuing themes over the 500 years. To help these stand out, he CAPITALIZES them. Some of the major themes include PRIMITIVISM, EMANCIPATION, INDIVIDUALISM, SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, ANALYSIS, REDUCTIVISM, SECULARISM and ABSTRACTION. To give the reader a firm place to stand, he includes several essays that are centered on a place and time to give a better sense of what it was like to live then. These are usually chosen to be near where the dominant themes were playing most strongly (Madrid in 1540, Venice in 1650, London in 1715, Weimar in 1790, Paris in 1830, and Chicago in 1880). What is good about this perspective is that it puts many things in context. You see the design in the mosaic as well as the design in the individual tile. Barzun adds to this by masterfully explaining why things happened differently than expected. For example, Luther in 1517, the French aristocrats in 1789, and the Russian nobles in 1917 did not intend to start revolutions. Luther tacking his theses was the equivalent of publishing an article today. What made it different was that the printing press allowed these ideas to spread. Barzun adds another perspective that is useful: the

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    Boring, Tedious and Meandering

    For someone who evidently pontificated about being simple and direct, this book is the antithesis of both. Virtually every page drips with the condescending snobbery of a 'man of letters' who has seen and read about it all before. I was often left scratching my head at the end of a section, and wondering why I was forced to suffer the endless juxtapositions and what was the salient point of the bloated writing style. I am fascinated with European History, and if I had began with this book years ago I would have dumped the subject.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2001

    Brilliant, but Excessively French

    The book is surely a tour-de-force. It is the distillation of the wisdom and learning of one of the 20th century's greatest intellects. Any educated person should want to read it, will enjoy reading it, and will gain by reading it. In his review of 'western cultural life' over the past 500 years, however, Barzun exaggerates the influence and value of Frenchmen/women. That, my judgment, is subjective. So are Barzun's however. The impartial reader may be convinced by Barzun's claim that Hector Berlioz was the greatest master of melody since Mozart. Greater than Beethoven -- or Schubert? Than Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti? (And Wagner, Verdi, Schumann, and Brahms had also produced works of great melodic beauty by the time of Berlioz's death.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2001

    Great book, but Barzun gets cranky in the end

    Jacques Barzun presents a wonderful survey of ideas. It's the kind that I'll have to read at least twice to begin to absorb it. Still, his assessment of the 20th century is largely superficial. It might be better titled, 'From Dawn to Decadence: 430 years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to 1930.' Barzun seems less a scholar talking about this century than a cranky professor. Still, I recommend it for Barzun's wonderful way of weaving together the thinking and events of the last half millennium.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    Well-written, insightful history of our civilization

    I'm still reading this book, and I'm reading it slowly because I am learning so much. I find myself making notes in the margins as well as jotting down thoughts and quotes in my journal. Anyone who senses something is amiss with our present day culture and wants to understand how we got here might want to try this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 6, 2010

    Not Recommended - I haven't been so disappointed in a book in a long time

    After reading glowing reviews, I bought the book anticipating a great reading experience. Wrong.

    Maybe it's a case of the emperor's new clothes; no one wants to admit having difficulty following the author's writing because they agree with his opinions. Honestly, I don't think JB is capable of writing a simple sentence. Oh, the grammar, syntax, and punctuation are all fine, but the writing is convoluted. It's rambling. It's less history and more pontification. I thought that perhaps my reading level had slipped in the last few years, so I showed a couple of paragraphs to others, including my daughter who has a Masters in writing. Her response was, "That's how they told us not to write."

    If I could get a refund, I'd return it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2001

    InBecomers

    The Fortune of being a learned Citizen of this great Syetem . In respect of the system atomic weights and measures. I can only obtain what is only written in our presents :From dawn to Decadence :500 Years of Western Cultural Life,1500 to the Present. To understand is become in present nature.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2000

    Why does Barzon hate Shakespeare?

    This is my first reading of this author. I must say he is delightful to read especially his handling of such an all encompassing subject.However ,I can see the French bias toward the English people every now and then.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 1