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History and the Enlightenment

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Arguably the leading British historian of his generation, Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914–2003) is most celebrated and admired as the author of essays. This volume brings together some of the most original and radical writings of his career—many hitherto inaccessible, one never before published, all demonstrating his piercing intellect, urbane wit, and gift for elegant, vivid narrative. This collection focuses on the writing and understanding of history in the eighteenth century and on the great historians and the intellectual context that inspired or provoked their writings. It combines incisive discussion of such figures as Gibbon, Hume, and Carlyle with broad sweeps of analysis and explication. Essays on the Scottish Enlightenment and the Romantic movement are balanced by intimate portraits of lesser-known historians whose significance Trevor-Roper took particular delight in revealing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Trevor-Roper earned high praise for scholastic chops and stylistic felicity in such books as Europe's Physician (published posthumously). Unfortunately, the cramped confines of this collection prove to be an insufficient outlet for his gifts. Focusing on the historiography of the Enlightenment, a subject which Trevor-Roper had largely abandoned by the '70s, the essays here trace the rise and fall of the "philosophic" historians, who were interested in presenting the past as more than just a series of tableaux. Trevor-Roper evidently shared their perspective and his essays initially evoke the excitement of this revolution in thought. But repetition soon sets in. Fine essays on Conyers Middleton, a heretical and professionally frustrated Enlightenment academic, and the influence of Romantic literature, particularly that of Sir Walter Scott, whose novels were "being read all over Europe" at the time, only serve to make the surrounding dullness more evident. Few will find a full reading necessary or pleasurable, but as a window into Trevor-Roper's thoughts on a heady intellectual epoch it should find enduring usefulness.
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New York Review of Books
"The pleasure afforded by these essays arises from their elegant and felicitous prose, spiced with acerbic asides."—The New York Review of Books
Washington Post

"In every way, this is a wonderfully intelligent and civilized book."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post

— Michael Dirda

New York Review of Books - Andrew O'Hagan

Praise for Hugh Trevor-Roper’s The Invention of Scotland
“[An] indispensable book.”—Andrew O’Hagan, New York Review of Books

Washington Post - Michael Dirda
"In every way, this is a wonderfully intelligent and civilized book."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
New York Review of Books - Andrew O’Hagan
Praise for Hugh Trevor-Roper’s The Invention of Scotland
“[An] indispensable book.”—Andrew O’Hagan, New York Review of Books
Michael Dirda
History and the Enlightenment doesn't just focus on famous men and books. There are, for instance, enthralling chapters on Conyers Middleton, a founder of deism, and on Dimitrie Cantemir's pioneering "Ottoman History." John Robertson supplies an admirable introduction to Trevor-Roper's academic career as well as an extensive guide to further reading. In every way, this is a wonderfully intelligent and civilized book.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300139341
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 791,350
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre of Glanton) was Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford. Among his numerous books is the best-selling The Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse.

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Table of Contents

Editor's Introduction John Robertson Robertson, John

1 The Historical Philosophy of the Enlightenment 1

2 The Scottish Enlightenment 17

3 Pietro Giannone and Great Britain 34

4 Dimitrie Cantemir's Ottoman History and its Reception in England 54

5 From Deism to History: Conyers Middleton 71

6 David Hume, Historian 120

7 The Idea of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 129

8 Gibbon and the Publication of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1976 144

9 Gibbon's Last Project 161

10 The Romantic Movement and the Study of History 176

11 Lord Macaulay: The History of England 192

12 Thomas Carlyle's Historical Philosophy 223

13 Jacob Burckhardt 246

App A Guide to Later Scholarship 266

Notes 275

Index 305

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