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Summary

This fast-paced survey of Western civilization's transition from the Middle Ages to modernity brings that tumultuous period vividly to life.

Carlos Eire, popular professor and gifted writer, chronicles the 200-year era of the Renaissance and Reformation with particular attention to issues that persist as concerns in the present day. Eire connects the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in new and profound ways, and he demonstrates convincingly that this crucial turning point in history not only affected people long gone but continues to shape our world and define who we are today.

The book focuses on the vast changes that took place in Western civilization between 1450 and 1650, from Gutenberg's printing press and the subsequent revolution in the spread of ideas to the close of the Thirty Years' War. Eire devotes equal attention to the various Protestant traditions and churches as well as to Catholicism, skepticism, and secularism, and he takes into account the expansion of European culture and religion into other lands, particularly the Americas and Asia. He also underscores how changes in religion transformed the Western secular world.

©2016 Yale University (P)2018 Tantor

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Phenomenal work

I have hundreds of audiobooks in my Audible library, and I must say that this is one of the best works, if not the single best one, that I ever purchased. This work is expressly aimed at a popular audience that wants to learn more about the Reformation. its aim is modest: to familiarize people with the Reformation era. However, it offers a thorough understanding of this period.

The book is divided into four parts: first it sketches the groundwork for the Reformation. Then it focuses on Protestants and Catholics respectively. Finally, it talks about the consequences of the Reformation. It avoids any bias or presentism. Sometimes it gets relatively minor facts wrong. For example, the war between the Dutch Republic and Spain resumed in 1621, not 1619. It also suggests that the Spanish Inquisition had "millions" of eyes and ears, which comes dangerously close to the old notion that it had large networks of spies, simply because it relied on the population at large.

Any small issues pale in comparison with the great achievement that is this book. This is a 'must read', or should I say 'must listen', for any individual who seeks to have a basic understanding of the Reformation, though it offers much more than that.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith
  • 15-08-18

Surprisingly Compelling Historical Survey

Structured as a historical survey that could (and should) be the foundational text in a college course on the Reformations, Eire's book is remarkably engaging. There are narrative flourishes that make his writing work in an audiobook format and he does much more than simply recount events. Eire manages to reflect on shifting religious thought from 1450 to 1650 and make important connections to today without falling victim to reading past events solely through the prism of twenty-first century sensibilities. The book is impressive in that it serves as a great introduction while also posing enough provocative questions and offering enough unique analysis to stimulate a reader well versed in the history. Highly recommended.

The reader is has a good tone and pace, although like everyone he has some idiosyncratic pronunciations (elite sounds like A-leet, for example). In a way his unapologetically American pronunciations of Latin, German, French, Italian and Spanish added clarity compared to other narrators who have varied proficiencies yet try to pass themselves off as polyglots.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful