The Enlightenment : A Genealogy Essay

The Enlightenment : A Genealogy Essay

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In the book The Enlightenment: A Genealogy, Dan Edelstein attempts to discuss both the historical and the philosophical areas of The Enlightenment. In Edelstein’s book, he discusses the fundamental meanings of Enlightenment, its historical significance, and how the Enlightenment spread across Europe between 1680 and 1740. Alternatively, in Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book, The Roads to Modernity, the author compares the different forms of Enlightenment that occurred throughout Europe during the same period. Edelstein’s book, although advertised otherwise, is based more around historical fact rather than around philosophical debate, which Edelstein says he is attempting to do. However, Himmelfarb succeeds in the areas that Edelstein lacks. Thus, reading both books gives the reader a good overview of the Enlightenment covering both the era’s historical facts, as well as its philosophical reasoning’s.
Edelstein’s book, The Enlightenment: A Genealogy, start off by examining the multiple problems with the world’s current education regarding the Enlightenment. He argues that the majority of historians who study the Enlightenment show bias towards one particular author, intellectual current, or political revolution, thus limiting the study of the Enlightenment. The second problem the author debates is that the primary texts, documents, and other academic tools through which the Enlightenment has been passed on with, have been misinterpreted more and more with each generation. Edelstein claims that original Enlightenment ideas came from Catholic theologians, and that they have become skewed to the point that they took on a completely new and unintended meaning. Edelstein continues this point saying that not only does the Enlightenment’s meani...


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...rb earned her doctorate degree from the University of Chicago in 1950, and has written about the British and the Victorian era for over fifty years. Himmelfarb has numerous achievements including having served on the Council of Scholars of the Library of Congress, the Council of Academic Advisors of the American Enterprise Institute, and the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both author’s, Edelstein and Himmelfarb, are both incredible historians, and true masters in their fields of study. Separately, The Enlightenment: A Genealogy, and The Roads to Modernity are both honorable books regarding the Enlightenment, both written by accomplished historians. But by reading these two books together, the reader is able to fill in the areas where the author’s come up short, and ultimately gives the reader a complete and valuable look at the Enlightenment.

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