The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (Hardcover)

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One of our most distinguished intellectual historians gives us a brilliant revisionist history.

The Roads to Modernity reclaims the Enlightenment–an extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about the human condition in the realms of politics, society, and religion–from historians who have downgraded its importance and from scholars who have given preeminence to the Enlightenment in France over concurrent movements in England and America. Contrasting the Enlightenments in the three nations, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophy–humane, compassionate, and realistic–that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more so than in Europe.

This is an illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.

Praise For…


“Support[ed] with great passion and wide-ranging scholarship. . . . Himmelfarb has written a keenly argued and thought-provoking intellectual history of the 18th century.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Exciting intellectual pugilism É Himmelfarb mounts a vigorous argument that the British [Enlightenment] was reformist rather than subversive, respectful of the past and present even while looking forward to a more egalitarian future.” –The New York Times Book Review

“[Himmelfarb’s] writing . . . has a verve and sharpness. . . . It is a pleasure to read.” –The New York Review of Books

“Exceptionally well written and clever.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Himmelfarb has one of the keenest intellects of our time.” –The Houston Chronicle

Product Details
ISBN: 9781400042364
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: August 24th, 2004
Pages: 304