From Dawn to Decadence

Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2010-02-16
Publisher(s): HarperCollins Publications
List Price: $24.99

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Customer Reviews

Startling and valuable  May 12, 2011
Rating StarRating StarRating StarRating StarRating Star

This textbook is a grand review of the past five hundred years of cultural history. I find the type of writing in this textbook to be absolutely captivating. The author states an intelligent point of view, throughout, certainly one which can be disagreed with, but certainly reasonable and thoughtful. This textbook is a challenge to those finding it fashionable to denounce Western Civilization. I highly recommend this cheap textbook for all history lovers.

From Dawn to Decadence: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.


Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500.

In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have "Puritans as Democrats," "The Monarch's Revolution," "The Artist Prophet and Jester" -- show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.

The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth -- tomorrow or the next day.

Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.

"From Dawn to Decadence, in short, is peerless." -New York Times Book Review

"A stunning five-century study of civilization's cultural retreat." -William Safire, New York Times

"Barzun writes with unfailing, stylish lucidity and enlivens his vast tale with ingenious devices." -The New Yorker

"Likely -- I am tempted to say certain -- to become a classic." -William H. McNeill, Los Angeles Times

Author Biography

Born in France in 1907, Jacques Barzun is the author of thirty books and the recipient of the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president. He lives in San Antonio, Texas

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Author's Notep. xiii
Prologue: From Current Concerns to the Subject of This Bookp. xvii
From Luther's Ninety-five Theses to Boyle's "Invisible College"p. 1
From the Bog and Sand of Versailles to the Tennis Courtp. 237
From Faust, Part I, to the "Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2"p. 463
From "The Great Illusion" to "Western Civ Has Got to Go"p. 681
Reference Notesp. 803
Index of Personsp. 829
Index of Subjectsp. 853
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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