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Book Must We Divide History into Periods? (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought & Cultural Criticism )

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Must We Divide History into Periods? (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought & Cultural Criticism )

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Must We Divide History into Periods? (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought & Cultural Criticism ).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Jacques Le Goff(Author) Malcolm Debevoise(Author)

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We have long thought of the Renaissance as a luminous era that marked a decisive break with the past, but the idea of the Renaissance as a distinct period arose only during the nineteenth century. Though the view of the Middle Ages as a dark age of unreason has softened somewhat, we still locate the advent of modern rationality in the Italian thought and culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Jacques Le Goff pleads for a strikingly different view. In this, his last book, he argues persuasively that many of the innovations we associate with the Renaissance have medieval roots, and that many of the most deplorable aspects of medieval society continued to flourish during the Renaissance. We should instead view Western civilization as undergoing several "renaissances" following the fall of Rome, over the course of a long Middle Ages that lasted until the mid-eighteenth century. While it is indeed necessary to divide history into periods, Le Goff maintains, the meaningful continuities of human development only become clear when historians adopt a long perspective. Genuine revolutions-the shifts that signal the end of one period and the beginning of the next-are much rarer than we think.

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  • By Bill Mann on 12 July 2017

    This book has all the signs of a valedictory. The reviews on Amazon are effusive, and it begs the question - is this just respect for a posthumous work? Periodisation, at least since Vasari, has been a subject for debate, but it won't go away, and for the practical reason - it's a valuable sign post, not the destination, just an indicator. Without periodisation, context can easily disappear.But, if not interested in chronology, it's possible to divide the historical continuum is other ways - ideas, dominant ideologies, ruling elites, revolutions, wars, etc., but in the end dates matter - they help the process of causation and comparative developments. Any study using periodisation needs to have provisional years attached. It would be a very odd historian who had rigidly fixed dates for periods like Medieval to Renaissance, or medieval to the modern period, but the terms are a good starting point.There will be those who reject western periodisation, because it does not relate to other parts of planet earth, but other intelligent cultures will have their own divisions (e.g., China with dynasties). Periodisation is an effective method for locating discussion in time, not in a vacuum, but in a recognisable context. In western culture, periodisation in literature, art history, music, is a useful method for identifying style, e.g., baroque, classical, Romanticism, although with the term ‘neoclassicism’, the reference to these three disciplines can refer to different time periods over three separate centuries. To ignore the term ‘Renaissance’ in the history of Italian art, would be misguided. As ever with periodisation, overlapping will always occur, but that’s what makes the discussion interesting.Lovers of Le Goff and the Annales (a period) will want to read his book, but for those with little time to spare, the Amazon extracts will have to suffice, and a major disincentive is the excessive use of the collective – ‘we have long thought …’, and the ridiculous generalisation, ‘the Renaissance as a luminous era’ – the ‘we’ does not include me, and anyone who is moved by the Renaissance description, would need to get back to basics. The book seems to be riddled with this stuff. To get across a ridiculous generalisation, skip the evidence, and use the term ‘we’! Where does this preoccupation with this subjective plural come from? The glorification of self with Louis XIV – ‘l'état, c'est moi’ – to de Gaulle’s ‘après moi’, and beyond to the collective equivalent? The age of the collective ‘selfie’ may become a feature of periodisation in the future.


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