From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

From Dawn to Decadence Years of Western Cultural Life to the Present 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 con

  • Title: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
  • Author: Jacques Barzun
  • ISBN: 9780060928834
  • Page: 402
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 thHighly 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.

    One thought on “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present”

    1. This is Barzun's “magnum opus”: an original, multi-faceted, ambitious interpretation of the cultural history of the West of the last half millennium. This is a unique, idiosyncratic, provocative work that is definitely not a linear, dispassionate account, but a critical, personal and thorough re-evaluation of the modern era. Before getting into the merits of this important work, it is necessary to highlight that this book is quite heavily weighted towards what is commonly called “the fine [...]

    2. Brief synopsis:A book for the stalwart who love learning and intellectual gymnastics. A brain workout.I have to agree with Elizabeth S who reviewed as follows:A very deep read. One of those that, to really enjoy, takes more time than just the reading time. It isn't a book to read, it is a book to experience. A book that, when you are done, you feel you know less than you thought you knew when you started. Overall, absolutely amazing.Jacques Barzun is extremely well respected and won the National [...]

    3. Perhaps the single most amazing thing about this tome - an absolutely brilliant compendium of wisdom, erudition, commentary, and insight, written with a detached passion that illuminates the topics and breathes life into its actors - is that Barzun assembled most of this five-star gem whilst in his early nineties! That the cobwebs of senescence have never been allowed to gather in this transplanted Frenchman's mind becomes abundantly clear as one works their way through this absolute exemplarity [...]

    4. This a book for the person who thinks that they will not live long enough to learn everything they want to learn. It is huge. It is marvelous. If one looks at the bibliography, it is stunning that any one person could have accessed all this knowledge. This book is 500 hundred year of Western culture, everything from politics, to cookbooks. It took me from October to May to read this book ( of course I put it down for periods or time to read a fast mystery or thriller for a break) but I felt like [...]

    5. Jacques Barzun fue un connotado historiador y escritor francés cuyo poderoso intelecto le permitió abordar de manera brillante diversos temas como la historia de las ideas, el arte, la ciencia, la política y la sociedad entre otros. Esta obra en particular nos habla prolijamente del surgimiento y evolución de las ideas, la ciencia, el arte, la política, la educación, en una palabra de todo aquello que imbrica al ser humano y que abarca los últimos 500 años de los cuales el autor fue test [...]

    6. Barzun’s swan-song, which consists of 800+ pages of historical information, interesting quotes, anecdotes, insights, and reflections, is the literary equivalent of sitting at the feet of a great master and venerable elder. The wide swath of knowledge encompassed in this book, including such varied aspects of Western culture as ballet, opera, Dadaism, mystery crime novels, and hippies, and the balanced bird’s eye view and authoritative approach taken to each is indicative of the long life (no [...]

    7. How did we get to where we are today in Western culture? One of my favorite books of all time, A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, seeks to answer that question. Specifically, Taylor looks at how we moved from believing in God,mostly without question, in 1500 to having many options today. When I saw this book at the used bookstore, I was intrigued because of the topic (and the great deal!). But though Barzun covers the same period as Taylor, his book is quite different.As I read the book I perused [...]

    8. The work of Jacques Barzun's lifetime -- how could a reader not profit from this summary of so much of what this scholar and thinker had studied in his generous span? [Editing in a good example of his take on a subject most are familiar with -- how we read, he says misread, Hamlet; see farther below]Since he lived to 105, that makes for a lot of curiosity, thought, and learning. This summary of modern western civilization was published in 2000 when Barzun was 93, although it reads like the work [...]

    9. I came across Jacques Barzun in the late nineties as his book, From Dawn to Decadence - 1500 to the Present - 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, began to gain traction. I was still bogged down in an engineering career then, had divorced my first wife and 2.4 kids, and was in the early stages of re-marriage, but I felt compelled by the idea of this book and began to read it in what spare time I could summon.What a book! And what a mind. Barzun was in his mid-nineties then, an age in which you - [...]

    10. This is a wonderful book that could be written only by someone like Barzun and only near the end of a deeply distinguished career that spanned several decades. The scope of the book is breath-taking. And the learning necessary to write it is mind-boggling. The book is exactly what the sub-title suggests: an erudite discussion of 500 years of western cultural life. In particular, I love Barzun's definition of decadence: a state of affairs where futility and absurdity are accepted as normal. Barzu [...]

    11. This was an excellent overview which turned into a diatribe against (what he sees as) the modern world. The last 20 pages or so are so odd that I was dizzy. Fraud as a substitute for artistic creativity (because everyone wants to be an artist, of course, and fraud is an apt substitute)? Terrible literary biographers actually "Interview surviving contemporaries." This is just a selection. I would say--read the whole thing until he gets to his vision of today (when he wrote the book). I knew he wa [...]

    12. Not the kind of book that you can't put down. I use this as my exercycle reading. That way I digest a little each day. This is not only a book about history, but a book about ideas. Barzun traces the intellectual history of Western Civilization since its "Dawn" with the birth of the printing press and consequent proliferation of ideas. I never pick it up without feeling that I've found insight into why things have played out the way they have, or at least confirmation of something I've suspected [...]

    13. It's good for me to read a book that takes me out of my comfort zone by reading a book like this one that mostly talks about the fine arts and written by a curmudgeon. If I had started reading this in the year 2000, I would have stopped, but today I found his obvious retrograde beliefs charmingly anachronistic. I hate to dwell on the author's obviously curmudgeonly ways since they really aren't the heart of the book. He writes a good survey of fine arts. In the beginning of the book he goes chro [...]

    14. Frankly, having read this work, I'm a bit embarassed to be writing a review. In as much as the whole narrative leads one to an inescapable feeling of living in a totally fragmented, de-contextualized, and (to use the author's word) decadent, society; it seems rather self-indulgent to commit these words to the infinite void of cyberspace, where, as far as I will ever know, no one will read them, respond to them, or act upon them.Having said that, however, here are my thoughts: Barzun has done a m [...]

    15. I did not especially enjoy reading this which is why I initially gave up after 200 pages. But I hate quitting things, and this is one of my dad's books, so I persisted. It's definitely interesting the way he handles European culture of 500 years, which is too long a time period even for a book this long, but it was a good try. I initially was thinking 3 stars, but I bumped up my stars when I got to the end and read his summation of more modern history. I wonder how I would have viewed the previo [...]

    16. This Book Is 11,856 Pages LongAfter having read Jacques Barzun's summa thirteen times, I have concluded that this book is not really 912 pages long as it appears in the product details, but rather 11,856 pages. Every time I read this masterpiece, I find new ideas and fresh material on every page. Seemingly, the book is an endless fount of intellect, culture, etiquette, morals, art, science, politics, and genius that serves as the capstone of the last era and the cornerstone for the next.The firs [...]

    17. From Dawn to Decadence is the masterwork of an accomplished author whose cultural knowledge is both broad and deep. Moving from 1500 to 1995, Barzun takes the reader by the hand directing attention to both well and little known people and the activities that characterized the most recent centuries of Western civilization. Barzun identifies themes that connect one period to another, making them stand out with capitalization. EMANCIPATION, INDIVIDUALISM, PRIMITIVISM and ABSTRACTION are four. These [...]

    18. This one was a bit of an impulse buy. Generally, I am one to do my due diligence with book purchases by reading reviews both favorable and unfavorable. Seeing the praise being lavished upon this work with so few exceptions, however, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give this a try. Regrettably, this haphazard approach did not pay off.Admittedly, I did not finish this book, plodding through 200 or so pages, and so cannot give this book the fair, and thoroughgoing review it deserves cons [...]

    19. FROM DAWN TO DECADENCE: 1500 to the Present. 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. (2000). Jacques Barzun. *****.This is, without a doubt, the best book that I have read this year. I had not read any of Barzun’s writings before, but plan to seek them out. He was known as an historian, but devoted studies to wide-ranging areas beyond that subject. He had written books on baseball and on Berlioz – about whom he was an acknowledged expert. In this study, he provides us with a century-by-century a [...]

    20. It's not often that one is sorry to finish a nearly 800-page book, or that the process of wending one's way through those 800 pages is so consistently engaging, enjoyable and even exciting. Being so thoroughly a product of this decadent era, I have to make an ironic comment: part of the reason this romp through 500 years of history was so enjoyable -- for me and I suspect for many of those who put it on the NYT bestseller list -- is because of a level of culture and education that renders only a [...]

    21. 850+ pages of non-diluted joy. The longest book I have ever read, thanks to great number of "read more about it in X" detractions which forced me to read couple of great books in between (and more left in in the queue). The style is great. The brevity is amazing. The scope is broad. The analysis is succinct. What more can we ask for?

    22. This article reviews two masterpieces of intellectual history: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (by Jacques Barzun) and The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century (by Peter Watson)Reading intellectual history is like looking out at the window when the plane takes off. The colossal buildings become smaller and smaller until they are no more than little blocks of lego. It is then you realize how those distinct and individual blocks are connected through [...]

    23. Review title: Draw up a chair; Jacques Barzun has a treasure map to shareThe treasure is the inheritance of the 500 years of Western cultural life of Barzun's subtitle that is at my fingertips today. The map is Barzun's lifework documented in 800-plus pages of hard-learned and hand-drawn (as it were) survey marking the the routes to the treasure caches that have been created, assembled, saved, and lost over the five centuries of modern Western culture.While this is a survey in the grand professo [...]

    24. A book to read with your pinky out.Barzun's erudition is dazzling. Analysis, however, is often absent or rather shallow. A good analogy for this work is like that first intro paragraph of a article. It gives you a great sense of the subject without any considerable depth, just few key highlights aside.He does draw a few arcs of ideas throughout the 500 years of Western European history, but that insight is nothing groundbreaking. The greatest value is his intricate knowledge of an endless array [...]

    25. A bit conflicted. This is a tremendous work that reflects years of commitment to studying the anointed western canon of the past half-millennium, and Barzun is a writer whose gifts include both elegance and clarity. It is a rigorous and rewarding read. However, his blind spot for the contributions of women and how western culture inhibited their canonization (and some very strange interpolations of his gendered notions in random spots), his mistaken belief that the American Civil Rights Movement [...]

    26. The best book I have ever read in this year and for the last 20 years (i.e. my whole life up to this point).This is a masterpiece. It has done so much to me, intellectually, artistically, and emotionally, that it deserves such a title. From Dawn to Decadence covers a 500 year period from roughly the Renaissance - the so-called reborn of the Western Civilization - until the end of 20th century, which Barzun considers as its very Decadence. I have never read a history book in which everything weav [...]

    27. Colossal integration of art, culture, politics and thought over the last half millenium. Update: I just finished the book. What a magnificent work. I will just add two notes.1. From the prologue, for those who may be interested in Barzun's framework: "All that is meant by Decadence is 'falling off.' It implies in those who live in such a time no loss of energy or talent or moral sense. On the contrary, it is a very active time, full of deep concerns, but peculiarly restless, for it sees no clear [...]

    28. Many of us make New Year's resolutions concerning books. We think we should read more, and we know we should nourish our minds and hearts with work more substantive than the latest legal thriller or one-trick pop-psychology guidebook. But a month or two after Jan. 1, many of us are faced with a stack of books we resolved to read but haven't yet begun. What's the point of starting a volume as literally and metaphorically weighty as GREEK THOUGHT: A GUIDE TO CLASSICAL KNOWLEDGE when the idea of fi [...]

    29. As everyone who’s attempted to read this book knows, it’s huge, it’s vast, it’s panoramic. It is a Great Book and is worth tackling. That said, while I was particularly impressed with the first 3/4 , I couldn’t help but feel that Barzun was more than a bit dismissive of the modern age and looked down his nose at the current day. So, while I thought his treatment of the enlightenment and the reformation were revealing, I did however, find his critique of the 20th century a bit halting. [...]

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