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The Renaissance: A Short History

Think of them as long essays, labors of love by people who know their subjects and care about language and style. Like the excellent and popular Penguin Lives series of short biographies, the Chronicles emphasize accessible brevity and good writing. The first two volumes, just released, hint at the series' projected breadth by addressing an era and a religion. These new books aren't written by academic borer beetles who haven't looked up from their tunnels since they got tenure.

They're written by writers writers whose mastery of their topic never overshadows their sense of language and style.

The result, so far, is extremely satisfying and, looking at the list of upcoming authors, it is safe to assume that the list will quickly develop a good momentum. Paul Johnson's Renaissance may be dwarfed by its predecessors' bulk, but it can hold up its head for quality.

The Renaissance: A Short History by Paul Johnson - Review | | BookPage

Throughout, it is intelligent, straightforward, and clear-headed. His very first sentences pull you in with their common-sense simplicity, but they also seem to state the very theme of the Modern Library series: "The past is infinitely complicated, composed as it is of events, big and small, beyond computation.

To make sense of it, the historian must select and simplify and shape. One way he shapes the past is to divide it into periods. Each period is made more memorable and easy to grasp if it can be labeled by a word that epitomizes its spirit.


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Since countless artists are at the I would have enjoyed this very light and opinionated recap of the Renaissance if it hadn't been for Johnson's annoying homophobia. On Michelangelo: "More nonsense has been written about him than The Renaissance : A Short History. Paul Johnson. In what ways was the Renaissance a transition between the medieval and modern periods?

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How conscious were the people living during this period of the uniqueness of their own time? How did the Renaissance differ from previous renaissances? How was it similar?

More by Paul Johnson

In what ways can Dante be said to be the father of the Renaissance? In what ways can he be seen as a medieval figure?

What is Renaissance humanism? To what extent was humanism a revolt against university learning at the time? Could it be argued that humanists merely provided the cloak of authenticity, a kind of set-dressing, for the rule of despots?