Renaissance and Reformation: A Survey of European History between 1450 and 1660

Renaissance and Reformation: A Survey of European History between 1450 and 1660

Renaissance and Reformation: A Survey of European History between 1450 and 1660

Renaissance and Reformation: A Survey of European History between 1450 and 1660

Excerpt

The period of history under consideration is of such momentous importance, and so full of detail that the historian may well be baffled by the difficulty of selecting what is really relevant to his purpose. But I have essayed to write a book which can serve the dual purpose of informing a general reader of what happened in Europe in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and of placing a text at the disposal of the history specialist in a school or the undergraduate at a university. I am only too aware that the difficulties inherent in writing a book of this kind have not always been overcome successfully. Thus the chapter on 'The Renaissance' can hardly escape being something of a catalogue, so many are the names and ideas that crowd it; but to have omitted them would have left a false impression, to have considered them at length would have extended the book unduly. A critic might counter that it would have been better to have begun this study at 1494 in the traditional way, but this to my mind has two grave defects-- it suggests that the modern age began with a suddenness which is quite untrue to history and it leaves out of account the significant medieval inheritance. But the reader can, if he wishes, omit the first two chapters without losing the thread of the narrative. Nevertheless it is necessary to emphasise the continuity of medieval and modern history. I have tried therefore to cover two hundred years of European history by selecting those topics which are important in historical development as a whole. Since each chapter is complete in itself, this has inevitably meant some repetition. Such conclusions as I have ventured to put forward may well be challenged by the expert. If it is necessary, it is none-the-less difficult to make accurate generalisations about major historical questions. Professor Tout once commented truly enough: 'The more one works at history the less one feels satisfied with any broad statements as to the general character of any age'. To pretend to original research in such a wide field would be an impertinence, nor is there sufficient space to indicate where the printed contemporary documents which bear on the subject can be found. But I have pointed out in the Bibliography some of the works which I have myself found most useful, omitting, with certain exceptions, books written in foreign languages. The Time-chart may help the reader who finds the chronology of the period confusing. If this book serves to throw light on a complicated but fascinating period . . .

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