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About the Author

Jonathan Israel is professor of modern history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author of A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (Princeton).

Obras por Jonathan I. Israel

Spinoza, Life and Legacy (2023) 42 exemplares

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Did we read this in book group? People didn't really warm to the writing, and Paul admitted it is not one of the author's best. unless i am mixing this up with a different title.....
JendyandPaul | 3 outras críticas | May 2, 2022 |
Besproken door P.J.Barnauw in Thoth, april (1982),no.1,p.29 :
“Het boek…veroorzaakt een niet-bevredigende ‘opgeklopte’ indruk.
MBRLibrary | 6 outras críticas | Jul 25, 2021 |
It does what it says - a heavyweight (in every sense) overview of Dutch history from the late medieval period to Napoleon, focussing on how the Republic came into being, how it was governed, and how the political system related to developments in religious and intellectual life. Economic, military and colonial developments are covered as well, but not quite in the same level of detail.

What really interests Israel - probably to the despair of some readers, although I found it oddly fascinating - is the complicated way in which the Republic operated as a not-quite-federation of unequal and frequently disunited provinces, each of which had its own internal conflicts and divisions. In most of what I've read before about Dutch history, you only really get to hear about Holland, with the occasional passing mention of Geuzen in Zeeland and sieges in Brabant. But when you're reading Israel you also have to be aware of how the political manoeuvres in The Hague are affected by the complexities of relations between Groningen and its Ommelanden, or between the three quarters of Gelderland (I still don't know why they call them quarters if there are only three of them...). Endless fun, if you enjoy that kind of thing.

The other big element of the book is the analysis of what was going on in religion, science and philosophy (and to a lesser extent, the arts), and how it was enabled and sometimes restricted by the peculiarities of the Dutch political system. Israel makes it clear that there's a lot more to it than the standard idea that official tolerance created a kind of free market in ideas and gave the Netherlands an advantage over the repressive, absolutist rest of Europe. In fact, when it comes down to it, the religious establishment in the 17th century Netherlands had as little tolerance for divergent ideas as their protestant and catholic neighbours, and preachers were constantly campaigning to have sects other than their own shut down, books burnt, professors banned from teaching Descartes or Spinoza, and all the rest of it. There was always a strong "Voetian" element in the Dutch Reformed Church that felt that religious observance ought to be enforced by law. And it never took much to provoke the urban working classes to start an anti-Catholic riot. Where the Dutch Republic was different from the rest of Europe seems to have been in a pragmatic sense at the highest levels of government that public order mattered more than religious conformity. The state never regulated what people believed, but it could - and did - intervene to stop them causing unnecessary trouble, e.g. by publishing revolutionary ideas in Dutch, or by over-zealous preaching. Then as now, Dutch society was all about minimising overlast (nuisance). The other key thing in the 17th century Netherlands was that there was so much divergence from province to province and town to town, that you could almost always find somewhere where your views were acceptable. Spinoza moved from Amsterdam to Voorburg after he was expelled from the synagogue; professors who were too unorthodox for Leiden were generally welcomed in the rival universities at Franeker or Groningen (and vice-versa).

Whilst reading this book, I more than once had to wonder why OUP didn't split it into two (or more) volumes. This is essentially narrative history that you want to read sequentially and at leisure, not a reference book for dipping into. But a dictionary-sized book like this (1130 pages of text plus another hundred of index and bibliography) is just far too heavy to hold comfortably. My Everyman edition of Motley is about the same total number of pages in total, but in three nice, pocket-sized volumes. You could easily slip one of those into your backpack. Not that you can in any way compare Motley's chatty style and unconcealed protestant propaganda with what Israel is doing...
… (mais)
2 vote
thorold | 8 outras críticas | Oct 13, 2018 |
This book explains a lot about the modern world, both good and bad, but seriously we owe a lot to these thinkers, writers and publishers for freeing us from theocratic tyranny and absolutism. The author places Spinoza as the central figure.
SerenaSerena | 6 outras críticas | Jul 21, 2018 |



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