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The Enlightenment:
History of an Idea
Vincenzo Ferrone
With an afterword by the author
Translated by Elisabetta Tarantino

Paperback | 2017 | $22.95 | £18.95 | ISBN: 9780691175768
Hardcover | 2015 | $30.95 | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780691161457
232 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400865833 |
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In this concise and powerful book, one of the world's leading historians of the Enlightenment provides a bracing and clarifying new interpretation of this watershed period. Arguing that philosophical and historical interpretations of the era have long been hopelessly confused, Vincenzo Ferrone makes the case that it is only by separating these views and taking an approach grounded in social and cultural history that we can begin to grasp what the Enlightenment was—and why it is still relevant today. Ferrone explains why the Enlightenment was a profound and wide-ranging cultural revolution that reshaped Western identity, reformed politics through the invention of human rights, and redefined knowledge by creating a critical culture. These new ways of thinking gave birth to new values that spread throughout society and changed how everyday life was lived and understood. Featuring an illuminating afterword describing how his argument challenges the work of Anglophone interpreters including Jonathan Israel, The Enlightenment provides a fascinating reevaluation of the true nature and legacy of one of the most important and contested periods in Western history.

The translation of this work has been funded by SEPS—Segretariato Europeo per le Pubblicazioni Scientifiche.

Vincenzo Ferrone is professor of modern history at the University of Turin. He has been a visiting scholar at the Collège de France and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.


"Ferrone's familiarity with the primary literature is impressive, covering thinkers from France and Italy to Germany and Scotland. His grasp of the historiography is just as sure, encompassing both Anglophone and European research. This makes for a book that is far more than just a synthesis."--Richard Bourke, Times Literary Supplement

"Compelling."--New Republic

"Ferrone's command of his material is impressive. . . . There is something for us to learn, or be reminded of, on nearly every page of this dense but often enlightened work."--John Toren, Rain Taxi Review of Books

"[The Enlightenment] offers a novel and provocative interpretation of the Enlightenment that effectively challenges scholars of the movement to rethink their own understandings of the intellectual turmoil and upheaval of the eighteenth century."--Review of Politics

"How welcome it is to have Vincenzo Ferrone's Lezioni illuministiche available in English. . . . No brief summary can convey all the pleasures, and instruction, that accompany a reading of The Enlightenment: History of an Idea. Not the least of its attractions is the fact that Ferrone wears his immense erudition lightly, expressing himself in a prose that is as ludic as it is lucid, joining clarity to wit in classic Enlightenment fashion."--Johnson Kent Wright, H-France Review

"Impressive."--K. Steven Vincent, European Legacy


"Ferrone's compelling and courageous effort to disentangle the conceptions of the Enlightenment advanced by historians and philosophers since the eighteenth century results in a volume indispensable to historians and philosophers alike--and especially all those interested in how the late Enlightenment's 'laboratory of modernity' gave rise to and continues to shape our understanding of humanism today."--Ryan Patrick Hanley, author of Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue

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