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In an elegant, eminently readable work, one of our most distinguished intellectual historians gives us a brilliant revisionist history. The Roads to Modernity reclaims the Enlightenment—an extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about human nature, politics, society, and religionfrom historians who have downgraded its importance and from scholars who have given preeminence to the Enlightenment in France over concurrent movements in England and America.
Contrasting the Enlightenments in the three nations, Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy and wisdom of the British, exemplified in such thinkers as Adam Smith, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, as well as the unique and enduring contributions of the American Founders. It is their Enlightenments, she argues, that created a social ethic—humane, compassionate, and realistic—that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more than in Europe.
The Roads to Modernity is a remarkable and illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.
“Support[ed] with great passion and wide-ranging scholarship. . . . Himmelfarb has written a keenly argued and thought-provoking intellectual history of the 18th century.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Exciting intellectual pugilism . . . . Himmelfarb mounts a vigorous argument that the British [Enlightenment] was reformist rather than subversive, respectful of the past and present even while looking forward to a more egalitarian future.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[Himmelfarb’s] writing . . . has a verve and sharpness. . . . It is a pleasure to read.” —The New York Review of Books
“Exceptionally well written and clever.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Himmelfarb has one of the keenest intellects of our time.” —The Houston Chronicle