Book of the month

— Here’s the next thing on my reading list (

Traditionally, “The Enlightenment” has been associated with France, America, and Scotland rather than Britain, which, strangely enough, is thought not to have had an Enlightenment to speak of. Roy Porter effectively upsets this view in The Creation of the Modern World: The British Enlightenment.

While returning the Enlightenment to Britain, Porter also provides a persuasive general defense of the movement against its Foucauldian, feminist, and/or postmodern critics who still “paint it black.” It was perpetually dismissed as “anything from superficial and intellectually na?ve to a conspiracy of dead white men in periwigs [who] provide the intellectual foundation for Western imperialism,” and one of the book’s strengths is that after reading it, one finds it hard to understand how these “critiques” gained such influence in intellectual circles.

Porter is a serious scholar, not a cultural jingoist, and his view of the development of modernity out of the philosophical, political, scientific, and religious elements present in Britain in the 18th Century is inspired.

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