In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophers, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time.
In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism.
We have gained a much more detailed and fine-grained view of the sheer diversity and intellectual creativity not just amongst those who may have been influenced by Spinoza, but also amongst their critics, and those who may be deemed part of either the moderate Enlightenment or even a Counter-Enlightenment. * Professor Thomas Munck, Reviews in History * Magnificent and magisterial, Radical Enlightenment will undoubtedly be one of truly great historical works of the decade. * John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph * There is much to praise in Israel's majestic account of the Enlightenment and his detective work in placing Spinoza at the heart of it. * A.C. Grayling, FT Weekend * The scholarship is breathtaking. Israel has read everything, absorbed every nuance, followed up every byway ... Five years from now, our views of the Enlightenment will have been enormously influenced by Israel. * Peter Watson, New Statesman * Deserves to be widely read because it is an example of ground-breaking vastly well-informed and thoroughly new history * David Horspool, The Guardian * The tributes which Israel has received for Radical Enlightenment are thoroughly merited; this book will become a modern classic upon the subject. * David J. Sturdy, Cultural and Social History 2004-2006 *