Book Review: An Intellectual History of Modern Europe by Roland N. Stromberg

Intellectual History of Modern Europe

Stromberg’s treatment of modern European intellectual history is one of the best books I have yet read on the subject. He is thorough while not overwhelming in his treatment of each of the philosophical movements he discusses. He writes in a manner that keeps the interesting, provides relevant detail, directs to additional reading for those especially interested, and yet remains approachable to the non-expert. His assessments are also quite fair, even when it is clear he disagrees with the particular philosophical school being discussed.

I especially appreciate the wide range of his knowledge. Because he is so widely and deeply read in the ideas of Europeans in the last several centuries, he is able to draw together movements, individuals, and ways of thinking among which it might otherwise be difficult to discern an association. This ability to see and explain the relationships in modern intellectual history is a great help in discovering the origins and developments of the various modes of thinking and the particular ideas which they produced.

Stromberg’s assessment of the current state of affairs in thought provides some fascinating insight and some rather heartening prognoses. While it is clear that Western Civilization has entered a period of decline, Stromberg points out the other periods in its history at which it seemed Western Civilization was in serious trouble and points ahead to the hopeful possibilities for the future.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy, in modern history, in the state of the world and how it got where it is now, and, of course, anyone interested in modern European (or American) intellectual history. I can think of no worthier introduction to the subject.

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One comment

  1. Yes, Stromberg survey of modern intellectual history– penned as a college text — remains one of the most accessible but also one of the most informative treatments of this wide and fascinating field of study.

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