At 1070 pages, Jonathan I. Israel’s The Enlightenment That Failed certainly qualifies as a Big Fat Book. Israel traces the history of the Enlightenment from the middle 1700s to the middle 1800s.

Along with the changes in philosophy, political changes followed. Monarchies began to evolve into democracies. Wars still happened but they were motivated by power grabs instead of religious differences. I was interested in the chapter on emancipating Women as marriage, equality and female citizenship movements produced change.

I’m a fan of history and this book goes deep into the weeds to explain how laws, governments, social institutions, and financial systems changed. It doesn’t get much better than this! Do you enjoy reading history books? GRADE: A


1. Introduction: Radical Enlightenment and ‘Modernity’
Part I: The Origins of Democratic Modernity
2. The Rise of Democratic Republicanism
3. From Radical Renaissance to Radical Enlightenment
4. From Radical Reformation to the Cercle Spinoziste
5. English ‘Deism’ and its pre-1700 Roots
6. Great ‘Moderates’ and the Temptations of the Radical: Montesquieu and the Forbidden
7. D’Holbach against Voltaire and Rousseau: a triangular battle of Political Thought Systems
8. Revolution without Violence: The Nordic Model
Part II: Human Rights and Revolution (1770-1830)
9. Parallel Revolutions: America and France (1774-1793)
10. General Will’ and The Invention of Universal and Equal Human Rights (1750-1789)
11. Emancipating Women: Marriage, Equality, and Female Citizenship (1775-1815)
12. From Classical Economics to post-Classical redistributive Economics (1775-1820)
13. Reforming Europe’s Law Codes
14. Unity of Humanity: Race Theory and the Equality of Peoples
15. Unity of Humanity: Property, Class, and the Emancipation of Man
Part III: Revolution and Competing Revolutionary Ideologies (1789-1830)
16. Robespierre anti-philosophe, Or, the Battle of Ideologies during the French Revolution
17. The Swiss Revolution and the Hard Climb to Democratic Republicanism (1782-1848)
18. The Belgian Revolution (1787-1794)
19. Enlightening against Robespierre (and Napoleon): the Ecoles centrales (1792-1804)
20. Revolution and the Universities: Germany’s ‘Philosophy Wars’ (1780-1820)
21. Radicalism and Repression in the Anglo-American World (1775-1815)
22. The American Connection
23. The Spanish Revolution (1808-1823)
24. Black Emancipation, Universal Emancipation and the Haitian Revolution (1775-1825)
Part IV: The Enlightenment that Failed
25. Reaction and Radicalism: Germany and the Low Countries (1814-1830)
26. British Philosophical Radicalism (1814-1830)
27. Failed Restoration in France (1814-1830)
28. Bolivar and Spinoza
29. Karl Marx and the Left’s Turn from Radical Enlightenment to Socialism (1838-1848)
30. Conclusion: The ‘Radical Enlightenment Thesis’ and Its Critics




  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    I don’t read as much history as I used to. I tended to read mostly about the Roman empire or the Fourth Reich. This book looks a little too intimidating for me.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I love Roman history. Gibbon’s classic, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, features Gibbon’s brilliant writing style.

  2. Cap'n Bob Napier

    I don’t like reading 1070-page history books, even if they are Enlightening! Most of the history I’ve read lately deals with Custer’s Last Stand!

  3. Michael Padgett

    Patti’s right. There’s just no comfortable way to read a book of this size and weight unless you’re into e-books or audio books, and I’m not. I might consider a novel of this length, but only if it’s a real page turner.

  4. maggie mason

    I agree, way too heavy. Also not a subject I’m interested in. I used to read a little history, usually about WWII and Anastasia. Now I get my history via James Benn’s WWII series about Billy Boyle. Also like Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, which is getting to just before WWII. For some reason I couldn’t finish the new Susan Elia MacNeal, also set in WWII. I’d liked most of the previous ones in the series.

    1. george Post author

      Maggie, Diane enjoys the Maisie Dodd series by Jacqueline Winspear. The books are set between World War I and World War II and have mystery elements along with historical ones.

      1. maggie mason

        I read the first one and didn’t like it all the others I mentioned I highly recommend (even the current MacNeal, though I’m having trouble picking it up – I have 2 David Rosenfelt books which are my total favorites as well as donna andrews

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    I used to read more history but no, a 1000 page book is a no for me. I have the next volume of Winston Churchill’s authorized biography (by Martin Gilbert) on the shelf, as these days I am more likely to go biography than straight history. I’ve always preferred 19th and 20th Century to earlier periods. The Civil War and WWII (The Big One) are interests. Though I have tried again and again to get into books about the First World War, both history and fiction, it is a tougher period for me.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, Erik Larson’s THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE is getting strong reviews. I might order it because, like you, I’m a fan of Winston Churchill. Diane and I are listening to Ron Chernow’s GRANT. Only 38 CDs! We listen to one CD per day so this should last us to Cinco de Mayo.

  6. Dan

    Sounds perfect for people trapped on a desert island or in their homes.
    I can read anything as long as it’s well-written — are there any sex scenes, car chases & explosions?
    Speaking of “Well Written” I sent you a copy of my latest: THE DEVIL & STREAK WILSON but didn’t sign or even handle it without gloves to ensure your safety.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I switch between history and Science Fiction about the Future. But right now, I’m basking in the glow of the Enlightenment!

  7. wolf

    We discussed those times at school in our history lessons and were really angry at what was called the “restauration” of the old class oriented feudal systems in Germany – which was just a collection of little monarchies at the time. Each prince, king or whatever wanted to live in luxury and any kind of democracy was immediately suppressed …
    One of our greatest writers Friedrich Schiller e g was sent to jail for a long time.
    So I don’t want to be reminded about those bad times by reading history – can’t change it anymore.


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