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John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portraitby William J Bouwsma
Synopses & Reviews
Calvinism has been widely credited--or blamed--for much that is thought to characterize the modern world: for capitalism and modern science, for secularization and democracy, for individualism and utilitarianism. But John Calvin the man has been largely ignored by historians; most of us, if we think of him at all, tend to view him as little more than the joyless tyrant of Geneva and the source of an abstract theology as forbidding as its author. This book, by an eminent historian whose career has been devoted to understanding the larger patterns of early modern European history, aims to make Calvin come alive by putting him back in his own time and understanding how he dealt with its problems.
A Frenchman, an exile, and a humanist in the tradition of Erasmus, Calvin was unusually sensitive to the complexities and contradictions of later Renaissance culture. The Calvin who emerges from this eloquent study is a surprisingly human, more plausible, more ecumenical, and often sympathetic figure, whose achievement was both more and less than — and at the same time quite different from — the way it has commonly been portrayed. The result is a brilliant interpretation not only of Calvin but also of the Reformation and its relationship to the movements of the Renaissance.
Bousma sketches a deeply psychological portrait of the great reformer.
Historians have credited--or blamed--Calvinism for many developments in the modern world, including capitalism, modern science, secularization, democracy, individualism, and unitarianism. These same historians, however, have largely ignored John Calvin the man. When people consider him at all, they tend to view him as little more than the joyless tyrant of Geneva who created an abstract theology as forbidding as himself.
This volume, written by the eminent historian William J. Bouwsma, who has devoted his career to exploring the larger patterns of early modern European history, seeks to redress these common misconceptions of Calvin by placing him back in the proper historical context of his time.
Eloquently depicting Calvin's life as a French exile, a humanist in the tradition of Erasmus, and a man unusually sensitive to the complexities and contradictions of later Renaissance culture, Bouwsma reveals a surprisingly human, plausible, ecumenical, and often sympathetic Calvin. John Calvin offers a brilliant reassessment not only of Calvin but also of the Reformation and its relationship to the movements of the Renaissance.
About the Author
William J. Bouwsma is Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of the highly-acclaimed Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter-Reformation.
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