How Enlightenment Europe rediscovered its identity by measuring itself against the great civilizations of Asia
During the long 18th century, Europe's travelers, scholars, and intellectuals looked to Asia in a spirit of puzzlement, irony, and openness. In this panoramic book, Jürgen Osterhammel tells the story of the European Enlightenment's nuanced encounter with the great civilizations of the East, from the Ottoman Empire and India to China and Japan.
Here is the acclaimed book that challenges the notion that Europe's formative engagement with the non-European world was invariably marred by an imperial gaze and presumptions of Western superiority. Osterhammel describes how major figures such as Leibniz, Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hegel took a keen interest in Asian culture and history, and introduces lesser-known scientific travelers, colonial administrators, Jesuit missionaries, and adventurers who returned home from Asia bearing manuscripts in many exotic languages, huge collections of ethnographic data, and stories that sometimes defied belief. Osterhammel brings the sights and sounds of this tumultuous age vividly to life, from the salons of Paris and the lecture halls of Edinburgh to the deserts of Arabia, the steppes of Siberia, and the sumptuous courts of Asian princes. He demonstrates how Europe discovered its own identity anew by measuring itself against its more senior continent, and how it was only toward the end of this period that cruder forms of Eurocentrism - and condescension toward Asia - prevailed.
A momentous work by one of Europe's most eminent historians, Unfabling the East takes listeners on a thrilling voyage to the farthest shores, bringing back vital insights for our own multicultural age.
What the critics say
"Osterhammel’s nuanced position is sensible and intelligent." (Joan-Pau Rubiés, Times Higher Education)
"It is impossible to imagine a reader who would not learn a great deal from Osterhammel’s book." (Robert Irwin, Literary Review)
"Unfabling the East is a brilliant new book by Jürgen Osterhammel that goes back to the original sources, and carefully reconstructs the evolution of European views of Asia." (Michael Savage, Quillette)
What members say
- Amazon Customer
The Prequel to ‘Orientalism’
This is a book that’s been on my list since it came out. In a time when East Asia is once again being accepted as a model for politics and economic development, this book harkens back to the last time this was the case — in a time before the stench of social Darwinism, imperialism and scientific racism overwhelmed all else. It is massive, at times mazy and idiosyncratic but it is packed with amazing insights. In particular, I enjoyed the passages on the evolution of “oriental despotism,” nomadism and the intro / conclusion. The audio version was engaging and even more impressive given the sheer number or obscure names.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
- Lorenzo Coopman
where does it lead to?
Let me start by saying that the narrator is excellent and I would look at any book read by Ric Jerrom with interest! what I didn't like sometimes you drown in the facts and many nuances the author makes. Maybe this isn't the best book to listen to, it switches to fast of places and the time spend with someone in this book is to short. It wasn't bad but it isn't that I have gained much knowledge.