Introduction: The Scientific Revolution

  • Marie Boas Hall
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


Historians, unlike geologists, tend to see the past at first view not as a long, continuous development, but as a series of tenuously connected jumps, which they call revolutions. Only later does the critic move in to insist that every revolution has a slow period of development that precedes it, or at least to argue that your revolution is better characterized as the culmination of slow growth, although his may be genuine. Nineteenth century historians were interested in art and literature and secular rationalism, and so their revolution—which catapulted Europe, they thought, into the modern world—was the Renaissance. Twentieth-century historians first criticized this by finding earlier examples of “rebirth”—the Renaissance of the twelfth century, the Carolingian and Ottonian Renaissances of the ninth and tenth centuries—and then denied that there was any such thing as a “rebirth” of anything, emphasizing that all human history has been continuous development and change. (In support of older historians it must not be forgotten that the men of Renaissance Europe thought that they were indeed reviving and re-creating the best of the remote past.)


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Scientific Revolution Sense Experience 
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© Marie Boas Hall 1970

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  • Marie Boas Hall

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