Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 by Jonathan Israel
This is the first in a series of books on the history of the Radical Enlightenment. It is quite long and pretty detailed, but I found it fascinating. It made me rethink my view of Spinoza, which had been formed by Russell’s History of Western Philosophy — perhaps not the best view.
I enjoyed topics such as the history of libraries at the end of the 17th century, also the many utopian stories — trying to make philosophical points. It’s description of why protestant countries had more scope for intellectual innovation seemed very plausible.
I would like to read it again, and the two follow-on books. In fact I started to read it again but this was halted by a sad event.
I remember reading it on an aeroplane going on vacation to Madeira, and also reading the section on Spinoza’s theory of miracles sitting with my mother while she was reaching in extremis.