FIRE AND LIGHT: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World

FIRE AND LIGHT                                         JAMES MAC GREGOR BURNS               

Fire and Light by James MacGregor Burns "With this profound and magnificent book, drawing on his deep reservoir of thought and expertise in the humanities, James MacGregor Burns takes us into the fire's center. As a 21st-century philosopher, he brings to vivid life the incandescent personalities and ideas that embody the best in Western civilization and shows us how understanding them is essential for anyone who would seek to decipher the complex problems and potentialities of the world we will live in tomorrow." --Michael Beschloss, New York Times bestselling author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989

“James MacGregor Burns is a national treasure, and Fire and Light is the elegiac capstone to a career devoted to understanding the seminal ideas that made America - for better and for worse - what it is.” --Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author Revolutionary Summer
Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling historian James MacGregor Burns explores the most daring and transformational intellectual movement in history, the European and American Enlightenment

In this engaging, provocative history, James MacGregor Burns brilliantly illuminates the two-hundred-year conflagration of the Enlightenment, when audacious questions and astonishing ideas tore across Europe and the New World, transforming thought, overturning governments, and inspiring visionary political experiments. Fire and Light brings to vivid life the galaxy of revolutionary leaders of thought and action who, armed with a new sense of human possibility, driven by a hunger for change, created the modern world. Burns discovers the origins of a distinctive American Enlightenment in men like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, and their early encounters with incendiary European ideas about liberty and equality. It was these thinker-activists who framed the United States as a grand and continuing experiment in Enlightenment principles.

Today the same questions Enlightenment thinkers grappled with have taken on new urgency around the world: in the turmoil of the Arab Spring, in the former Soviet Union, and China, as well as in the United States itself. What should a nation be? What should citizens expect from their government? Who should lead and how can leadership be made both effective and accountable? What is happiness, and what can the state contribute to it? Burns's exploration of the ideals and arguments that formed the bedrock of our modern world shines a new light on these ever-important questions.


This is a book about the Enlightenment movement and the effect it has had on three countries. England, France and United States. There is a lot of information in this book. It starts before the revolution and goes through to 1850. Right before our civil war (10 years). First let me say it difficult to put all of what he talked about into a review. But I will say that at each moment in our young nation beginnings we had the men who saw the need for more. For the Bill of Rights, the checks and balances of each branch of government. The willingness to listen and to compromise on different issues. To have men that we don’t even mention Samauel Adams, James Otis, John Hancock, Monroe, Madison, Hamilton along with many others who fought for states right but also that a government does not over power the people. Yet they thought that there should be free education along with many other things. The big thing he talks about is slavery and how England did away with it without having a war. That would have been nice. There is a lot of information and a lot of history which is great.

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