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Breaking the Enlightenment spell

Idealising the age of reason as a perfect model of truth, virtue and knowledge is bad history as well as bad philosophy

By Jonathan Rée   July 2015

The frontispiece of the 1772 Encyclopedie, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert, with Truth at its centre. © Lebrecht Music and Arts

The Enlightenment: History of an Idea by Vincenzo Ferrone, translated by Elisabetta Tarantino (Princeton University Press, £19.95)

The humble ambition of every historian, as defined by Leopold von Ranke nearly two centuries ago, is to describe the past as it really…

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