Over the last two decades the historical focus has shifted from viewing events in a simple historical context to a more integrative perspective. This set offers a multidimensional picture of primarily Western civilization, covering Ancient Egypt (2675-332 B.C.E.), Ancient Greece and Rome (1200 B.C.E.-476 C.E.), Medieval Europe (814-1450 C.E.), Renaissance Europe (1300-1600 C.E.), and The Age of the Baroque and Enlightenment (1600-1800 C.E.). Similar in organization to Gale's American Eras and World Eras lines, the work exposes readers to each historical period through the study of nine different arts and humanities topics: "Architecture and Design," "Dance," "Fashion," "Literature," "Music," "Philosophy," "Religion," "Theater," and "Visual Arts." Each topic area is treated in a different chapter, but the connections between topics are highlighted both in the text and through cross-referencing. The result is a broader and more inclusive picture of the culture of each period, emphasizing connections between, for example, religion, dance, and literature or between the visual arts and architecture. Each chapter is structured in the same way, containing a chronology; an overview of the development of the field under scrutiny; a "Topics" section, which discusses various movements, schools of thought, and masterworks that characterize the discipline during that era; a handful of biographies of significant people; and a list of documentary sources. Each of the subsections within "Topics" includes a list of sources. The writing, produced by subject experts, is uniformly clear and informative but quite pedantic. It is certainly not leisure--interest reading but does impart information in an admirably direct style. Sidebars offer primary source material (letters, poems, essays, songs, epitaphs, etc.). Numerous black-and-white photographs, maps, and reproductions extend the text well. Technical terms and definitions appear both in the text and in the glossary, and lists of works for further reference, as well as media and online sources, are listed at the back of each volume. Although there is not a cumulative index, each volume does have its own accurate index. Aimed at college and university students with or without historical background, this set provides a solid picture of western European history through the arts.
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