Few tools in the historian’s kit are as fundamental as periodization. By naming distinct stretches of time, historians give shape to history’s flow: the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Age of Exploration (or, alternatively, of Colonization), the Age of Democratic Revolutions, the Age of Anxiety.
As those names suggest, periodization always carries interpretive, even ideological, baggage. One person’s Enlightenment is someone else’s Age of Absolutism. John W. O’...
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