I just turned in to my friends at First Things a review of the new book by Sir Keith Thomas, The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfillment in Early Modern England, so it will be a few months before the review appears. But I would like to quote my own opening paragraph:

The Ends of Life is one of the most enjoyable, provocative, and instructive works of historical scholarship I have ever read. It is a work I will return to again and again, and I doubt that I will ever exhaust its riches — even though its historical narrative occupies fewer than three hundred pages (followed by a hundred and fifty pages of notes). Keith Thomas has provided as rich and compelling a picture of what early modern people lived for — what they believed gave meaning to their existence — as we could ever hope to have. And few if any historical subjects could be more worthy of our attention.
In any list of My Favorite Books that I have made over the past twenty years, Thomas’s earlier book Man and the Natural World has had a high place. Now it has to move over and make room for its successor. Everybody: read this book.


  1. Is one of these Favorite Books lists of yours available somewhere to peruse and be excoriated by hostile American Scene commenters? Well maybe not that last part…

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