Catalogue


The measure of reality : quantification and Western society, 1250-1600 /
Alfred W. Crosby.
imprint
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997.
description
xii, 245 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0521554276
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997.
isbn
0521554276
catalogue key
810301
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Alfred W. Crosby is Professor of American Studies, History, and Geography at the University of Texas, Austin, and he has been a Visiting Professor at Yale and the University of Hawaii
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1997-05:
Crosby, an authority on the impact of European conquest and colonization on the non-European world, in this book turns to how the Europeans gained their decisive edge. He finds the answer in the European discovery of quantification in the late Middle Ages. This development depended heavily on the arrival of Arabic-Hindu numbering (the author's term), with its zero, without which quantification was essentially impossible. Quantification also both drew on and encouraged the development of instruments for measurement, such as the clock, and visualization, by which Crosby means the ability to put those measurements on paper. He shows how these qualities enabled Europeans to make revolutionary changes in a great range of subjects, including mathematics, navigation, geography, business, and even music and painting. This new mindset, i.e., the belief that everything in the material world was quantifiable, led to the emergence of modern European society and its thrust to control both nature and the rest of the world. Using mostly secondary sources, Crosby describes the emergence of quantification with telling anecdotes and a lively style. Footnotes but no bibliography and a small number of illustrations. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. F. J. Baumgartner; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1996-11-25:
Having written such books as Ecological Imperialism, Crosby, a professor of American studies, history and geography at the University of Texas, Austin, wondered what it was that made Europeans such successful colonists and empire builders. In this engrossing study, he posits that it was Europeans' ability to divide the world, whether experiential or abstract, into quanta which they could then manipulate and exploit. Crosby begins by reminding readers how different the Western worldview was a millennium ago. For example, Europeans, Crosby notes, "had a system of unequal accordian-pleated hours that puffed up and deflated so as to ensure a dozen hours each for daytime and nighttime, winter and summer." This more fluid conception of reality did not change over night. Crosby first looks at the "Necessary but Insufficient Causes" like the codification of time and calendar, new strides in cartography and astronomy and the introduction of Arabic numerals, before looking at the match that set fire to the rage to quantify. This was, he says, the shift to visualization. With the printing press, large numbers of people moved from oral to literate culture; with increasingly complicated polyphony, composers found need for musical notation; painters, in an effort to bring depth to their work, applied geometry to make the third dimension visual on a flat plane; and merchants eschewed memory for the more reliable double-entry bookkeeping. Crosby's argument is, of course, much subtler (not to mention more entertaining) than this grossly simplified outline. It is a joy for anyone interested in why we think the way we think. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1999-08:
Crosby, who has written on the biological reasons Europeans were such successful imperialists, here expands on those reasons. He argues that even more fundamental and earlier than biology, Europeans began to think of reality in quantitative terms more than any other people in the world and thus became the world's leaders in science, technology, navigation, armaments, business, bureaucracy, music, and painting. (LJ 1/97) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"...[an] engrossing study....It is a joy for anyone interested in why we think the way we think." Publishers Weekly
'Crosby shows us how Europeans prepared for their world encompassing expansion after 1500 by learning how to measure, calculate and control the world around them by breaking reality into equal, arbitrary units. The Measure of Reality is a brilliant, provocative essay, as original and persuasive as his earlier Ecological Imperialism. A really significant little essay, full of new information and delightfully written as well.' William H. McNeill
‘Crosby shows us how Europeans prepared for their world encompassing expansion after 1500 by learning how to measure, calculate and control the world around them by breaking reality into equal, arbitrary units. The Measure of Reality is a brilliant, provocative essay, as original and persuasive as his earlier Ecological Imperialism. A really significant little essay, full of new information and delightfully written as well.’William H. McNeill
"Here, at last, is a theme that may provoke students and maybe also mature scholars--the primacy of art and commerce in the formation of a scientific-technological mentality." Theodore M. Porter, Technology & Culture
"...highly original....Crosby writes in an easy, chatty style punctuated with fascinating questions...appealing to the general reader as well as the scholar....[makes] valuable contributions to the current discussion on cultural studies." Library Journal
"How the numerate urge developed and blossomed is the subject of this gracefully written book by Alfred W. Crosby....Crosby constructs a convincing account of how different forces came together to elevate quantification as a social and economic good in Western European society." Business Week
'How the numerate urge developed and blossomed is the subject of this gracefully written book. ... Crosby constructs a convincing account of how different forces came together to elevate quantification as a social and economic good in Western European society. ... Crosby helps us fathom the arcane past - and understand our number-driven civilization.' Karen Pennar, Business Week
‘How the numerate urge developed and blossomed is the subject of this gracefully written book. … Crosby constructs a convincing account of how different forces came together to elevate quantification as a social and economic good in Western European society. … Crosby helps us fathom the arcane past - and understand our number-driven civilization.’ Karen Pennar, Business Week
'In this thoroughly fascinating monograph, Alfred W. Crosby asks a fundamental question: How and why did it come to pass that Europeans, seemingly backward bumpkins in medieval times, became so successful as imperialists?' John Allen Paulos, LA Times
‘In this thoroughly fascinating monograph, Alfred W. Crosby asks a fundamental question: How and why did it come to pass that Europeans, seemingly backward bumpkins in medieval times, became so successful as imperialists?’John Allen Paulos, LA Times
"It's not often that one wishes a scholarly book were longer. In the case of The Measure of Reality, one does." Civilization
"The author provides some remarkable insights on modern culture....This is one of those rare books, one that changes the reader's view of the world just beyond the page." The Baltimore Sun
'The Measure of Reality has all the intellectual scope, vivid detail, imaginative interpretation and delicious wit that I expected from Crosby's earlier books. Here Crosby argues that Western Europeans were better imperialists than any humans before them in part because, from the thirteenth century onward, they thought about reality in quantitative terms and did so more consistently than other peoples. There is an important lesson here for today.' Joel E. Cohen, Rockerfeller University
‘The Measure of Reality has all the intellectual scope, vivid detail, imaginative interpretation and delicious wit that I expected from Crosby’s earlier books. Here Crosby argues that Western Europeans were better imperialists than any humans before them in part because, from the thirteenth century onward, they thought about reality in quantitative terms and did so more consistently than other peoples. There is an important lesson here for today.’Joel E. Cohen, Rockerfeller University
"...very accessible and readable...[a] stimulating, wide-ranging study of the intellectual development of the medieval West....Mr. Crosby tracks a magnificent journey, from the introspective mentality of the early Middle Ages, which willingly tolerated ignorance and lack of precision, to a mentality that conceived of the physical universe in visual and quantitative terms....Mr. Crosby tells a heroic story of discovery and change that many readers will turn to for enlightenment." New York Times Book Review
"...we have all benefited from Crosby's attempt to sum up the age." Paula Findlen, The Sixteenth Century Journal
'Western Europe did remake itself during that thousand years in a way that no other culture in the world did - or even attempted to do. And that is the transformation addressed in a very accessible and readable way by Crosby's stimulating, wide-ranging study of the intellectual development of the medieval West.' Richard Holt, The New York Times Book Review
‘Western Europe did remake itself during that thousand years in a way that no other culture in the world did - or even attempted to do. And that is the transformation addressed in a very accessible and readable way by Crosby’s stimulating, wide-ranging study of the intellectual development of the medieval West.’Richard Holt, The New York Times Book Review
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, November 1996
Booklist, January 1997
Library Journal, January 1997
Choice, May 1997
Library Journal, August 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Crosby discusses the epochal shift from qualitative to quantitative perception in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, which made modern science, technology, business practice and bureaucracy possible.
Description for Bookstore
This 1997 book discusses the shift from qualitative to quantitative perception which occurred in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance and which was to lead to western domination of science and technology.
Description for Bookstore
This book discusses the shift from qualitative to quantitative perception which occurred in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance and which was to lead to western domination of science and technology.
Description for Bookstore
Western Europeans were among the first, if not the first, to invent mechanical clocks, geometrically precise maps, double-entry bookkeeping, precise algebraic and musical notations, and perspective painting. More people in Western Europe thought quantitatively in the 16th Century than in any other part of the world, enabling them to become the world's leaders. This book discusses the shift from qualitative to quantitative perception which occurred during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Main Description
Western Europeans were among the first, if not the first, to invent mechanical clocks, geometrically precise maps, double-entry bookkeeping, precise algebraic and musical notations, and perspective painting. By the sixteenth century more people were thinking quantitatively in western Europe than in any other part of the world. The Measure of Reality discusses the epochal shift from qualitative to quantitative perception in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. This shift made modern science, technology, business practice, and bureaucracy possible.
Main Description
Western Europeans were among the first, if not the first, to invent mechanical clocks, geometrically precise maps, double-entry bookkeeping, precise algebraic and musical notations, and perspective painting. By the sixteenth century more people were thinking quantitatively in western Europe than in any other part of the world. The Measure of Reality, first published in 1997, discusses the epochal shift from qualitative to quantitative perception in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. This shift made modern science, technology, business practice and bureaucracy possible.
Main Description
Western Europeans were among the first, if not the first, to invent mechanical clocks, geometrically precise maps, double-entry bookkeeping, precise algebraic and musical notations, and perspective painting. More people in Western Europe thought quantitatively in the sixteenth century than in any other part of the world, enabling them to become the world's leaders. With amusing detail and historical anecdote, Alfred Crosby discusses the shift from qualitative to quantitative perception that occurred during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Alfred W. Crosby is the author of five books, including the award-winning Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge, 1986)
Unpaid Annotation
The Measure of Reality discusses the epochal shift from qualitative to quantitative perception in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. This shift made modern science, technology, business practice, and bureaucracy possible. It affected not only the obvious - such as measurements of time and space and mathematical technique - but, equally and simultaneously, music and painting, thus proving that the shift was even more profound than once thought.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. ix
Pantometry Achieved
Pantometry: An Introductionp. 3
The Venerable Modelp. 21
Necessary but Insufficient Causesp. 49
Timep. 75
Spacep. 95
Mathematicsp. 109
Striking the Match: Visualization
Visualization: An Introductionp. 129
Musicp. 139
Paintingp. 165
Bookkeepingp. 199
Epilogue
The New Modelp. 227
Indexp. 241
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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