Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-297) and index.
Introduction : '42' -- New wine and old wineskins -- A magical world -- Re-evaluation -- Heavens above? -- Medicine men -- Seeing may be believing -- Confusion -- I think--so what? -- The religion of doctors -- Spreading the word -- Day star of the Enlightenment -- Avant le deluge.
Spanning some of the most vibrant and fascinating eras in European history, Wilson reveals a society filled with an ardent desire for knowledge and astounding discoveries and the fantastic discoveries that flowered from it. But often this knowledge was based on folk religions with a pagan past. Even the Catholic Church had its own "magical" traditions, and astrologists believed human affairs were controlled by the heavenly bodies. Wilson shows how our pursuit of knowledge existed alongside deep-rooted fears and superstitions. "A rich and multi-faceted history of the profound changes in human knowledge that took place between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Spanning some of the most vibrant and fascinating eras in European history, Cambridge historian Derek Wilson reveals a society filled with an ardent desire for knowledge and astounding discoveries. There was the discovery of the movement of blood around the body; the movement of the earth around the sun; the velocity of falling objects (and why those objects fell). But often these thinkers were steeped in surprising intellectual traditions. There was folk religion, which in its turn had deep roots in a pagan past. This was the world of witches, necromancers, potions and incantations. Even the mighty Catholic Church, which permeated all elements of life, had its own "magical" traditions. Devote believers and accomplished scientists alike both pursued alchemy. Astrology, also a rapidly developing field, was based on the belief that human affairs were controlled by the movement of heavenly bodies. Yet from this heady cultural mix, the scientific method would spring. By the mid-seventeenth century, "science mania" was in full flower. In 1663, The Royal Society in London received its charter. Just three years later, the French Academy of Sciences was founded, and other European capitals rapidly followed suit. In 1725, the word "science" was at last defined as "a branch of study concerned either with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified." Yet just nine years before, the last witch had been executed in Britain. Fascinating and thought-provoking, A Magical World is a reminder of humanity's paradoxical nature--our passionate pursuit of knowledge alongside deep-rooted fears and superstitions."--Dust jacket.