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)
The Measure of Reality is the third book in a series in which Alfred Crosby, a noted historian, asks how it is that Western European societies could have conquered so much of the world in the space of a few generations. The answer, he finds, is in certain agricultural and technological techniques. In this volume he turns to one set of techniques in particular: the precise measurement of time, number, and distance. That precise measurement enabled European armies to march in step, enabled navigators to find faraway ports, and enabled gunsmiths and chemists to formulate the weapons of conquest. These inventions were refined over centuries, but most came heavily into play in the years between 1250 and 1300, the period Crosby examines in closest detail. The Measure of Reality offers a fascinating, big-picture view of the artifacts that changed history.