Astrology through History

Interpreting the Stars from Ancient Mesopotamia to the Present

by William E. Burns, Editor


The first time Galileo went before the Inquisition, the charges against him had nothing to do with Copernicanism; rather, the Church was worried about his ideas about astrology.

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July 2018


Pages 401
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Religion/History
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Alphabetically arranged entries cover the history of astrology from ancient Mesopotamia to the 21st century. In addition to surveying the Western tradition, the book explores Islamic, Indian, East Asian, and Mesoamerican astrology.

The field of astrology is growing rapidly, as historians recognize its centrality to the intellectual life of the past and sociologists and anthropologists treat its importance in a number of modern cultures. Despite the historical and cultural significance of the subject, most reference works on astrology focus on instructional techniques and are written by astrologers with little or no interest in the history of the topic. This book instead offers an objective treatment of astrology across world history from ancient Mesopotamia to the present.

The book provides alphabetically arranged entries by expert contributors writing on such topics as horoscopes, court astrologers, Renaissance astrology, and comets. While it considers the Western tradition, it also treats Islamic, Indian, East Asian, and Mesoamerican astrology. In doing so, it explores the role of astrology in shaping science, literature, religion, art, and other defining cultural traditions. Sidebars offer excerpts from various historical texts, while entries provide suggestions for further reading.


  • Provides alphabetically arranged reference entries that delineate the historical and cultural significance of astrology from ancient Mesopotamia to the present
  • Directs users to additional sources of information via entry bibliographies
  • Offers sidebars offer additional facts from primary source documents
  • Incorporates a timeline to help readers to place astrological developments in chronological context
  • Features an introductory essay for a narrative overview of the history of astrology, priming readers on its cultural relevance
Author Info

William E. Burns is a historian who lives in Washington, D.C. His books include The Scientific Revolution: An Encyclopedia, An Age of Wonders: Prodigies, Politics and Providence in England, 1657–1727, Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia , Knowledge and Power: Science in World History, and The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective.



"More complicated than horoscopes in the morning newspaper might suggest, astrology and its history are aptly introduced in this single-volume reference work. . . . [T]his work doesn't disappoint. . . . [R]ecommended for academic and large public libraries."Booklist Online

"A welcome addition to the burgeoning academic literature on astrology. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers."Choice


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