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This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne. Braudel's techniq This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne. Braudel's technique, it has been said, is that of a pointilliste. Myriads of separate details, sharp glimpses of reality experienced by real people, are seen miraculously to orchestrate themselves into broad rhythms that underlie and transcend the excitements and struggles of particular periods. Braudel sees the past as we see the present — only in a longer perspective and over a wider field.The perspective is that of the possible, of the actual material limitations to human life in any given time or place. It is the every¬day, the habitual — the obvious that is so obvious it has hitherto been neglected by historians — that Braudel claims for a new and vast and enriching province of history. Food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and, above all, the growth of towns, that powerful agent of social and economic development, are described in all the richness and complexity of real life. The intensely visual quality of Braudel's understanding of history is brought into sharper focus by the remarkable series of illustrations that of themselves would make this book incomparable FERNAND BRAUDEL was born in 1902, received a degree in history in 1923, and subsequently taught in Algeria, Paris and Sao Paulo. He spent five years as a prisoner of war in Germany, during which time he wrote his grand thesis, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, which was published in 1949. In 1946 he became a member of the editorial board of Annates, the famous journal founded by Marc Bloch and Lucian Febvre, whom he succeeded at the College de France in 1949. He has been a member of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and since 1962 has been chief administrator of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. Professor Braudel holds honorary doctor¬ates from universities all over the world. Jacket painting: Detail from Breughel the Elder's The Fall of Icarus, from the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. (Giraudon) "Braudel deserves a Nobel Prize. . . . [This is] the most remarkable picture of human life in the centuries before the human condition was radically changed by the growth of industry that has yet been presented. A book of great originality, a masterpiece." —J. H. Plumb, The Washington Post "Braudel's books enthrall. ... He is brilliant in demonstrating how most history is written on the backs of most people." —John Leonard, The New York Times "Even a preliminary glance at The Structures of Everyday Life shows a book that has no obvious compeer either in scope of reference or level of accessibility to the general reader. ... Its broad authority remains deeply impressive." —Richard Holmes, Harper's "Here is vast erudition, beautifully arranged, presented with grace of style, with humility before life's complexity and warm humanist feeling. Braudel's subject is nothing less than every¬day life all over the world before the industrial revolution.... He succeeds triumphantly in his first purpose: 'if not to see everything, at least to locate everything, and on the requisite world scale.'" —Angus Calder, The Standard "On neither side of the Atlantic does there live a man or woman with so much knowledge of the past as Braudel, or with a greater sense of its aptness to the intellectual occasion in hand....You can't pick up this big fat book without having your attention transfixed by something or other, if only the great gallery of pictures. They are a masterpiece in themselves." —Peter Laslett, The Guardian "This new book is unarguably a brilliant survey of demog¬raphy, urbanisation, transport, technology, food, clothing, housing, money and business, social classes, state power and international trade in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries." —Theodore Zeldin, The Listener ----- By examining in detail the material life of preindustrial peoples around the world, Fernand Braudel significantly changed the way historians view their subject. Volume I describes food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and the growth of towns.


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This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne. Braudel's techniq This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne. Braudel's technique, it has been said, is that of a pointilliste. Myriads of separate details, sharp glimpses of reality experienced by real people, are seen miraculously to orchestrate themselves into broad rhythms that underlie and transcend the excitements and struggles of particular periods. Braudel sees the past as we see the present — only in a longer perspective and over a wider field.The perspective is that of the possible, of the actual material limitations to human life in any given time or place. It is the every¬day, the habitual — the obvious that is so obvious it has hitherto been neglected by historians — that Braudel claims for a new and vast and enriching province of history. Food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and, above all, the growth of towns, that powerful agent of social and economic development, are described in all the richness and complexity of real life. The intensely visual quality of Braudel's understanding of history is brought into sharper focus by the remarkable series of illustrations that of themselves would make this book incomparable FERNAND BRAUDEL was born in 1902, received a degree in history in 1923, and subsequently taught in Algeria, Paris and Sao Paulo. He spent five years as a prisoner of war in Germany, during which time he wrote his grand thesis, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, which was published in 1949. In 1946 he became a member of the editorial board of Annates, the famous journal founded by Marc Bloch and Lucian Febvre, whom he succeeded at the College de France in 1949. He has been a member of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and since 1962 has been chief administrator of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. Professor Braudel holds honorary doctor¬ates from universities all over the world. Jacket painting: Detail from Breughel the Elder's The Fall of Icarus, from the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. (Giraudon) "Braudel deserves a Nobel Prize. . . . [This is] the most remarkable picture of human life in the centuries before the human condition was radically changed by the growth of industry that has yet been presented. A book of great originality, a masterpiece." —J. H. Plumb, The Washington Post "Braudel's books enthrall. ... He is brilliant in demonstrating how most history is written on the backs of most people." —John Leonard, The New York Times "Even a preliminary glance at The Structures of Everyday Life shows a book that has no obvious compeer either in scope of reference or level of accessibility to the general reader. ... Its broad authority remains deeply impressive." —Richard Holmes, Harper's "Here is vast erudition, beautifully arranged, presented with grace of style, with humility before life's complexity and warm humanist feeling. Braudel's subject is nothing less than every¬day life all over the world before the industrial revolution.... He succeeds triumphantly in his first purpose: 'if not to see everything, at least to locate everything, and on the requisite world scale.'" —Angus Calder, The Standard "On neither side of the Atlantic does there live a man or woman with so much knowledge of the past as Braudel, or with a greater sense of its aptness to the intellectual occasion in hand....You can't pick up this big fat book without having your attention transfixed by something or other, if only the great gallery of pictures. They are a masterpiece in themselves." —Peter Laslett, The Guardian "This new book is unarguably a brilliant survey of demog¬raphy, urbanisation, transport, technology, food, clothing, housing, money and business, social classes, state power and international trade in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries." —Theodore Zeldin, The Listener ----- By examining in detail the material life of preindustrial peoples around the world, Fernand Braudel significantly changed the way historians view their subject. Volume I describes food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and the growth of towns.

30 review for Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    AC

    (Not everyone will find this book easy to read. The author makes no concessions whatsoever to the reader. The book is crammed with place names and technical vocabulary from weaving, joining, planing, sailing, ploughing, leaching, waxing, glazing, coining, minting, metallurgy, etc. etc... none of which are ever located or explained. Readers of Whitman or Catullus, poets who revel in proper nouns, will not be troubled by this cornucopia of names. For me, the book was fabulous, rich, insightful... (Not everyone will find this book easy to read. The author makes no concessions whatsoever to the reader. The book is crammed with place names and technical vocabulary from weaving, joining, planing, sailing, ploughing, leaching, waxing, glazing, coining, minting, metallurgy, etc. etc... none of which are ever located or explained. Readers of Whitman or Catullus, poets who revel in proper nouns, will not be troubled by this cornucopia of names. For me, the book was fabulous, rich, insightful... it is true that the author often seems to careen from topic to topic. But genius has the right to be careless. Ultimately, perhaps, Braudel does not have a solution to many of the items he discusses -- but he asked fascinating questions. That is often a cliché, to be sure -- but not in this case.) I have never read a book quite like this one -- though I have often dreamt of it. The first volume of Braudel's C&C looks at the structures of everyday life: demographics, agricultural, wheat, rice, maize, beer, cider, forks, utensils, curtains, how flooring was done in the 16th and 17th century, ceilings, windows... how they opened, how high doors were, luxury, poverty, dress... and that is only in the first 3 chapters... It is astonishing.... In addition, while weaving together this sundry material, the writing is suffused with such insights and genius -- that it has at times quite an effect. (Braudel is the man who wrote the entire first volume of his magnum opus, the Mediterranean, from MEMORY -- while imprisoned by the Germans during WWII...). To take just one example -- in his discussion of luxury, he talks about the treasures that are squandered for meaningless things -- the Chinese sending silver to Java and Vietnam in exchange for salted bear paws; the Spaniards spending their silver, won by the death of thousands... millions of Amerindians -- to the 'hated' Dutch in exchange for powdered wigs (for Spanish gentlemen...) -- and observes that a society that cannot spend its accumulated capital on extending productively the means of production thus is showing signs of senility, a phenomenon peculiar to an 'ancien regime'. I read this paragraph while observing the following facts this week: that a society that can spend $250 million making the special effects for a movie can't pay its teachers, train its students properly, or fix its bridges...; that a society that can underwrite (with tax-payer subsidies/backstops/etc.) $145 billion of end-of-year bonuses to otherwise teetering banks, can't find $6 billion to bail out its largest economy (California) -- that such a society is, in Braudelian terms, showing signs of senility and decay... perhaps terminal decay. And that, as I say, is only in the first three chapters.... These chapters cover the most trivial elements, as chapter four and following start on the topics of energy, metallurgy, gunpowder, transportation, urban planning, etc... Volume II then deals with markets; Vol. III with the consolidation of capital. In sum, a really amazing book. (I feel as if I have just stepped into a great cathedral...)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Books, even history books, run away with their authors. This one has run ahead of me. But what can one say about its waywardness, its whims, even its own logic, that will be serious and valid? Our children do as they please. And yet we are responsible for their actions. I have a discovered a recent treat, finishing a book early in the morning and basking in its brilliance during the day. There is something more indulgent than ascetic in the practice. Braudel's magnificent first volume was complet Books, even history books, run away with their authors. This one has run ahead of me. But what can one say about its waywardness, its whims, even its own logic, that will be serious and valid? Our children do as they please. And yet we are responsible for their actions. I have a discovered a recent treat, finishing a book early in the morning and basking in its brilliance during the day. There is something more indulgent than ascetic in the practice. Braudel's magnificent first volume was completed oh so early today while I listened to obscure chamber music. The effect was nearly intoxicating. Asserting a distinction between the Material Economy and the Market Economy, Braudel attempts to delineate the former as constituted in the daily rituals and practices of humans in their disparate environments. It is the toil of the quotidian. It is the gulf between wealth and poverty. The study displayed isn't an evolution but rather a series of processes, inspirations and missteps. There isn't a narrative here. Adroit GRer Katie noted the abundance of detail and how one should allow it "to breathe." Hundreds of pages on cereal production and furniture conclude without a sense of surfeit. Maybe it is a testament to Braudel's brilliance, but one never thinks, this is too much. The engine of material progress appears to be necessity. But each proverbial page isn't turned until "it is time." Overcrowding and offshore resources kept pressure on the metaphorical envelope. Cities appear to combust this creative spirit, even as the swells lamented the rising tide of the rabble. China appears to have held all the cards at one time. Did Islam simply run out of trees to maintain its conquering posture? Venice certainly displayed poise and style periodically. Braudel appears a bit cheeky with his notes on revolutions: in this case, artillery, moveable type and oceanic navigation. I was going to separate credit but that would be unwise. Credit is a remarkable agent for developments as well as minatory movement.

  3. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    Okay, then. Let's be clear: This is how it's done. This is how the structures and flows and mapping of another world, another time are analysed. This is how it's done. The first volume of Braudel's 3-volume "Structures of Everyday Life: Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th-C." is magisterial in the clear sense of the word: the work of a master. This isn't narrative history. I'll warn you about that. This is an analysis of the bones of history, of the economics and commerce and geography and cl Okay, then. Let's be clear: This is how it's done. This is how the structures and flows and mapping of another world, another time are analysed. This is how it's done. The first volume of Braudel's 3-volume "Structures of Everyday Life: Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th-C." is magisterial in the clear sense of the word: the work of a master. This isn't narrative history. I'll warn you about that. This is an analysis of the bones of history, of the economics and commerce and geography and climate and demographics that undergird all the stories. You read it for a very different kind of pleasure than you get with Gibbon or Ranke. There's not a story here--- but there is a world. Open this book anywhere and dive in. You'll find yourself immersed in the structures of the world and how the pieces fit together and how the rhythms of change work. Braudel and his followers re-cast how history was written--- they made it an imperial science, annexing sociology and geography and economics and medicine and geology and agronomy all into service of analysing the long-term rhythms and structures that go on beneath events. The three volumes of this series---- well, just get them. Dive in. And watch a master build up a world and a time from all the half-seen pieces.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Checkman

    Braudel's work is considered to be one of the seminal works in documenting the evolution of everyday life (throughout many centuries) and how it played into the bringing about the modern world. Braudel wasn't interested in kings, battles or the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. Braudel's interest was in economics, food production, living spaces and so on. In 2014 this style of historical research isn't radical or unusual and even historians who are primarily focused on the big picture will Braudel's work is considered to be one of the seminal works in documenting the evolution of everyday life (throughout many centuries) and how it played into the bringing about the modern world. Braudel wasn't interested in kings, battles or the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. Braudel's interest was in economics, food production, living spaces and so on. In 2014 this style of historical research isn't radical or unusual and even historians who are primarily focused on the big picture will often dedicate a chapter or two examining about the economic and social conditions of the time. So what seemed fresh and different thirty-five years ago might come across as a bit threadbare now. That is if one insists on taking that attitude. "The Structures of Everyday Life" is a work that is an archetype (no I don't want to debate that statement. This isn't college.) and should be read with that in mind. Yes, there has been more research since Braudel lived. Braudel was the primary leader of what is called the Annales School (style of historiography developed by French historians in the 20th century to stress long-term social history) and not all the research has been done by French historians. But his work is very interesting and still has a fresh feeling to it. That's says something about Braudel and the ground that he broke. Perhaps I liked it because I have come to appreciate how the simplest things can have such a dramatic effect on our everyday existence. Such as the humble dental filling preventing an infection from invading the body or the ho-hum eye exam catching a brain tumor. These things are not battles and emperors. These things effect us as much as those big events. Maybe more so. We now live longer because of those simple things. As a result (well at least partially) there are now more of us. Can you honestly say that hasn't had an effect on the world? This is what interested Braudel and what now interests me. "The Structures of Everyday Life" is a very dense work and is not a book that is easily breezed through. I am certain that part of that can be attributed to the fact that the book has been translated from French. I've often found translated works to be more challenging - especially academic works. Nevertheless I enjoyed this book and I would strongly recommend it to those who are curious about how people lived and how their lives have changed over the centuries. How our lives have changed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    The chapter on daily bread is compelling and worth the cover price of the book. An amazing recreation of the early modern period. The series continues with The Structures of Everyday Life and The Perspective of the World. The chapter on daily bread is compelling and worth the cover price of the book. An amazing recreation of the early modern period. The series continues with The Structures of Everyday Life and The Perspective of the World.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Fernand Braudel is one of the few authors out there who writes books that people call terribly boring and hugely interesting for exactly the same reason: his approach to history is a amass a huge pile of details and then let them breathe. There are 100 pages about population, and a solid 40 about growing wheat. There are whole subchapters about furniture. This book takes a view of world history from 1500-1800 and delves especially into issues of population, food, drink, fashion, technology and m Fernand Braudel is one of the few authors out there who writes books that people call terribly boring and hugely interesting for exactly the same reason: his approach to history is a amass a huge pile of details and then let them breathe. There are 100 pages about population, and a solid 40 about growing wheat. There are whole subchapters about furniture. This book takes a view of world history from 1500-1800 and delves especially into issues of population, food, drink, fashion, technology and money. Sometimes connections are made, sometimes they're implied, but mostly Braudel brings together little bits and pieces and tries to make them add up into a picture. I'd imagine that for the vast majority of readers out there, there are going to be a couple chapters in here that you think are awesome, and a couple where you wonder why he feels the need to be so all-inclusive about details that don't immediately seem to be all that pertinent. I remember reading once that the best way to read a Braudel book is to pick it up at random, and read little pieces here and there. I think it's kind of a fair point. Taken in big chunks it's a bit overwhelming, but in little pieces it's full of fascinating information. It's the details here that really shine, and let Braudel explore a world that's often ignored in favor of the bigger political events. That said, the work does feel rather piecemeal on occasion, as if it's more a collection of neat anecdotes than a full book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Jr.

    "The past is like a foreign country: they do things differently there." One need only have seen a painting of England's Elizabeth I to have realized as much—who nowadays wears a ruff? Though Fernand Braudel had in mind a different purpose in writing The Structures of Everyday Life, it could be taken as another stack of evidence for L. P. Hartley's pithy observation. And it's a bounty. This book is one part of a three-volume survey of pre-industrial economic life—of the entire world, not only that "The past is like a foreign country: they do things differently there." One need only have seen a painting of England's Elizabeth I to have realized as much—who nowadays wears a ruff? Though Fernand Braudel had in mind a different purpose in writing The Structures of Everyday Life, it could be taken as another stack of evidence for L. P. Hartley's pithy observation. And it's a bounty. This book is one part of a three-volume survey of pre-industrial economic life—of the entire world, not only that of Europe—that proceeds from the ground up. The second volume deals with the market economy on relatively small, local scales, and the third with broader, transnational matters. But this volume can be read on its own, regardless of one's interest in economics per se, which is exactly how I have read it, twice now. What to call its subject? "For want of a better expression," Braudel says in his introduction, it is simply "material life." What does he mean by that? The categories of Braudel's survey include population, disease, food and drink, fashions, agriculture, armaments, climate and living conditions. But that's a dry and flat way of describing the richly varied details that populate this book. Braudel was a leading practitioner of the Annales school of history; among its later proponents were Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, author of a renowned portrait of a French village during the Cathar heresy (Montaillou), and Philippe Ariès, who wrote a groundbreaking study of childhood as a social construct (Centuries of Childhood) and another on attitudes toward death and dying (The Hour of Our Death). I can't speak of Ladurie, but what one finds in Braudel and Ariès are not histories in the familiar public-school sense of stories featuring persons, places, and events. Their interest is more in sifting and analyzing information, often statistical in Braudel's case, gathered from numerous perspectives. The result is a view of the past that's both prismatic and panoramic. A reader in search of stories will find few; one with a taste for illuminating tidbits will encounter a myriad. A few quotations and examples will give the idea. Perhaps only a blockhead reviewer would write "Life was uncertain in the past" and point to the evidence given here, but Braudel does make clear how widespread were starvation and disease: • "France… is reckoned to have experienced 10 general famines during the tenth century: 26 in the eleventh; 2 in the twelfth; 4 in the fourteenth; 7 in the fifteenth; 13 in the sixteenth; 11 in the seventeenth and 16 in the eighteenth." There were also, he adds, "hundreds and hundreds of local famines," such as eight in the southwest of France between 1628 and 1713. (Emphases Braudel's.) • Plague (which, Braudel explains, is really at least two diseases, pulmonary and bubonic) recurred so frequently as to be nearly a constant. "Besançon reported plague 40 times between 1439 and 1640.… Plague occurred in Amsterdam every year from 1622 to 1628.… Plague struck London five times between 1593 and 1664–5." For those who managed to live, there were familiar pleasures, as well as familiar obstacles, but also some spectacular discomforts: • "Clarifying [of wine], bottling and the regular use of corks were still unknown in the sixteenth century and possibly even the seventeenth" (casks were the rule earlier). • "We get our information about the early use of tobacco from violent government prohibitions.… These prohibitions encircled the world: England 1604, Japan 1607–9, the Ottoman Empire 1611, the Mogul Empire 1617, Sweden and Denmark 1632, Russia 1634…" (His list goes on.) • The original fireplace method of indoor heating was surprisingly inefficient. Of a dinner at Versailles in February 1695, the Princess Palatine wrote, "At the king's table the wine and water froze in the glasses." (This detail is one that stuck with me over the decades since I first read the book.) Not until the 1720s did heating begin to improve, the consequence of new designs by chimney-sweeps and stove-setters. A few further examples, drawn more or less at random: • A seemingly minor note on fashion from a traveler named Chardin who had spent 10 years in Persia in the late 1600s—"dress in the East is not subject to fashion; … the Persians… do not vary the colours, shades and types of material any more than the style"—leads Braudel to an important issue which has been answered many ways by historians: "Can it have been merely by coincidence that the future was to belong to the societies fickle enough to care about changing the colours, materials and shapes of costume, as well as the social order and the map of the world—societies, that is, which were ready to break with their traditions?" This is the question of innovation, more often linked purely with economic and technological developments. As Braudel's question shows (he doesn't presume to answer it), cultural attitudes may have been involved. • After some paragraphs discussing the 16th-century costs of powder and shot for arquebuses, muskets, cannon, and the like, Braudel offers the surprising revelation that "Venice's security was 1,800,000 ducats' worth of powder at the lowest estimate, or more than the equivalent of the annual receipts of the city itself" (emphasis his). And in case you were wondering who the Venetians were fighting at the time: "This shows the huge scale of war expenditure, even when there was no war." • "The first, rather primitive coaches did not appear until the second half or the end of the sixteenth century.… Diligences were a product of the seventeenth century. Stagecoaches for travellers… only appeared in any number in the Romantic period." One might suppose that most people simply stayed put in the past, and there's some truth to that, but the transport of persons and products, not to mention of news, is hardly a new development. For much of history, getting anywhere has been slow, inconvenient, and unreliable. I leave it to other historians to assess the value of Braudel's work to their field. For me, a good party conversation is likely to prove its use.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anders

    Braudel is a French historian famous for his longue duree conception of large-scale change, which he laid out in his Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, tome 1 : Les structures du quotidien, written in a POW camp in WWII (ha, what did YOU do when you were in a POW Camp in WWII? Olivier Messaien, put your hand down.) In this three volume set he lays out his argument for a conception of history as taking place on three main spheres: material life, which has develop Braudel is a French historian famous for his longue duree conception of large-scale change, which he laid out in his Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, tome 1 : Les structures du quotidien, written in a POW camp in WWII (ha, what did YOU do when you were in a POW Camp in WWII? Olivier Messaien, put your hand down.) In this three volume set he lays out his argument for a conception of history as taking place on three main spheres: material life, which has developed with its limitations and physical realities over human civilization, the market economy, which came into being with the rise of international trade (and dependence thereon), and finally, capitalism, which he sees as a third sphere constructed upon the first two and he equates with large-scale transnational financial institutions. A lofty argument, and ambitious, and in the hands of a lesser historian it would be a total mess. What I find useful about this book is that it allows one to clearly bring into focus what is new to our modern capitalist world-system--to undertake the vitally important project of denaturalizing the market economy and capitalism, which tends to be dehistoricized. Basically, the project is to show what the realities of pre-capitalist human civilization were: the problems, the limitations, and the basic structures of life. This means details, and could/would be potentially annoying if Braudel wasn't such an engrossing and knowledgeable writer. The prose is disarmingly easy to move through... and it's also one of those books that can just set your mind meditating on all the questions it brings up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    This is history on a grand scale, a magisterial examination of life from the 15th to the 18th century. As the title says, it is about everyday life; kings and conquerors are mentioned only in passing. The book focuses on ordinary people: what they ate and how they dressed, their homes and furniture; their industry and economy. While recognizing that the primary sources are often incomplete and sometimes of questionable accuracy, Fernand Braudel nevertheless amassed an astonishing amount of detai This is history on a grand scale, a magisterial examination of life from the 15th to the 18th century. As the title says, it is about everyday life; kings and conquerors are mentioned only in passing. The book focuses on ordinary people: what they ate and how they dressed, their homes and furniture; their industry and economy. While recognizing that the primary sources are often incomplete and sometimes of questionable accuracy, Fernand Braudel nevertheless amassed an astonishing amount of detailed information on the lives of merchants, peasants, and bankers. The Renaissance may have been creating magnificent art at this time, but most people were untouched by it, the rhythms of their daily lives at the start of the 15th century going on as they had for millennia. As the centuries advance Braudel paints a picture of slowly accumulating changes; for instance, with waterwheels replacing manpower to grind grain, run sawmills, and shape metals. In the cities sophisticated financial systems were developed to spread risk and leverage credit. As the book progresses readers can see the modern world starting to emerge right before their eyes. It was a hard life, and for many a short one. “There was a constant tendency toward equilibrium between the patterns of birth and deaths. Under the ancien régime the two coefficients were both at around the same figure: 40 per 1000. What life added, death took away.” (p. 71) This was especially true for the most vulnerable. “In the Beauvaisis in the seventeenth century 25 to 33% of new-born children died within twelve months; only 50% reached their twentieth year.” (p. 90) Although the book focuses mainly on Europe, it also includes the Middle and Far East when there is sufficient data, and spends some time comparing and contrasting the civilizations. The Middle East, for example, did not have the resources of wood and coal to support large scale industrialization of the kind that was developing in Europe,“The fact that wood was used everywhere carried enormous significance in the past. One of the reasons for Europe’s power lay in its being so plentifully endowed with forests. Against it, Islam was in the long run undermined by the poverty of its wood resources, and their gradual exhaustion.” (p. 363) In China the vast pool of manpower slowed the need for more efficient ways of doing things. “The early settlement and then the spectacular increase in population in the Far East were only possible because of the small amount of meat eaten. The reasons for this are very simple. If the choices of an economy are determined solely by adding up calories, agriculture on a given surface area will always have the advantage over stock-raising; one way or another it feeds ten to twenty times as many people.” (p. 104) Horses were much less common for transportation than sedan chairs, with one team of men carrying the chair and others following along and waiting for their turn. Even with a dozen men per chair it was still cheaper than buying, stabling, and maintaining a horse. Braudel provides some interesting insights into the daily lives on Europeans when he discusses what they ate and how religion affected their options. “Fish was all the more important here as religious rulings multiplied the number of fast days: 166 days, including Lent, observed extremely strictly until the reign of Louis XIV. Meat, eggs and poultry could not be sold during those forty days except to invalids and with a double certificate from doctor and priest.” (p. 214) The book is at its best in its discussions of applied technology, as commerce prodded experimentation and new developments. “The two principle sources of energy were draught-animals and wood combustion (windmills...cannot have represented more than a third or a quarter of the power of the water under control)” (p. 371) New inventions, however, were starting to change the age-old systems of putting energy to practical use. “The average watermill gave five times the yield of a hand mill operated by two men – it was itself a revolution; but the first steam-driven mill would do five times the work of a watermill.” (p. 371) Another great advance came with the first, primitive forms of blast furnaces to provide enough oxygen to purify molten iron. Smelting was achieved for the first time with the installation of enormous water-powered leather bellows and tunnels in the blast furnaces; which virtually means that cast iron was ‘discovered’ in the fourteenth century. Iron or steel could thereafter be obtained as required from cast iron, their common starting point, by extensive decarbonization (iron) or incomplete decarbonization (steel)” (p. 378) With smelting came new technologies that would, over time, change the world forever, and modern civilization started to appear. “The great technological ‘revolutions’ between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries were artillery, printing and ocean navigation. But to speak of revolution here is to use a figure of speech. None of these was accomplished at breakneck speed, and only the third – ocean navigation – eventually led to an imbalance, or ‘asymmetry’ between different parts of the globe.” (p. 385) And finally, Braudel examines the cities, where a critical mass of people, money, and opportunity created powerful financial and mercantile empires. The rich got much richer, and resentment arose among the rest of the people, no longer content with the Church’s support of wealth and power, and its casual command that people should accept their station in life, because that is where god put them. In the financial sphere, the towns organized taxation, finances, public credit, customs and excise. They invented public loans...One after another, they reinvented gold money, following Genoa which may have minted the genovino as early as the late twelfth century. They organized industry and the guilds; they invented long-distance trade, bills of exchange, the first forms of trading companies and accountancy. They also quickly became the scene of class struggles. For if the towns were ‘communities’ as has been said, there were also ‘societies’ in the modern sense of the word, with their tensions and civil struggles: nobles against bourgeois; poor against rich (‘thin people’ popolo magro against ‘fat people’ popolo grosso). The struggles in Florence were already more deeply akin to those of the industrial early nineteenth century than to the faction-fights of ancient Rome. (p. 512) This book is a remarkable achievement, well deserving its status as a classic work of social and economic history. The breadth of Braudel’s scholarship is amazing, as is his ability to connect data to make a larger point or provide insight into people’s daily lives. He often assumes considerable knowledge on the part of the reader, however; for instance, when he writes “Bramante, who pulled down the old quarter round St Peter’s in Rome (1506-14), was one of Baron Haussmann’s first predecessors in history,” he expects the reader to already know who Haussmann was. This book isn’t something to read quickly, but it is so full of enlightening history that it well repays the effort.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Everyday people History is often told as accounts of the "great men" or "great moments" which end up in the classroom and in the national consciousness. Braudel takes a different path: he tells the history of everyday people and everyday life in the 15th to 18th centuries, in this first of a three-volume survey history. Volume II (subtitled The Wheels of Commerce) covers more traditional national economic history of the period, and Volume III (subtitled The Perspective of the World) Review title: Everyday people History is often told as accounts of the "great men" or "great moments" which end up in the classroom and in the national consciousness. Braudel takes a different path: he tells the history of everyday people and everyday life in the 15th to 18th centuries, in this first of a three-volume survey history. Volume II (subtitled The Wheels of Commerce) covers more traditional national economic history of the period, and Volume III (subtitled The Perspective of the World) international relations and trade. One reason many historians don't take this approach is the difficulty of finding and synthesizing data on how everyday people lived in those centuries. The poor, the rural, the serfs, the women, the unexceptional just aren't usually documented in sources that have survived. Their homes aren't notable palaces, they can't afford fine fashion or rich foods in venues that are attended and described by the affluent and the influencers. Much of the data has to be estimated or extrapolated from what has been gathered and can be assembled and synthesized. When it comes to quantifiable conclusions Braudel often resorts to estimated calculations and ranges of possible minimums and maximums, and when he makes statements about the non-quantifiable they are many times couched as anecdotal or apocryphal. These qualified conclusions don't detract from Braudel's monumental achievement in producing a global narrative of such broad scope. While "great men" fight wars, lead councils of war and religion, and write great treatises of science, literature, or philosophy, everyday people in everyday life work to supply the food, clothing, and transport they need to keep body and soul intact. Food Diets that were primarily vegetarian during the 15th to 18th centuries enabled population growth because calorie yields per acre for wheat or rice vs. livestock are so much higher. While modern vegetarianism is focused on the dietary benefits to the individual, the collective value to human societies is an interesting consideration that I would never have thought of without Braudel's study. Braudel identifies three levels of food culture: 1. The plow, most of Europe and Asia and the northern part of Africa 2. The hoe, a broad band across the Americas, southern Africa, and southern Asia where "the people involved are remarkably homogeneous, with inevitable local variations." (P. 174) 3. The hunter/fisher/gatherer, what Braudel calls "the primitive peoples . . . [who] do not control their environment: at best they manage to slip in between the obstacles and constraints it offers." (P. 178). They live on the northern and southern fringes of the globe, such as Australia, far northern Europe and North America, and southern South America. Clothing While Braudel is blunt about the difficulty of assembling and synthesizing the data through Everyday Life, he consistently treats the data with the seriousness and value it deserves. It is only in talking about the variations in clothing styles across the centuries and cultures in scope, as fashion, that he feels the need to address the possible challenge of frivolity head-on, and he does it in a powerful statement about the impact of tradition and the innovation of change that makes a convincing argument for the value of this entire volume: Is fashion in fact such a trifling thing? Or is it, as I prefer to think, rather an indication of deeper phenomena - of the energies, possibilities, demands and joie de vivre of a given society, economy and civilization?. . . . I do not regard these as idle remarks. Can it have been merely by coincidence that the future was to belong to the societies fickle enough to care about changing the colours, materials and shapes of costume, as well as the social order and the map of the world - societies, that is, which were ready to break with their traditions? There is a connection. Did not Chardin also say of the Persians, who 'are not anxious for new discoveries and inventions,' that 'they believe they possess all that is required in the way of necessities and conveniences for living, and are content to remain so'. Tradition was both a strength and a straitjacket. Perhaps if the door is to be opened to innovation, the source of all progress, there must be first some restlessness which may express itself in such trifles as dress, the shape of shoes and hairstyles? Perhaps too, a degree of prosperity is needed to foster any innovating movement? (p. 323-324) Transport Braudel writes that if he mixed up pictures of transport technologies from the 15th to the 18th centuries and from all the regions of the world with no captions, readers would be able to identify the geographic region (from clues like Chinese sedan chairs, Indian elephants, or northern Africa camel caravans) but not the century from which each came. Adoption of technological changes in everyday life depends less on their technical costs and benefits than on the readiness and willingness of societies to adapt to the disruptions to everyday life that the technology drives. "No innovation has any value except in relation to the social pressure which maintains and imposes it." (P. 431). Throughout the period people and information moved at the speed of feet, hooves, and sails. It is a limitation--driven by the limitations of the available energy sources of the centuries--that is easy for those of us moving at internal combustion and jet engine speeds to completely miss. Other major topics include furniture and housing (Braudel is referenced in Home: A Short History of an Idea which I just read). The book is heavily illustrated with art from the period reinforcing the data and Braudel's conclusions from it, and is heavily footnoted as well, as you can expect given the difficulty of assembling small facts about small lives from so many sources. The now 40-year-old vocabulary translated from the original French may not always flow smoothly to the modern eye but combined with Braudel's self-deprecating wit add an endearing and sometimes cozy conversational style to the narrative. While Braudel's narrative and conclusions have since been amended and extended by more modern histories focused on the untraditional fringes, Braudel has never been disproven or abandoned, and his remains the foundation for histories of everyday life. It took a big writer to tackle the unruliness of the data and accept the uncertainties in its gaps to map out the paths of everyday life. It is a path worth taking with him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kater Cheek

    Those who think about the apocalypse, and wonder if it will happen to us, should read this book and be reminded that great tragedies are the norm, rather than the exception for most of human history. I'm going to start a review of this book even though I'm not done with it, because I think I may not finish it. It's a little on the pedantic side, with the author using academese and endeavoring to prove the merits of his methodology even at the cost of readability. It has illustrations, which are n Those who think about the apocalypse, and wonder if it will happen to us, should read this book and be reminded that great tragedies are the norm, rather than the exception for most of human history. I'm going to start a review of this book even though I'm not done with it, because I think I may not finish it. It's a little on the pedantic side, with the author using academese and endeavoring to prove the merits of his methodology even at the cost of readability. It has illustrations, which are nice. For a writer, this is a good sort of book to read if one is writing about anything pre-industrial. The omnipresences of famine, plague, and wars slips our mind when we are fortunate enough to be healthy, fat, and safe. For those prone to depression, it's a bit hard to read of the endless misery and brutality of most of human existence. Update: nearly two weeks later, and I'm still reading it. This is why I hate research. I really do. Because you read books that are informative but BORING. BORING. BORING. Really, I get that he's done a gazillion hours of research, but did he have to put everything in? And it's so Eurocentric that even I'm a little offended. I'm still learning interesting facts, like that Europe seemed to be the only place where people ruthlessly followed clothing fashions, but I'm also learning boring and useless things, like how many quintals of wheat a horse could thresh as opposed to a pair of oxen. Don't know if I'm going to finish it or not. I feel like I've got sunk costs now, but damn, it's boring. Why oh why can't historians write well? Do they really think we're going to be impressed by big words and lots of details? Do they really think that convoluted sentence structure makes us think they're smarter? The writer is trying to cover four centuries of life, all over the world, but he skips Africa and Australia almost entirely, dwells on France overmuch, and tends to throw everything together with such poor organization that it's hard to tell which fact relates to which century. After this I'm going to have to read some YA to cleanse my palette.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nova

    What is up with the French since the end of World War II? They are producing first rate minds of a caliber unmatched by any other Western country. I had never heard of the author until he was recommended to me and now, after I finish Vol II and III, I am going to look for other authors from the same school of analysis. Books like this I judge by how many times I have stopped reading and thought about what was on the page I had just digested. It happened frequently during this book. Well written, What is up with the French since the end of World War II? They are producing first rate minds of a caliber unmatched by any other Western country. I had never heard of the author until he was recommended to me and now, after I finish Vol II and III, I am going to look for other authors from the same school of analysis. Books like this I judge by how many times I have stopped reading and thought about what was on the page I had just digested. It happened frequently during this book. Well written, and a deceptively easy read. What were some of the things this book left me pondering? Cities; why they exist; what they represent; how they are organized. China; the transfer of technology; social structure and the use of manpower Energy; how it transforms and what reliance on oil could mean.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sean Sullivan

    The first volume of Braudel’s massive work on the construction of capitalism in the 15th to 18th century sets the stage for all that is to come. It is an exhaustive survey of the social and economics conditions in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world at the beginning of the 15th century. The amount of primary research that went into this is mind boggling. Everything you ever wanted to know about how much livestock the average farmer in Batvia had to what were the trends in fashio The first volume of Braudel’s massive work on the construction of capitalism in the 15th to 18th century sets the stage for all that is to come. It is an exhaustive survey of the social and economics conditions in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world at the beginning of the 15th century. The amount of primary research that went into this is mind boggling. Everything you ever wanted to know about how much livestock the average farmer in Batvia had to what were the trends in fashion in the courts of Europe is covered here in great detail. As I said in my review of volume two of this work* Braudel is all over the place in these books, chasing every detail and argument to their end, and it can be difficult to grasp the important threads running through the work. In the first volume this isn’t as much of an issue. Braudel is still all over the place, but since he is really only setting the stage, it isn’t as important to try and pick up his overall theory. Volume two is where he really lays out his argument for the separation of capitalism and the market and why certain places in Europe became economic power houses and others didn’t.** As in volume two, Braudel is at his best when he’s discussing Europe, and is out of his depth when he deals with the rest of the world. There is a trove of good information in this first volume however, and I would recommend it to the academics out there if only because at some point you may need to be able to speak on the Dutch economy in 1500 or the clothes worn in England by the aristocracy in 1600 and this is the place to get all that good info. *b/t/w I am amusing the shit out of myself by doing these reviews in a forward and backward chronology. ** This is also an idea that he returns to in extreme detail in volume three, which I am about a quarter done with and find…kind of ehh, actually.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Gertler

    I can't possibly top this review from Reddit. Read it. If the review sounds interesting, the book will be interesting; if not, not. I'm the sort of person who will happily read 20 pages about how much better bread has gotten since the 17th century, so... yes, I'm a fan of The Structures of Everyday Life, as well as Braudel's whole thing. (I suppose it's good to know about kings and battles, but most of human history, measured in "total moments of human experience", has been about things like "ma I can't possibly top this review from Reddit. Read it. If the review sounds interesting, the book will be interesting; if not, not. I'm the sort of person who will happily read 20 pages about how much better bread has gotten since the 17th century, so... yes, I'm a fan of The Structures of Everyday Life, as well as Braudel's whole thing. (I suppose it's good to know about kings and battles, but most of human history, measured in "total moments of human experience", has been about things like "making food", "wearing clothes" and "trying not to get sick". Braudel has that stuff covered.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judith Johnson

    Famously, Margaret Thatcher, upon visiting a university and enquiring of a student which subject he was studying, to which he replied “History”, is reputed to have commented, “What a luxury!” Who among us would agree, I wonder? If we know very little about the past, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about what is happening in the present, surely? Fernand Braudel’s scholarly work is one of the many weighty tomes I rescued from the discard pile of a boarding-school library, and at over 3lbs in weig Famously, Margaret Thatcher, upon visiting a university and enquiring of a student which subject he was studying, to which he replied “History”, is reputed to have commented, “What a luxury!” Who among us would agree, I wonder? If we know very little about the past, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about what is happening in the present, surely? Fernand Braudel’s scholarly work is one of the many weighty tomes I rescued from the discard pile of a boarding-school library, and at over 3lbs in weight, it’s not one to read lying down! It’s a fascinating read, with a huge overview, and full of rich detail. It also brings home to the reader how foolish we are in modern times, particularly in the privileged developed world, to think that those things we take for granted will always be available. Since Braudel’s book, others taking a longer and wider view have been published and attained popular readership, eg Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, but the former is in my opinion very well worth reading if you can track down a copy. Reading the section on epidemics - not comforting reading right now .... clearly Boris Johnson’s appalling government (and previous Tory leaderships) hadn’t read this book when they stood down adequate pandemic safeguards... and all their subsequent failings to protect the British people, whitewashed by our, at best timid, mainstream media. Here are some memorable quotes: ‘Every plant of civilisation creates a state of strict bondage’. Braudel is referring here to cultivation requirements, but there is another kind of bondage - think opium, coca, sugar, tobacco ... ‘ ... it is undeniable that brandy, rum and agua ardiente were Europe’s poisoned gifts to the civilisations of America ... the Indian peoples suffered tremendously from the alcoholism in which they were encouraged to indulge ... state revenue from pulque in New Spain was equal to half the revenue from the silver mines! It was deliberate policy on the part of the new masters.’ Think also of the long-term effects of alcohol on indigenous populations of North America, Australia, etc, and of opium (Google: opium sold by British to Chinese). A quote very pertinent to our current predicament, both with regard to climate change and to the pandemic: ‘We should bear in mind the congenital frailty of man compared to the colossal forces of nature.’ Looking forward to reading Volumes 2 and 3 of this series!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gib

    Ahhh! So that's why we're the way we are! And for topical entertainment, check over the section on pandemics. Ahhh! So that's why we're the way we are! And for topical entertainment, check over the section on pandemics.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This, the first volume of Braudel's magnum opus, is a wide-ranging world tour of everyday life and it's varied conditions in the pre-industrial world. So much ink has been spilled on the Annales School of history that I feel that I have little to add on that, but Braudel is a pleasure to read, and doing so makes me wish that I had a better memory to keep track the endlessly fascinating facts and anecdotes that inhabit every page. One should also note that reading such a long work is not the chor This, the first volume of Braudel's magnum opus, is a wide-ranging world tour of everyday life and it's varied conditions in the pre-industrial world. So much ink has been spilled on the Annales School of history that I feel that I have little to add on that, but Braudel is a pleasure to read, and doing so makes me wish that I had a better memory to keep track the endlessly fascinating facts and anecdotes that inhabit every page. One should also note that reading such a long work is not the chore it might seem to be, as the books are lavishly illustrated and packed full of period paintings, maps and charts. I look forward to the next two volumes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    Not a bad book. Too detailed for me though overall and I must admit that I had to skip it in places. The book is about the way in which Europe predominantly segued into the 19th century and it covers the 15th – 18th centuries and all the fascinating things that happened. It juxtaposes developments in Europe against what happened in the Islamic world, china and India most of the time. The book has some really random chapters in it. It covered: populations around the world, development of food, th Not a bad book. Too detailed for me though overall and I must admit that I had to skip it in places. The book is about the way in which Europe predominantly segued into the 19th century and it covers the 15th – 18th centuries and all the fascinating things that happened. It juxtaposes developments in Europe against what happened in the Islamic world, china and India most of the time. The book has some really random chapters in it. It covered: populations around the world, development of food, the spread of technology and revolutions, money and the last section talks about towns and cities around the world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Incredibly broad and dense look at elements of daily life around the world, including housing, food, money, clothes, transportation, and more. Exhaustively researched, and very insightful. His points tend to get away from him though. It's less of a problem in the middle, but in the chapters on population and later on cities, he gets lost in his own argument and then just hares off on random points before dropping the entire line of inquiry. Also, weighted very heavily towards European history. B Incredibly broad and dense look at elements of daily life around the world, including housing, food, money, clothes, transportation, and more. Exhaustively researched, and very insightful. His points tend to get away from him though. It's less of a problem in the middle, but in the chapters on population and later on cities, he gets lost in his own argument and then just hares off on random points before dropping the entire line of inquiry. Also, weighted very heavily towards European history. But a fantastic overview with ambitious breadth.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Abandoned. A fascinating, if dense book, but I was concerned that I was filling my head with dated and wrong ideas and nothing to counter them. Unfortunately writing grand unifying accounts of history is out of vogue unless you're Jared Diamond... and probably for a reason. Abandoned. A fascinating, if dense book, but I was concerned that I was filling my head with dated and wrong ideas and nothing to counter them. Unfortunately writing grand unifying accounts of history is out of vogue unless you're Jared Diamond... and probably for a reason.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Avis Black

    He doesn't get 5 stars because of the torturous prose (it must be nasty to read in French), but this is a simply brilliant book. He doesn't get 5 stars because of the torturous prose (it must be nasty to read in French), but this is a simply brilliant book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carl Johnson

    This book, the first of three volumes, reset my level of expectations for history books when the English translation came out in 1979.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter Harrison

    The foundation layer for Braudel's trilogy this book is interesting for it's focus on the base level of life. Energy use, transport, cereal crops, patterns of travel and settlement, and so on during the period for the 15th and 18th centuries, and therefore the lead up to the development of capitalism and the modern age. This makes the basis for an interesting read, in particular in the chapters on cereal cultivation and the difference imposed by the differing needs of a wheat-based or rice-based The foundation layer for Braudel's trilogy this book is interesting for it's focus on the base level of life. Energy use, transport, cereal crops, patterns of travel and settlement, and so on during the period for the 15th and 18th centuries, and therefore the lead up to the development of capitalism and the modern age. This makes the basis for an interesting read, in particular in the chapters on cereal cultivation and the difference imposed by the differing needs of a wheat-based or rice-based culture. The broad sweep of the book's outlook makes for a narrative that is high level and sometimes cursory. And this is where it becomes problematic. Braudel is French and while his ambition is to encompass the world, and he includes segments on China, Japan, and post-Columbian America, this work still feels pretty eurocentric, and within that quite French. For all that, it is an interesting base-layer description of the world on the cusp of the development of capitalism and the mechanisms of production and life which lay underneath this slow yet revolutionary change.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Zo

    This is close to a perfect work of history. Every page overflows with interesting and new-feeling material/insights/perspectives. I don't think the book really has an overall narrative or argument (though at times he does draw broader conclusions), but it doesn't need one. It is an astounding work of documentation, and brings world after world to life in ways that make me want to read and learn more about all of them, while also doing a good job of gesturing at standing historical questions rega This is close to a perfect work of history. Every page overflows with interesting and new-feeling material/insights/perspectives. I don't think the book really has an overall narrative or argument (though at times he does draw broader conclusions), but it doesn't need one. It is an astounding work of documentation, and brings world after world to life in ways that make me want to read and learn more about all of them, while also doing a good job of gesturing at standing historical questions regarding comparative development, inequality, and more. Not much more to be said. The sections on food history were probably my favorite, but everything he touches on he illuminates. Look forward to reading his other works at some point.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Josh Katzenmeyer

    This reads like a history textbook reborn as a fever dream. It's unlikely that anyone would walk away from this and retain more than half of the information, but I imagine with each new visit readers will walk away with something they'd never mulled over too seriously: the importance of the German stove and its history, French doctors who claim to cure syphilis with fire, women from the middle ages boasting about their dirty feet, a king's wine freezing at the pour, the outstanding leisure of ow This reads like a history textbook reborn as a fever dream. It's unlikely that anyone would walk away from this and retain more than half of the information, but I imagine with each new visit readers will walk away with something they'd never mulled over too seriously: the importance of the German stove and its history, French doctors who claim to cure syphilis with fire, women from the middle ages boasting about their dirty feet, a king's wine freezing at the pour, the outstanding leisure of owning a chair or not sharing a plate with your whole peasant family, and countless other not-so-oddities in history.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ritsaart

    Amazing work of the French historian Fernand Braudel! So much better than the “quick to draw simple conclusions” - popular science garbage that you find in bookstores nowadays. This book contains some amazing information you’ll find nowhere else. Do you want to know how the normal life of ordinary people developed throughout the last centuries? Read this book. Do you want to know how many people got eaten by tigers through colonial times? Read this book. Do you want to know that the standard cut Amazing work of the French historian Fernand Braudel! So much better than the “quick to draw simple conclusions” - popular science garbage that you find in bookstores nowadays. This book contains some amazing information you’ll find nowhere else. Do you want to know how the normal life of ordinary people developed throughout the last centuries? Read this book. Do you want to know how many people got eaten by tigers through colonial times? Read this book. Do you want to know that the standard cutlery of a German state in the later Middle Ages contained an axe to cut the bread? Read this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Longer review to come after I finish parts II and III. So far, though, I feel comfortable saying that this is one of the most eye-opening and awe-inspiring works of history I've ever read, one of the few that really impresses me with the sheer size of the past, while maintaining readable and pleasant prose throughout. Braudel is a master of giving details on details which slowly cohere into some kind of pattern, and then pulling back to give a smart, crisp conclusion which makes that pattern com Longer review to come after I finish parts II and III. So far, though, I feel comfortable saying that this is one of the most eye-opening and awe-inspiring works of history I've ever read, one of the few that really impresses me with the sheer size of the past, while maintaining readable and pleasant prose throughout. Braudel is a master of giving details on details which slowly cohere into some kind of pattern, and then pulling back to give a smart, crisp conclusion which makes that pattern come completely into focus.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    This book is not for everyone. Basically a huge pile of details, collected from (it seems) research, paintings, and speculation of the author. Mostly centered on Europe and especially France, with occasional nods to China and India. Despite the seemingly haphazard coverage, many of said details are quite fascinating and, as noted by the author, not the sort of thing that tend to get much coverage in typical history books - what did people wear? What did they eat? What did their houses look like? This book is not for everyone. Basically a huge pile of details, collected from (it seems) research, paintings, and speculation of the author. Mostly centered on Europe and especially France, with occasional nods to China and India. Despite the seemingly haphazard coverage, many of said details are quite fascinating and, as noted by the author, not the sort of thing that tend to get much coverage in typical history books - what did people wear? What did they eat? What did their houses look like? And so on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ann Evans

    If you are interested in history, but tired of all the kings, queens, and generals, this book will intrigue you. It is about the Common [Wo]Man. Braudel did his research in the halls of records, not the palaces. What did people eat? What work did they do? What changed their lives? What were their rituals, clothes, and habits? The breadth of research is astonishing and I discovered, after learning all that, that people five hundred years ago were pretty much like me—a reassuring discovery.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erik Wirfs-Brock

    Just a vast mass of interesting facts about everyday life during the indicated. Kind of overwhelming, took me forever to read. Thesis in this first volume seems kind of weak, but it's more fun to read then his great volume on the history of the Mediterranean. Just a vast mass of interesting facts about everyday life during the indicated. Kind of overwhelming, took me forever to read. Thesis in this first volume seems kind of weak, but it's more fun to read then his great volume on the history of the Mediterranean.

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