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Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error Paperback – July 12, 1979

34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394729640 ISBN-10: 0394729641 Edition: 1st

Price: $5.50
16 New from $5.68 131 Used from $0.01 2 Collectible from $8.50
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Paperback, July 12, 1979
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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

About the Author

Barbara Bray has twice won the Scott Moncrief Prize for her translations, as well as the French-American Foundation Prize. She has collaborated with Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey on a film adaptation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. She passed away in 2010. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (July 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394729641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394729640
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Amanda HALE on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having read many of the reviews of 'Montaillou' at, I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard in defence of this marvellous book. I have read both the original French version AND this most recent translation, and feel that the flavour, color, atsmosphere and historical accuracy lose NOTHING in translation. As to the footnotes, etc - 'Montaillou' is, first and foremost, an ACADEMIC book. It is not a 'light read', and if Le Roy Ladurie is sometimes a little pedantic with his footnotes and cross-references, it is because he is an academic whose chief aim is to adhere as closly as possible to the historical data he is working with. I think that potential readers might be a little 'put off' by some of the critisisms of the Amazon reviewers, yet if they approach 'Montaillou' with the knowledge that it IS an academic work and not a 'novel', then they won't be disappointed. In saying this, 'Montaillou' would work WONDERFULLY as a novel - all the elements are already in place for a beautifully rich and romantic tale of the Middle Ages - but until 'Montaillou - The Novel' is written, we must content ourselves with this sound, insightful and ultimately fulfilling ACADEMIC book.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on November 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Every once in a while, some terrible act results in good. For example, the same Spanish bishop -- Diego de Landa -- who burned the irreplaceable writings of the Mayans wrote a book which was critical in subsequent scholars' understanding of Mayan culture. So also the inquisition established in southwest France in the early years of the 14th century to root out the last vestiges of the Cathar heresy resulted, ultimately, in this little treasure of a book.

The Albigensian Crusade had dealt a death-blow to Catharism, but rural pockets of the heresy persisted. The ambitious bishop of Pamiers, Jacques Fournier, brought in all the residents of one village for questioning. Consisting mostly of shepherds and peasants, Montaillou was a hotbed of Catharism, including the parish priest! Everyone was questioned in detail about their religious practices, households, relationships, work, and travel. Their testimony was taken down verbatim by a clerk; and, after the trial, the records lay untouched in the library of the Vatican until Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie wrote this book.

This is not the usual study of wealthy, educated, and influential Medieval people. Here we have the voice of Everyman. In addition to a great deal of detail about the practices of the Cathar "goodmen," with their sacraments of heretication, the "consolamentum," and the awful "endura," we see how average people formed households, managed to eke out a living, what they talked about, how they got along with their neighbors, how faithful they were to their wives -- in effect, everything.

Because Le Roy Ladurie is a scholarly historian, there are hundreds of footnotes pointing to records of this particular inquisatorial proceeding.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Fernand Ray on August 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of THE most important books for anyone interested in the varieties of the human mind. Thanks to the compulsive thoroughness of an early 14th century inquisitor (a bishop who became pope), lengthy quotes from the people that he was interrogating came to be preserved in the Vatican library. The accused are heretics, stubborn country folk supporting "the resistance", as it were, that handful of Cathar holy men hiding in the woods following the Church's campaign savage against the flourishing southern French civilization around the town of Albi in the first quarter of the 13th century. In spite of the slashing and burning that had laid waste to the land of the Cathars in the previous century, the folks of Montaillou were stubborn in holding to their beliefs, and here it gets interesting.

What on earth were these people like, what issues could possibly matter enough to medieval farmers for them to put their lives on the line over subtle theological distinctions, like whether the Trinity was indivisible? LeRoy Ladurie thankfully quotes extensively from the sources, and a picture emerges of a Christian religion influenced by contact with the Eastern Gnostics, leaning towards a belief in reincarnation and the virtues of vegetarian asceticism. The Catholic Church was seen as a nasty political beast at odds with a true faith, and the villagers turn out to have been surprisingly sophisticated, reading books, for instance, at a time when only hand-copied manuscripts existed. It is apparent that many popular religious movements preceded the protestant schism.
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67 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Good on November 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
The year is 1300, and the village of Montaillou in the south of France is full of heretics. One brave man, Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, embarks on a brave Inquisition to get rid of them. For years, he interviews everyone in the village and keeps meticulous notes. The everyday gossip, scandal and concerns of the common medieval man are documented here in a detail unsurpassed in any other primary source. In this book, French Historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie studies these documents and presents an incredible portrait of everyday life: 'love and marriage, gestures and emotions, conversations and gossip, clans and factions, crime and violence, concepts of time and space, attitudes to the past, animals, magic and folklore, death and beliefs about the other world.' An astounding book sitting on the border between history and anthropology. And as expected, the French have been fall-down funny for centuries. []
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