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The Hour of Our Death: The Classic History of Western Attitudes Toward Death over the Last One Thousand Years Paperback – February 12, 1982


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book represents a remarkable collection of historical aphorisms. It is a classic that should be read by all serious students of death and dying.”—Darrell Chase, University of Memphis

“Philippe Aries has provided us with an extraordinary historical account of the perception and experience of death and dying. . . . This book . . . demands serious attention. . . . Please read this remarkable book. . . .The book is a magnificent contribution to society.”—Journal of Religious Gerontology

“Aries has once again given us something of which probably no other historian. . . is capable: an absolutely magnificent 1,000-year panorama of an extremely elusive, yet fundamental, human concern.”—The New Republic

“A great work of historical reconstruction...that one immediately recognizes as seminal.”—Psychology Today

“Aries meanders through the long, mazelike corridors of his theme like an insatiable collector, relishing every suggestive find, taking turns at random, and spinning interpretations of everything he sees. . . . A monument to its subject.”—The Saturday Review

“A scholarly study which is very appropriate for junior, senior, and graduate level university students in courses on the sociology and history of death.”—R. Stephen Schwartz, Winona State University

“Clearly a thorough, eclectic study.”—Vincent Barry, Bakersfield College

“A classic in the field of the history of dying and death.”—Nathan Kollar, St. John Fisher

“A gorgeous, amazing book that will give me many hours of education and entertainment.”—Pat Crane, San Antonio College

“An excellent look at death as seen through the ages.”—Philip G. Patros, South Connecticut State University

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 696 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 2 edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394751566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394751566
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on July 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a comprehensive survey of one thousand years (longer, really) of western attitudes towards death. By "western" were mostly talking "French", although Aries does include digressions into German, Italian, Spanish, English and American culture. I didn't find the intense focus on France to detract from the overall majesty of this 600+ page opus. For most of the thousand years, the "attitude towards death" that Aries is describing crosses national boundaires.
Aries divides his study into four overlapping historical periods: "The Tame Death", "The Death of the Self", "The Death of the Other", and "The Invisible Death". The Tame Death roughly corresponds with the pre-Christian and early middle ages. This period was characterized by a meek acceptance of passing into a long period of sleep. Death is social, and the death ritual has a central place in the society.
"The Death of the Self" is moves more into the middle and late middle ages. Here, death is used by the mendicant orders of Christianity to convert a quasi-pagan population. Thus, there is a corresponding rise in individual's concern with their own death. Also during this period, there is a rise in materialism, which creates a duality between the love of things and the renunciation of the material world which is supposed to preceed death.
The Death of the Other and the Invisible Death are familiar to most modern folks. The Invisible Death is corresponds with the post WWII American model, and the Death of the Other largely corresponds to the romantic movement (lots of weeping, lots of drama).
Aries basic thesis delves into "the Invention of Tradition" territory, i.e.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lew Troop VINE VOICE on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Phillipe Aries takes on an impossible challenge, how eons of people have regarded death, what they thought both of and about it. It's an honest attempt to view the subject from as many disparate theologies and belief systems as are germane and then synthesize them. It's long, and not always as accessible as one might wish but much of this problem is due to a stilted translation. Those with a knowledge of French will note passages where idiomatic French has received a direct translation rather than a rewritten one which would make it flow more sensibly. What it is not is the morgantic cousin to "The American Way of Death" published decades ago. But some of the humor and lightness of touch that volume had could have been helpful. In some cultures, and this is noted, death is a joyous event. Current society has trivialized death (discount casket shops, drive through funerals) and the current turn to evangelism makes death a punishment for many. Aries is careful to see that all points of view are represented but adroitly avoids drawing conclusions. Death is what it is. Think about it. This book provides new insights in how to do that leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luis C Vargas on September 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This a deep study of how death has been dealt with thru the centuries in Europe and to some degree in the United States. Is as methodical as you could possibly hope for in a book it also most feel like you're reading a manual more than a treaty, anyhow is a good read just not a engrossing read.
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