- Series: Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century (Book 1)
- Paperback: 623 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (December 23, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520081145
- ISBN-13: 978-0520081147
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life (Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century)
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From Library Journal
Originally published in the early 1980s, Civilization traces the social and economic history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, although his primary focus is Europe. Braudel skims over politics, wars, etc., in favor of examining life at the grass roots: food, drink, clothing, housing, town markets, money, credit, technology, the growth of towns and cities, and more. The history is fascinating and made even more interesting by period prints and drawings.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"The noted French historian Fernand Braudel . . . argues convincingly that a meaningful understanding of history can be gained from studying how people ate and dressed, where they lived, and how they obtained necessities and luxuries. . . . Braudel succeeds in presenting a thorough picture of how the great trends of history were created by their smallest parts."--Elizabeth Grossman, "Saturday Review
Top customer reviews
The copy I received has too many highlights & writing on it though. I understand that it's a used a copy, but I wish the seller made it clear in the description.
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.
First Stage-V.1 :The material civilization of every day life. A lively description of material every day life between 15th-18th century. It's mind blowing and It's like being in a time capsule. This first volumne sets the stage and the foundations of Braudel's three stage model:
1st stage: The structure of every day life (the material life)
2nd stage: The emergence of capitalism
3rd stage: The upper layer of social structures that control and manipulate the 2nd and the 1st stage by creating intentionally (or not) "zones of turbulence" in order to extract social and material benefits and their class reproduction.
There are several notable aspects to the writing.
It is not a compendium of dates and kings and battles. It is divided into subjects, such as Population, Food, Clothing, Trade, etc. Each topic is explored as a whole, wandering over time and space as needed, not necessarily in any strict order. You get a good grasp of the Big Picture as far few books of any kind do, let alone history books. If you want to know what life and society were like, this is the book to get.
The language has some quirks, a few words that seem a slight bit out of place, and few sentence constructs which most editors dull down. I do not know if this is an artifact of the translation, or whether the translator was trying to preserve similar quirkiness in the original French. But I like it. It avoids the stuffiness of most dull histories.
It drills down amazingly deep in some places, quoting from town registers of 1537 or such.
It also explains all sorts of stuff that is not obvious. One section, discussing why Asians ate less meat than Europeans, explains this by saying that Asians grew rice and Europeans grew wheat. Rice can be grown year after year in the same field, whereas wheat so depletes the soil that it must lie fallow one year out of every two or three, with livestock fertilizer replenishing it, and if you're going to support all those animals, you may as well eat some too. There is some discussion of the three year cycle (wheat, oats, fallow) being more common in northern Europe and the two year cycle (wheat, fallow) being more common in southern Europe. I honestly do not know if this is common knowledge or if there are other reasons for the difference in meat eating, but I can google away and read up on this, now that I have the basic concept.
This last example, of meat and fallow fields, is what makes this book so fascinating to me. I am learning far more than I would have thought possible from a professor's history book, and having fun in the process.
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.
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 as it will become in volumes two and three. 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.
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 those interested in economic history who have the patience to wade through mounds of details for Braudel's brilliant insights.