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Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life (Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century)

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520081147
ISBN-10: 0520081145
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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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Editorial Reviews

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.

Review

"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
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Product Details

  • 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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Fernand Braudel is probably the most distinguished historian associated with the Annales School founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch. This Annales method attempted to revamp historical inquiry by enlarging the scope of analysis to include disparate places and through different times. Annalists were not content to research political institutions; they wanted to delve deeper into the past, to look at social and economic factors in order to reach a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of humanity. In order to be so inclusive, the Annalists looked at historical forces over great arcs of time, recognizing that many human factors change slowly and are not capable of discovery in snapshots of time. The title of this book, "The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th to the 18th Century" captures well these two central tenets of the Annales School. "The Structures of Everyday Life" is the first volume in a three volume series.
When Braudel refers to everyday life, he means it in the strictest sense of the word. The topics covered in this encyclopedic volume are seemingly banal because they constitute the backgrounds of our lives: corn, wheat, rice, clothing, buildings, money, and other commonplace items that we take for granted in our day to day existence. Other sections deal with discerning the population of the world in a time when census records were crude or nonexistent, the development of heavy industry and its effect on the world, diseases, and shipping. The emphasis here is on economics and how the growth (or lack of) economies increases or decreases the growth of a society and how that society or region waxed or waned in prominence.
Much of the time, the greatness of Braudel's book is in a detail, or a turn of a phrase.
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Format: Paperback
The Structures of Everyday Life is a fascinating read which explores a side of history often left out of the books focusing on kings and battles. In 8 major chapters he reviews the history of commonplace items such as grains, fashion, technology, money and innovation. His central thesis is that the history of material life is composed of the history of these basic items, and that an economic view of the past cannot be established without pausing here.

Braudel is a wonderful writer. His clarity and sharp analysis is aided by the extremely clean translation assistance provided by Sian Reynolds. He makes a clear distinction between fact and interpretation, and is very successful at developing his thesis and not losing the reader in the minutae of the fascinating detail he exposes.

Although the book is long, the pacing in the chapters is nearly perfect. Each subject is explored at a length that left me wanting to read more instead of feeling over-saturated. I did not have the experience of reading an encyclopedia or reference book, but found there to be a definite flow and build in the disparate subjects.

The book is well-illustrated, and the notes are clear. The only additional thing that I could have wished for would have been a bibliography if I wished further information about a particular chapter.

In short, an entertaining and informative read recommended for a wide range of readers. I would not hesitate to give this book as a gift to the armchair historian. I will be reading the second volume shortly.
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Format: Paperback
Although this book at times could get a bit too technical, it is a fascinating synthesis of information on the economic world as it was. THere is nowhere I know that you can learn so much about what life was like over the several hundred years just prior to the industrial revolution. Every page has some delicious tidbit that makes readers reflect on their lives. For the most part, subjects that are usually written about in a dull manner, such as demographic trends or aggregate food consumption statistics, are translated into readable prose. THus, the book succeeds both for laymen and specialists, a very hard balance to strike.
It greatly enriched my intellectual experience. I read it on an extended trip to China, where it gave me a huge battery of questions to ask about the fields I was observing, the organization of its cities, and even the fashion choices of the people. On my return home to Europe, it also informed so much of what I thought for weeks on end, as I reassessed my surroundings and even pondered where I fit into society. Not many economics books can do all that!
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By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
A full-scale examination, extremely well documented, of the inner forces which have driven the industrial revolution and the capital age, and place them in the global evolution. A must read book to people who think that everything have started in the 19th century. Two remarks: very rich (too?) you must be a attentive reader. A more global approach has to be written with the latest discovery in Asia.
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Format: Paperback
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.

Great book!
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