- Paperback: 688 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674399749
- ISBN-13: 978-0674399747
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A History of Private Life, Volume I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium Reprint Edition
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From Library Journal
These volumes, edited by Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, are aimed at both the scholar and layperson who wonder how people lived and behaved from ancient times to the present: "their thoughts, their feelings, their bodies, their attitudes, their habits and habitations, their codes, their marks, and their signs." The focus is on western European life, primarily French.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Private life has always been a matter of public conjecture. This admirable book brings it intelligently into the web of social history and is a model for historians and readers alike. Beautifully produced, it adds apt and rare illustrations to a text by experts who presuppose human curiosity, but no undue knowledge. Its range and level of argument will intrigue anyone who has wondered about past attitudes to such matters as sex and the family, households, social inferiors, dress and even undress. (Robin Lane Fox Washington Post)
This first volume is one of the most arresting, original, and rewarding historical surveys to be published in many years, and its value is enhanced by the hundreds of illustrations, which present almost every conceivable detail of private life as it was lived in the centuries. (Bernard Knox The Atlantic)
A stimulating―indeed a provocative―and beautiful book on a difficult subject… It’s a treasure. (Christian Science Monitor)
The five essays collected here…treat readers to a vast array of anecdotes and conjectures about the private life of our forebears. (Roger Kimball Wall Street Journal)
A book which makes the reader think, teasing and encouraging with spicy details, long views, a capacity for the unexpected insight. Now for something completely different. (Jasper Griffin London Review of Books)
This is a long, demanding and very rewarding book. If the remaining four volumes are of this quality, the series will indeed, as the editors claim, be ‘a milestone in historical research.’ (Jane F. Gardner Times Higher Education Supplement)
This absorbingly illustrated series is intent on presenting the past with both physical immediacy and with as little academic fuss as possible. The illustrations in the first volume have a subjective penetration of the text that is like an inner musical accompaniment. This volume does not pretend to roll out a complete rug of civilization… Few readers, even of I, Claudius, will have experienced pagan Rome with quite the freshness evident here… History-to-touch. (Kirkus Reviews)
The new emphasis on the history of everybody has now been consecrated in [this] ambitious five-volume series… Copious illustrative materials―paintings, drawings, caricatures, and photographs, all cannily chosen and wittily captioned to display domestic life… Magnificent. (Roger Shattuck New York Times Book Review)
Together these five compact volumes cover much of the history of the classical world, and do so with both ease and authority. (Washington Post Book World)
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invasion of our most personal right and widespread use of social media that seems to willingly
relinquish it. This history, starting with this and expanding to currently five volumes, reveals
in extensive detail and hugely informative illustrations, how the concept has been perceived
and treated. Beautifully written. Given the unprecedented change in our century, I hope for
a volume six.
And sadly, there are some serious deeper problems. Many of the "statements of fact" contained in the body of the work are not offered for your examination with any form of substantive evidence to support them. Instead, they are pushed forward as dogma for you to accept at the word of the authors. I don't expect an author to go the extreme of qualifying every statement with evidence but this work goes to the other extreme. It leaves you with the feeling that something is purposefully being hidden or left out, like a carpet installer standing in front of a huge bump in the carpet and saying, "Move along.....nothing to see here."
Eventually, this approach left me with the feeling that I was wading through the bombast of an old mid 20th century European socialist trying to interpret the currents of ancient life through the lens of post industrial class struggles. I'd hoped the change in authors as the chapters moved forward would bring some relief, but it does not.
I'll leave you with the most memorable example that comes to my mind of the type of tripe that this book contains. At one point, it tries to argue that the morality of the early Christian church was not organic to Christianity but instead is sourced from an urban smf somewhat well off group that isn't quite wealthy (like the "notables" of the historic record) and isn't poor. As an atheist, I have no problem hearing non-mystical arguments about the early church. However, no evidence beyond the author's opinion in offered, nor is there anything in the historical record that documents this supposed "middle class" morality (as admitted by the author in a later section). The theory is offered that a reactionary body of morality arose amongst the early empire's philosophers (that isn't documented anywhere) that was adopted by the Christians.
Perhaps there is some truth in this, but without any evidence, it is intellectually irresponsible to present it as a fact or even a working theory. Also, the circularity of the argument escapes the author - people didn't join a movement for its point of view and then provide the point of view themselves. The idea is stated (not offered) that these people joined the church instead as a means to control their patriarchy through intimacy (which is supposedly supported by the change in view regarding marriage). Rubbish - you need only read the words of the early church patriarchs to know this does not hold water at all.
Imagine this same argument applied to stoicism. Are we to believe that the young men who became stoics upon leaving their schooling provided stoicism with its philosophy after becoming stoics? That makes no sense whatsoever. Certainly over time an institution's members change its nature but to say that it originated in such a way is ridiculous.
In summary, the book does not present history as a discussion of facts and their interpretation. Instead, it views history as a tautology which likely acts to re-enforce the beliefs of its authors. In other words, don't waste your time.