The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Volume 1
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The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Volume 1 (Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century #1)

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  710 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The first volume in this beautifully illustrated and highly acclaimed economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution covers the richness and complexity of everyday life - food, drink, dress, housing, money, the development of towns - with the technique of a pointilliste.
Paperback, 623 pages
Published October 1st 1985 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1967)
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AC
(Not everyone will find this book easy to read. The author makes no concessions whatsoever to the reader. The book is crammed with place names and technical vocabulary from weaving, joining, planing, sailing, ploughing, leaching, waxing, glazing, coining, minting, metallurgy, etc. etc... none of which are ever located or explained. Readers of Whitman or Catullus, poets who revel in proper nouns, will not be troubled by this cornucopia of names. For me, the book was fabulous, rich, insightful......more
Hadrian
This is probably one of the most fun books of economic history I've ever read.

A newer word which I enjoy hearing is 'world-building', or the process by which a writer establishes the setting and background of their stories. Braudel builds a world here. Braudel delves into the history and development of food and drink, diseases, of houses, of all the details of life in Europe (well, mostly Europe) in the era from 1500-1800, and that long transformation of the global economy.

I suspect that a majo...more
DoctorM
Okay, then. Let's be clear: This is how it's done. This is how the structures and flows and mapping of another world, another time are analysed. This is how it's done. The first volume of Braudel's 3-volume "Structures of Everyday Life: Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th-C." is magisterial in the clear sense of the word: the work of a master.

This isn't narrative history. I'll warn you about that. This is an analysis of the bones of history, of the economics and commerce and geography and cl...more
John E. Branch Jr.
"The past is like a foreign country: they do things differently there." One need only have seen a painting of England's Elizabeth I to have realized as much—who nowadays wears a ruff? Though Fernand Braudel had in mind a different purpose in writing The Structures of Everyday Life, it could be taken as another stack of evidence for L. P. Hartley's pithy observation. And it's a bounty.

This book is one part of a three-volume survey of pre-industrial economic life—of the entire world, not only that...more
Checkman
May 13, 2014 Checkman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs with an interest in social history
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Braudel's work is considered to be one of the seminal works in documenting the evolution of everyday life (throughout many centuries) and how it played into the bringing about the modern world. Braudel wasn't interested in kings, battles or the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms.

Braudel's interest was in economics, food production, living spaces and so on. In 2014 this style of historical research isn't radical or unusual and even historians who are primarily focused on the big picture will...more
Katie
Fernand Braudel is one of the few authors out there who writes books that people call terribly boring and hugely interesting for exactly the same reason: his approach to history is a amass a huge pile of details and then let them breathe. There are 100 pages about population, and a solid 40 about growing wheat. There are whole subchapters about furniture.

This book takes a view of world history from 1500-1800 and delves especially into issues of population, food, drink, fashion, technology and m...more
Kater Cheek
Those who think about the apocalypse, and wonder if it will happen to us, should read this book and be reminded that great tragedies are the norm, rather than the exception for most of human history.

I'm going to start a review of this book even though I'm not done with it, because I think I may not finish it. It's a little on the pedantic side, with the author using academese and endeavoring to prove the merits of his methodology even at the cost of readability. It has illustrations, which are n...more
Nova
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,...more
Jan-Maat
The chapter on daily bread is compelling and worth the cover price of the book. An amazing recreation of the early modern period.

The series continues with The Structures of Everyday Life and The Perspective of the World.

Sean
The first volume of Braudel’s massive work on the construction of capitalism in the 15th to 18th century sets the stage for all that is to come. It is an exhaustive survey of the social and economics conditions in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world at the beginning of the 15th century.

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 fashio...more
Anders
Braudel is a French historian famous for his longue duree conception of large-scale change, which he laid out in his Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, tome 1 : Les structures du quotidien, written in a POW camp in WWII (ha, what did YOU do when you were in a POW Camp in WWII? Olivier Messaien, put your hand down.) In this three volume set he lays out his argument for a conception of history as taking place on three main spheres: material life, which has develop...more
Avis Black
He doesn't get 5 stars because of the torturous prose (it must be nasty to read in French), but this is a simply brilliant book.
Carl Johnson
This book, the first of three volumes, reset my level of expectations for history books when the English translation came out in 1979.
Zenovius
My first exposure to Braudel and the Annales School was in a historiography class I took for my history degree. It was an excerpt from THE MEDITERRANEAN and it left quite the impression on me. Let's do history without the "big men", without the wars and battles, and without a narrative recursively serving the needs of one economic worldview or another. Instead, let's start literally from the ground up.

THE STRUCTURES OF EVERYDAY LIFE is not as comprehensive as THE MEDITERRANEAN seems (I haven't f...more
Avempace
The Structure of Everyday life is the first installment of a trilogy that Braudel has penned on the rise of a Western capitalist regime of accumulation. In this first volume, the focus is on the undercurrents of economic activity: populations, diseases, food, and activities like local production and bartering that make the structure of everyday life. In the true tradition of the Annales school of historiography, this is not an event driven narrative: politics, battles and personalities are margi...more
Cat
Epic in both vision and execution, Braudel's "Stuctures of Civiliisation" turns your accustomed way of thinking about history up side down. In writing his history of the world from the 14th to 18th centuries, Braudel eschews the personalities and events that fill the pages of most history. Instead, he focuses on the day-to-day lifes of normal (non-elite) in an attempt to compare and contrast the various civilisations, sub-civilisations and cultures of the world.

Although the chapter titles sound...more
Bill Lenoir
This book is worth the effort. The insights provided aren't covered in conventional histories. Also fascinating how things changed by geography and within the time period covered by the book. It's a tough read, but I'm guessing that's more a function of the translation than the original writing.
Cameron
This book, the first of a three-part series, is a study of daily life in the pre-industrial world. Braudel was part of the Annales School, a group of historiographers who chronicled what he called the longue durée, or the long-term rhythms of material life. Their technique was to amass huge amounts of detail on seemingly-mundane topics, such as furniture or bread, and present it with minimal analysis. The experience is challenging, to say the least. But where Braudel is successful is when the mi...more
Zachary Moore
This three-volume set should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in the pre-industrial past. The work abounds with useful information on the past conditions of everyday life on a wide variety of subjects. I was interested while reading to gauge Braudel's economic theories--he more or less equates capitalism with big business and admits that market trade at least at the smaller level of everyday life was largely beneficial to the people. It makes an interesting read in terms of...more
nicebutnubbly
I don't know if I'll ever finish this - I use it mainly to read myself to sleep, and my edition is so shittily bound that it is falling apart. But it's great stuff - fascinating delving into everything from cereal production to patent applications, with a meandering narrative that somehow brings out the wider implications of all the minutiae in interesting ways. It purports to be global, but like most things written by Western authors that purport to be global, it has a heavy European focus, tho...more
Andrew
It's hard to imagine a modern historical landscape without Braudel's influence. I really, really like the idea of a "bottom up" history that takes into account all the raw material that makes up everyday life.

OK, so he's a Eurocentrist and, maybe worse, a Francocentrist. Oh well. Take the bad with the good. I'd probably like him a bit more if he focused on specific material histories rather than trying to write a History of Everything Everywhere, but if I think of this as a theoretical primer ra...more
Richard
This book, and the entire three volume series, offers a different way to look at history. Braudel cuts across the traditional time-line view of history to give us glimpses of the history of normal, everyday things, such as food, clothes, furniture, farming technology...

He paints pictures of human life often ignored in biographies or the histories of wars, countries and empires.

This book is well worth the read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading history or to those who find more...more
Amy
It's truly fascinating although I must admit I didn't read all of it, it is DENSE and a bit boring in places, but skipping around I found a lot of interesting facts of normal every things, like water, and what it was like 300 years ago. For example, there was not much clean water, and people would claim they had recipes to clean water, and sell them to sailing ships, where it was hard to have fresh water. Alcohol and other drinks were safer and much more common.
John
Braudel, compiler, p. 555, re urban life,"...can only really be comprehended from this worm's eye view of the poor." He concludes, "Books...run away with their authors." p. 559 Dis-mounting, he honors Gaia: "This return to mother earth was very pleasant,..." p.562
I suggest had he resorted to Karl Raimund Popper [The Open Society] and Paul Johnson [Modern Times], Braudel might have found the Forest. Fowles' The Tree, also, would have been useful.
Dave
This goes for this whole series - Braudel is a genius, and a patient one. I can't imagine anyone poring over so many seemingly mundane details and mining gold from it as he does.

And yet much of it is lost to me. I simply can't read him for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. If anyone has tips on how to read him with greater profit, I'm all ears.
Alex
Excellent book about everyday life. No princes, no warriors, no "pop-stars" of the 15-18th century, but regular people's lives. Highly recommended even if you're not a historian. How did people live 400 years ago? What did they eat? How did they travel? What did they do for entertainment? All these in Braudel's masterpiece.
Elisa
I read the chapter about the advent of artillery, printing and modern navigation. I admit I was surprised by the quality of Braudel's writing. He manages to condense a lot of information in a style similar but more eloquent than Chaunu's. Definitely, this book is worh reading in its entirety! :)
Wayne
Reads like a textbook -- fairly dry & factual -- but it contains some interesting material about what life was like during those four centuries, how things changed and what didn't change. It seems to have a European focus, with material about the middle East, far East, and the new world.
Mk Miller
Awesome. Something mind bendingly cool every other sentence. Braudel has an eagle's eye for detail and minutia but is able to zoom out for a really wide focus. This is unique, sweeping, and never dry history.
Ryan
Jun 16, 2009 Ryan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most thorough accounts of european history i have read. It seams like a college text book, but the read is rather enjoying
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Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects: The Mediterranean (1923–49, then 1949–66), Civilization and Capitalism (1955–79), and the unfinished Identity of France (1970–85). His reputation stems in part from his writings, but even more from his success in making the Annales School the most important engine of historica...more
More about Fernand Braudel...
The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume I A History of Civilizations The Wheels of Commerce The Perspective of the World The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 2

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