Montaillou
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Montaillou

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  707 ratings  ·  54 reviews
The village of Montaillou was the last stronghold of the cult of Catharism in medieval France. Under the Inquisition of Bishop Fournier, members of this sect were persecuted and some burnt at the stake, and the interrogations about the way they lived were chronicled in a Register. From this document Ladurie has reconstructed an intriguing account of everyday peasant life i...more
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Published August 30th 1990 by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (first published 1975)
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Jan-Maat
A classic example of good use of archive material, in the micro-hostory of catherism in Southern France and a book that teaches the independance between the forms of peasant life and geography. Very interesting.
Terence
When I began my undergraduate career I was part of an honors seminar where this was one of the books we read.

It was an eye-opening experience and probably did as much as anything at that time in propelling me to specialize in Medieval history. Montaillou was a village in southern France that suffered an inquisitorial investigation in the mid-14th century because of a recrudescence of the Cathar heresy (which had been "eradicated" in the previous century, or so the Church believed). The book's fa...more
Katie
A really fascinating look at what life was like in a little village in the Pyrenees during the early 14th century. Le Roy Ladurie is obsessed with detail, so you'll get to find out all kinds of little anecdotes ranging from friends of different social strata delousing each other to the widespread sexual exploits of the adventurous village priest, Pierre Clergue. It's one of the only chances to see non-nobles and non-clerics of this era as full fledged people with voices, talking about their live...more
Brian
This view of medieval life in the Pyrenées is almost unattainable in any other way. To know thoughts and quotidian experiences of actual people from the 1300s is exceedingly rare. To know them of otherwise unremarkable villagers is unique.

To synopsize: a particularly thorough and fastidious interviewer for the Inquisition spent years prying into the life details of his subjects, including their thoughts and states of mind, conversations, and actions. Every interview was recorded and ultimately s...more
Kathleen
A micro-history of a medieval Pyrenean village under the scrutiny of an Inquisitor who will one day be Pope. A lascivious priest who not only seduces half his flock, but also instructs them in the heterodox traditions of the Cathars, that extinct and bizarre sect of Christianity whose philosophy sometimes seemed to hold truck with Zoroaster and Pythagoras more than it did the early Church fathers. Sex, death and delousing--sounds too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it is a bit. While the subject...more
Calder
Fascinating historical account of medieval France and the Inquisition. Because a bishop believed this small village in Southern France was full of heretics, he launched an investigation, interviewing and recording all the people of the town. In doing so, our modern world now has a very thorough look at the life of peasants in the middle ages, rather than just the warriors and rulers. Their habits, daily routines, clothes, gossip, relationships, et cetera have all been recorded in vivid detail an...more
William Korn
Most history is written about important events and people. This book is not. A minor bishop in what is now southern France undertook an inquisition in the early 14th century to rout out a resurgence of the Cathar heresy among the peasants and what we'd now call "petty bourgeoisie" of a small and otherwise forgettable village. The bishop took highly detailed notes of all his interrogations, which Ladurie uses to paint a very complete picture of day-to-day life at that time. To look into the life...more
Sarah
Montaillou has been on my to-read mountain for over three years. I was recommended it by a professor at my university who through a twist of fate was equally admired as an academic in the three subjects I majored in as an undergraduate (history, sociology and anthropology). Montaillou is a micro-history, pulling apart piece-by-piece the lives of the 250 or so inhabitants of a small alpine town in the early 1300′s. It’s made possible by Jacquest Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, who recorded everyday...more
Lisa Feld
I've been meaning to read Montaillou for 15 years, ever since a professor of mine recommended it to me, but wasn't able to find a copy before now. The book is well worth the wait. Ladurie uses the Inquisition records of a whole village put on trial for heresy in early 14th century France to create an ethnography of a late medieval village. The author has a deft hand, balancing summary, analysis, and direct quotes of the Inquisition records, comparing and highlighting aspects of the peasants' tes...more
John Tarttelin
It might appear at first glance that this book was about just another dry religious sect or schism, in this case concerning the Cathars or Albingensians back in the Fourteenth Century, that had long since vanished and was of little lasting importance. However, as strange as their beliefs might seem to us now, this is not the case. We might scoff at metempyschosis - the belief that souls could travel from humans to animals and back again - but when the individual testimonies of the people of Mont...more
David
This is really quite a lengthy academic work, based on the exceptionally detailed transcriptions of a medieval inquisition in a remote village in the Pyrenees. Surprising, then, that it sold so well. Its great strength is the way it organises and renders accessible the fascinating details of every day life and society in this village. We get a unique insight into how people lived together, the roles of the nobility, clergy, and peasants. There are special analyses of sexuality and spirituality t...more
Sarah
I read it for school, and it was surprisingly enjoyable. You really get to know the people of this tiny, fascinating little village. It's like getting to know all their little rivalries and all the town gossip and stuff, and plus there's a lot of historical information and context. The author clearly loves and respects this town, and he seems to know EVERYTHING about everyone in it.

But it does get rather tedious after about 250 pages. And it is sometimes hard to keep the people/characters apart...more
Grace
A classic work of micro history that I've been meaning to read for ages and I'm glad I did. Using Inquisition records, Ladurie attempts to recreate the worldview of a tiny little village in early fourteenth century Languedoc. It is just amazing how much he pulls out of the records, going far beyond the Inquisition's focus on Cathar beliefs and looking at the structure of people's lives and key themes such as death, sex, magic and so on. It is the numerous quotes direct from the Register (transcr...more
Dennis
My review of this book is separated into two categories. If you are looking for information on life in medieval Europe and want non-traditional source, then this is a great book. It contains information on factors of life ignored by traditional historians, including sexuality, domestic life, and even the relationship between humans and animals. Ladurie succeeds in extracting an extraordinary amount of insight from the source given, and the book is a treasure trove of information on rural life.

If...more
Ned
still another view of different social arrangements back then gleaned from the notes and records once directed by a man who would become another Benedict. A pope for the 14th century. But the social arrangements that draw my interest is in the trade in the uplands north of the Pyrenees at that time. Relative freedom from distant monarchs, and with only the Church as authority the locals could live as they could. Just as you'd think, by herding, only subsistence levels of oat or wheat, some vines...more
Anne
"Montaillou" is an amazing book of social and ethnographic history. The author explored the lives of peasants in a village, called Montaillou, in south-eastern France in the early 14th century, using first person accounts from the peasants themselves.

First person accounts exist because some Montaillou villagers believed in the Albigensian heresy, and the village became a target for the inquisition. The bishop of the region interviewed the peasants about the minute details of their lives to deter...more
Rachel
This amazing and very humanistic book brings the inhabitants of the titular village to life. By the end I felt as if I knew them. The depth and breadth of the insights La Roy Ladurie has formed from his study of Jacques Formier's Inquisition records is astounding. Montaillou is highly recommended and I found it made a nice complement to Jonathan Sumption's The Albigensian Crusade, although around a century separates the two. Where The Albigensian Crusade mostly covers the military and political...more
Mary Rose
No other book has matched this one for the best synthesis of these Montaillou trial records. The author divides them up into a coherent narrative of life at Montaillou during the 14th century, including the effects of the Inquisition on the deep-seeded Cathar heresies of the time. In the cast of characters you will find a promiscuous priest, a clueless shepherd, and other people who really make the town come alive again. I dock one star off for some of the author's problematic slips, including s...more
Malcolm
I adore this book - it is one of the great texts of history from below and a real lesson in use of an archive to read through official records to find the stories of the people. Le Roy Ladurie uses the official court, legal and church archives to explore the Albigensian heresy - the Cathars - in the Pyrenees during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. His reading of the archives is so subtle and insightful that we find family stories and detailed accounts of the lives of the peasant inhabitan...more
Kimberly
We had a good laugh about this book in class. If you ever wanted to know every minute detail about life in a tiny heretic village in France during the Inquisition, this is your book.

Ever wanted to know how many blades of grass are in the third field to the left of the main road between the church and the farm house? This book probably holds the answer. Sometimes it read like a piece of crappy prose with WAY too much detail, sometimes it read like a gossip column (that man's wife had an affair wi...more
Charles Cooper
E. Leroy Ladurie's work on the Cathars brings history to life, giving both a detailed and sweeping perspective to a turbulent epoch in history. As he carefully sifted contemporary writings and testimonies about the lives of heretics and non-heretics in the hamlet of Montaillou in the South of France, what is created is an open window into a past world. He writes about the heretics in a non-judgmental way, showing how many Cathars had infiltrated the power structures of the Church and local gover...more
Moloch
Dai verbali dell'inchiesta condotta dall'Inquisizione nella Provenza in cui, ancora nel '300, era ampiamente diffusa l'eresia catara, emergono le voci di uomini e donne che raccontano le proprie storie, i propri sentimenti, il proprio modo di pensare. È esattamente il tipo di storia che preferisco, un bellissimo libro.

From the documents of the enquiry conducted by the Inquisition in southern France, where, in the 14. century, Catharism was still widely followed, the voices of men and women come...more
Sara Padilla
Sep 12, 2007 Sara Padilla rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: strangely enough, Kerouac fans
This book is definitely a rigorous historical study, as opposed to a story, which is both intellectually valid and sad. It is a very thorough description of the contents of the inquisition's intervention in the heresies of a tiny village. To get to the dramatic parts though, requires diligence and patience.
My favorite part was the chapter on Pierre Maury, the shepherd. What an extraordinary life. Maury's religious independence and free life flies in the face of everything that is typically beli...more
Dermot Mccabe
This is an indispensable book for anyone who wants to know about the life of the medieval peasant. It shows that the peasants were not an amorphous mass of unthinking creatures just a notch above the beasts of the fields. Amongst the inhabitants of Montaillou, a village in the Pyrenees, we see all the human attributes of greed, friendship, love, viciousness, power seeking, and dishonesty, in fact all the virtues and vices that men are prone to. See my blog on the rapacious priest, Pierre Clergue...more
Alexis
Depictions of the past change like any other trend. So I love books that try to get at what living in another time period was really like. That's why it's disappointing that we don't get to read more of the actual peasants' statements. I would have loved to have read page after page of what these people said with the occassional interjection from the author explaining words or historical circumstances the present-day reader wouldn't be familiar with. Unfortunately it's the reverse.

Lydia
Inquisitors purged the French village of Montaillou in 1308, emprisoning all of its occupants in an effort to winnow out and punish Albigensian heretics. Being assiduous inquisitors, they interviewed all occupants regarding all aspects of village life. Ladurie compiles and provides context for the villagers' accounts of love, work, family, domus (household), food, childbirth, religion, etc. and it's fascinating. The first person reports by the villagers feel modern and alive.
Laura
What a great book! Read this for class in the fall. It was the first book I read for school this year that I was actually fascinated by.
The fact that all this information has survived up to the present day is mindblowing. The snippets of humanity carried over into the present-- I wonder what these fellows would have thought if they knew students around the world would read about all thier petty little foibles and human evils hundreds and hundreds of years into the future?
Rick Edwards
It's a five-star book for content but gets only four stars for readability. Ladurie has done an amazing job of exegesis of records from the Inquisition in the south of France over a thirty year period. The book puts a great deal of what we think of as Medieval Europe in a new perspective, and provides profound insights into the Cathar faith community which survived in the highlands following the Albigensian Crusade.
Philip
Incredible is the only word to describe this book. From inquisition records, it tells of the life of peasants in SW France from 1290 to 1320. It is like a rare jewel in this regard since such lives of illiterate people would be otherwise totally lost. And it is surprising. Their lack of zeal to achieve, their Cathar faith, their feuds and pecadilloes are all of immense interest. A great read.
Alex
Apr 18, 2012 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Apparently some Inquisitor back in the 14th century performed exceptionally detailed interrogations on an entire town; the author used those records to piece together a new look at exactly what life was like in that town. So it's not so much about the Inquisition as it is about every day life. Interesting, huh? GR reviews indicate it's not a thrilling read, but it's a pretty cool idea.
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Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is a French historian whose work is mainly focused upon Languedoc in the ancient regime, particularly the history of the peasantry.

Emmanuel Ladurie is professor at the Collège de France and, since 1973, chair, department of history of modern civilization. He has had a distinguished career, serving as Administrateur Général of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (1987-94);...more
More about Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie...
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