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Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village 1294-1324

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  1,120 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
An enthralling account of day-to-day life in a medieval French village. Using records gathered by the Catholic Church in its pursuit of heretics, the book recreates the lives of a rich cast of village characters.
Published December 5th 2002 by Penguin (first published 1975)
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Lynne King
Between 1318 and 1325 Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, later Pope Benedict XII at Avignon, carried out an inquisition in a village in the Pyrenees, in what was then the independent Comté de Foix. Montaillou was a small community of some 250 souls, farmers and shepherds, of no particular interest except that it became the subject of this extraordinarily detailed and exhaustive inquisition. As a result of Fournier’s tireless interrogation we know more about Montaillou than we know about any o ...more
This amazing study of life in small village in the early fourteenth century in southern France is a classic example of good use of archive material. The basis of the book were the records of the work of the Papal inquisition against the Cathers who who undergoing a resurgence in that place and time.

Le Roy Ladurie's micro-history uses those records to lay bear the daily life of the villagers from loving couples picking fleas off each other as much as to detail popular belief far from the more fam
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
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
Dec 18, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Rae
The problem with ‘Montaillou’ has nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with my trying to read it whilst on a train that was delayed by six, yes SIX, hours. (Overhead lines blew down.) Since the intended arrival time was 8pm, at 1am I was still trying to find a comfortable reading position on a train seat, whilst distracted by low blood sugar and a loud drunken hen party. In short, I was not in the best of moods during much of reading process. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating and uni ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Malcolm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-europe
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
Jakey Gee
Aug 08, 2016 Jakey Gee rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Jacques Gouresq* (the cousin of Gulllemette Maur, sister of Guillemette Lesse) found the book on the one hand fascinating for its vivid picture of 14th century life ('tabula lucida'); on the other endearingly tedious and caught up in its own obsessive genealogical detail.

One day, sunning themselves outside the Moulinex ostal, he said to Bernard Maur (brother-in-law of the bayle, Bernard Lesse):

'You people are a curious, often likeable lot. I get the draw of that Cathar stuff - it does at least
William Korn
Apr 03, 2014 William Korn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 10, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, tbr-challenge
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
Sep 03, 2012 Kathleen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histories
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
John Tarttelin
May 24, 2013 John Tarttelin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 23, 2014 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, history
A ground breaking way of studying history, closer to the way it was experienced by the “boots on the ground,” who seem not so different from most of us. Unfortunately, the point is made at the cost of most interest, because the emotional data points that drive the heroic or romantic (a.k.a., the traditional) version of history and infuse it with the drama of a narrative with some kind of point or denouement, when an historian attempts to detail individual villager lives based on church and mayor ...more
Frank Ashe
A brilliant book. The people of that little village from so long ago are still with me. I'll have to reread this.

Random quote from flicking open the book in my hand:
In Montaillou, people did not shave, or wash, often. They did not go bathing or swimming. On the other hand, there was a good deal of delousing, which was an ingredient of friendship, whether heretical or purely social.
Sep 16, 2008 Kimberly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grad-school
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
May 10, 2010 Calder rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2016 Jim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Surely a delight for scholars, but I found the writing dry. Had it been written as a narrative history, it could have been fascinating. As it is, Montaillou is a jumble of facts and quotations presented in sometimes wildly tangental order. Nevertheless, if you are interested in the period, or in Catharism, this may be your cup of tea.

It has its moments, however. "If you have my brother killed, I will eat you alive with my teeth," says one man. "There will never be a time in any of our lives when
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.
Marta Dulce Și Gavina
4 étoiles pour les anecdotes sur les habitants du village de Montaillou accusés d'hérésie cathare et interrogés par le tribunal d'inquisition : comme celle ci, sur le curé Pierre Clergues, coureur de femmes et Grazide Rives.
La mère de cette petite paysanne a toléré que, <- Permets-moi, me dit-il, de te connaître charnellement.
Et moi, je lui dis :
- D'accord.
A cette époque, j'étais vierge. Je crois que j'avais 14 ou 15 ans. Il me d;eflora dans la grange dans laquelle on tient les pailles. Cepe
Mihai Zodian
Aug 31, 2014 Mihai Zodian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou, sat occitan de la 1294 până la 1324, Vol. I-II, Editura Meridiane, București, 1992.

O capodoperă a școlii Annales, îmbinând istoria, antropologia și narațiunea. Ladurie a realizat o monografie captivantă a unui sat medieval din Pirinei, bântuit de catarism, ”erezie” de inspirație gnostică cu origini balcanice și Inchiziție, folosind metodele științelor sociale pentru a scoate la suprafață mentalitatea rurală și modul de viață din acest spațiu occitan. Documen
Lisa Feld
Jun 24, 2013 Lisa Feld rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 27, 2013 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Craig Masten
Jan 20, 2016 Craig Masten rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to get through this research history of a medieval French Village. It's a footnoted monograph commentary on the records of an inquisition Catholic bishop of this tiny village which was later severely persecuted for it's Cathar heretical beliefs. Interesting to the degree you are interested in any of the subjects, but pretty drive going.
Feb 17, 2011 Dennis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
Apr 21, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Emiliano Bussolo
Libro straordinario di storia "dal basso", come si direbbe adesso. Tra le altre cose, dalle ricostruzioni fatte dall'autore, risulta che i contadini di Montaillou lavoravano in media tre-quattro ore al giorno... poi si parla di medioevo come di epoca buia... quanta ignoranza buon dio quanta ignoranza.
May 27, 2015 Timothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was hugely fun to read, an accessible classic of history writing. I did find it to be poorly structured, which might have something to do with the fact that the English translation is apparently abridged. (I hate that so much.) Or it might be a French academic thing. There were also some wild conjectures with little to back them up; that, I'm pretty sure, is a French academic thing.

Although it had flaws, this should be considered an essential reading list item. For some reason I kept imagin
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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 about Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie...

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