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Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century #1

Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life

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This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne.

Braudel's technique, it has been said, is that of a pointilliste. Myriads of separate details, sharp glimpses of reality experienced by real people, are seen miraculously to orchestrate themselves into broad rhythms that underlie and transcend the excitements and struggles of particular periods. Braudel sees the past as we see the present — only in a longer perspective and over a wider field.The perspective is that of the possible, of the actual material limitations to human life in any given time or place. It is the every¬day, the habitual — the obvious that is so obvious it has hitherto been neglected by historians — that Braudel claims for a new and vast and enriching province of history. Food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and, above all, the growth of towns, that powerful agent of social and economic development, are described in all the richness and complexity of real life.

The intensely visual quality of Braudel's understanding of history is brought into sharper focus by the remarkable series of illustrations that of themselves would make this book incomparable

FERNAND BRAUDEL was born in 1902, received a degree in history in 1923, and subsequently taught in Algeria, Paris and Sao Paulo. He spent five years as a prisoner of war in Germany, during which time he wrote his grand thesis, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, which was published in 1949. In 1946 he became a member of the editorial board of Annates, the famous journal founded by Marc Bloch and Lucian Febvre, whom he succeeded at the College de France in 1949. He has been a member of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and since 1962 has been chief administrator of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. Professor Braudel holds honorary doctor¬ates from universities all over the world.

Jacket painting: Detail from Breughel the Elder's The Fall of Icarus, from the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. (Giraudon)

"Braudel deserves a Nobel Prize. . . . [This is] the most remarkable picture of human life in the centuries before the human condition was radically changed by the growth of industry that has yet been presented. A book of great originality, a masterpiece."
—J. H. Plumb, The Washington Post

"Braudel's books enthrall. ... He is brilliant in demonstrating how most history is written on the backs of most people."
—John Leonard, The New York Times

"Even a preliminary glance at The Structures of Everyday Life shows a book that has no obvious compeer either in scope of reference or level of accessibility to the general reader. ... Its broad authority remains deeply impressive."
—Richard Holmes, Harper's

"Here is vast erudition, beautifully arranged, presented with grace of style, with humility before life's complexity and warm humanist feeling. Braudel's subject is nothing less than every¬day life all over the world before the industrial revolution.... He succeeds triumphantly in his first purpose: 'if not to see everything, at least to locate everything, and on the requisite world scale.'"
—Angus Calder, The Standard

"On neither side of the Atlantic does there live a man or woman with so much knowledge of the past as Braudel, or with a greater sense of its aptness to the intellectual occasion in hand....You can't pick up this big fat book without having your attention transfixed by something or other, if only the great gallery of pictures. They are a masterpiece in themselves."
—Peter Laslett, The Guardian

"This new book is unarguably a brilliant survey of demog¬raphy, urbanisation, transport, technology, food, clothing, housing, money and business, social classes, state power and international trade in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries."
—Theodore Zeldin, The Listener


By examining in detail the material life of preindustrial peoples around the world, Fernand Braudel significantly changed the way historians view their subject. Volume I describes food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and the growth of towns.

623 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1979

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About the author

Fernand Braudel

166 books416 followers
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 historical research in France and much of the world after 1950. As the dominant leader of the Annales School of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s, he exerted enormous influence on historical writing in France and other countries.

Braudel has been considered one of the greatest of the modern historians who have emphasized the role of large-scale socioeconomic factors in the making and writing of history. He can also be considered as one of the precursors of world-systems theory.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 109 reviews
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,837 reviews1,343 followers
September 12, 2021
Books, even history books, run away with their authors. This one has run ahead of me. But what can one say about its waywardness, its whims, even its own logic, that will be serious and valid? Our children do as they please. And yet we are responsible for their actions.

I have a discovered a recent treat, finishing a book early in the morning and basking in its brilliance during the day. There is something more indulgent than ascetic in the practice. Braudel's magnificent first volume was completed oh so early today while I listened to obscure chamber music. The effect was nearly intoxicating. Asserting a distinction between the Material Economy and the Market Economy, Braudel attempts to delineate the former as constituted in the daily rituals and practices of humans in their disparate environments. It is the toil of the quotidian. It is the gulf between wealth and poverty. The study displayed isn't an evolution but rather a series of processes, inspirations and missteps.

There isn't a narrative here. Adroit GRer Katie noted the abundance of detail and how one should allow it "to breathe." Hundreds of pages on cereal production and furniture conclude without a sense of surfeit. Maybe it is a testament to Braudel's brilliance, but one never thinks, this is too much. The engine of material progress appears to be necessity. But each proverbial page isn't turned until "it is time." Overcrowding and offshore resources kept pressure on the metaphorical envelope. Cities appear to combust this creative spirit, even as the swells lamented the rising tide of the rabble. China appears to have held all the cards at one time. Did Islam simply run out of trees to maintain its conquering posture? Venice certainly displayed poise and style periodically. Braudel appears a bit cheeky with his notes on revolutions: in this case, artillery, moveable type and oceanic navigation. I was going to separate credit but that would be unwise. Credit is a remarkable agent for developments as well as minatory movement.
Profile Image for AC.
1,669 reviews
January 27, 2010
(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... it is true that the author often seems to careen from topic to topic. But genius has the right to be careless. Ultimately, perhaps, Braudel does not have a solution to many of the items he discusses -- but he asked fascinating questions. That is often a cliché, to be sure -- but not in this case.)

I have never read a book quite like this one -- though I have often dreamt of it. The first volume of Braudel's C&C looks at the structures of everyday life: demographics, agricultural, wheat, rice, maize, beer, cider, forks, utensils, curtains, how flooring was done in the 16th and 17th century, ceilings, windows... how they opened, how high doors were, luxury, poverty, dress... and that is only in the first 3 chapters... It is astonishing....

In addition, while weaving together this sundry material, the writing is suffused with such insights and genius -- that it has at times quite an effect. (Braudel is the man who wrote the entire first volume of his magnum opus, the Mediterranean, from MEMORY -- while imprisoned by the Germans during WWII...). To take just one example -- in his discussion of luxury, he talks about the treasures that are squandered for meaningless things -- the Chinese sending silver to Java and Vietnam in exchange for salted bear paws; the Spaniards spending their silver, won by the death of thousands... millions of Amerindians -- to the 'hated' Dutch in exchange for powdered wigs (for Spanish gentlemen...) -- and observes that a society that cannot spend its accumulated capital on extending productively the means of production thus is showing signs of senility, a phenomenon peculiar to an 'ancien regime'. I read this paragraph while observing the following facts this week: that a society that can spend $250 million making the special effects for a movie can't pay its teachers, train its students properly, or fix its bridges...; that a society that can underwrite (with tax-payer subsidies/backstops/etc.) $145 billion of end-of-year bonuses to otherwise teetering banks, can't find $6 billion to bail out its largest economy (California) -- that such a society is, in Braudelian terms, showing signs of senility and decay... perhaps terminal decay.

And that, as I say, is only in the first three chapters....

These chapters cover the most trivial elements, as chapter four and following start on the topics of energy, metallurgy, gunpowder, transportation, urban planning, etc... Volume II then deals with markets; Vol. III with the consolidation of capital. In sum, a really amazing book.

(I feel as if I have just stepped into a great cathedral...)
320 reviews342 followers
February 23, 2020
كتاب صعب المراس على القارئ غير المتخصص والقارئ الباحث عن المعلومة المباشرة هو كتاب فى تاريخ الاقتصاد يهتم شأنه فى ذلك شأن كل كتب التاريخ بالسكان وأعدادهم وتاريخ الامراض والأوبئة التى ضربت تحديداً أوروبا .. الجيوش وأعدادها وعتادها تاريخ أوروبا الحربى والصراع ضد الأقلية ثم الاستقرار والبحث عن مصادر الرزق.
مصادر الغذاء وتنوعها وتطور أدوات الزراعة وإمكانياتها مما أتاح الغذاء الوفير فى فترة ما ثم استعراض لمصادر الطاقة ووسائل المواصلات ثم النظ الاقتصادية بداية بنظام المقايضة والتحول إلى النظام النقدى وعيوبه التى أدت إلى تراكم الثروة .. أماكن العيش تأسيس مجتمع المدينة وحاجة أوروبا لتأسيس مدن كما وجدت المدن الكبيرة فى الشرق والشرق الأقصى
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,200 reviews178 followers
January 22, 2023
Животът на Фернан Бродел заслуж��ва да бъде филмиран. Роден през далечната 1902 г. в идилично френско градче с все още работещи мелнични механизми от прединдустриалната епоха. Свидетел на първата световна война и две години немски военнопленник във втората световна война, когато по памет в лагера и без записки написва труда си за Средиземнорието. Работил в Алжир и Бразилия. Изтъкнат френски историк. Приключил земния си път през не толкова далечната 1985 г.

Подобно на автора си, който сякаш е живял повече от един живот, и този първи том за прединдустриалната епоха е просто повече от една книга. Всъщност съдържа в себе си толкова много книги и препуска с такава скорост из епохи и локации, че морската болест на читателя е гарантирана. Първоначалната идея е била това да е цикъл лекции. Обаче френските академици малко се стреснали от факта, че Бродел пратил линейната структура на класическата история по дяволите, и решил буквално да “опредмети” Стария режим (какво френско наименование на прединдустриалната епоха само!) с такова изобилие от теми и техните взаимовръзки, заигравайки се до най-малкото известно му детайлчета с ентусисзма на дете, разглобило и наново сглобило чудесна шарена играчка, че почти им съчувствам.

Бродел е изключително ерудиран и енциклопедичен за времето и възможностите си историк. Нещо повече - той е безкрайно щедър с това, което ни поднася. И никога не взема темите си докрай насериозно - плетениците от модели и концепции се менят така стремително и в периода 15-ти - 18-ти век, и в главата на Бродел, че магията е твърде силна.

Ограниченията му са две:
1. Той е французин от началото и средата на XX век и от студената война. Неевропейската история - цял Китай и Индия, Африка, Америките е видяна единствено през свидетелствата на западни пътешественици, най-често французи, на които им се случва да помрънкат за странностите на местните туземци, които им се струват нелогични сравнени с личния им опит (защо нямат столове, а седят на земята?!). В интерес на истината, повечето от тях са били искрено любопитни и доста прагматични, но все пак са били с друга начална гледна точка. Китай и Османската империя, пък и Япония например, пазят огромни архиви. Но те не са на френски език, не са били достъпни на Бродел и източниците му, и съответно много обяснения остават невидели бял свят. Както и много факти. Също като днес, донякъде. Тежестта на Западна Европа и Франция в изложението е непропорционално голяма.

2. Той е французин от… Да, да, горното. Като свидетел на ужасни явления, Бродел винаги застъпва и ролята и значението на бедните и слабите в историческата плетеница. Но предимно на западноевропейските бедни и слаби. Колониализъм и робство не са споменати, макар да има поне няколко секции, в които това е съвсем удачно да се направи и илюстрира с показатели и с ролята им в икономическото развитие.

С тези две важни уговорки, читателят може да се наслади на осем тематични глави, всяка с миниесета по подтеми, които са и любопитни, и поучителни, и ни показват ясно, че твърдението на Бродел за инерцията като велик двигател на историята никак не е безпочвено. Както и че за да се случи индустриалната революция, е имало нужда от прединдустриалната епоха, която въпреки привидния си застой, всъщност подготвя именно случилите се и изглеждащи внезапни последвали процеси и икономически и технически скокове.

Историята е това, сред което живеем, нашето ежедневие, затова и често я пропускаме:

1. Епидемии и войни и как реагираме и се справяме с тях

2. Храната на масата - или трите основни и днес култури: пшеница, ориз и царевица. Дали азиатците са толкова многобройни, защото оризът дава две реколти с промеждутък ит трета неоризова между тях, а пшеницата - само една, и то с много труд? Кой знае…

3. Месото и напитките

4. Кой как си строи къщите и ги обзавежда, и каква е модата в облеклото. Традицията е за бедните, богатите сменят моди, а модите сменят световни исторически тенденции. Модата съвсем не е безобидна историческа категория.

5. Техника и източници на енергия. Големият проблем: постоянен източник на енергия все още е липсвал, а наличната енергия не се е пренасяла лесно от едно място на друго. А разхищенията са били огромни - испанците например са строяли “еднократни” кораби до Америките, а изсечените гори никога не се възстановили. Познато.

6. Военно дело, далечни плавания и транспорт. Да, войните са генератор на открития. През 16-ти век професия “инженер” не е имало - те са се занимавали най-вече с военни технологии.

7. Парите. Или как Китай изоставя хартиените пари, а Европа ги открива.

8. Градовете. Защо големите азиатски градове толкова рядко са се меняли, докато хаотичните европейци често строели и разширявали както им скимне, или защо е добре, че Рим е паднал.

Бродел искрено се пита защо великите географски индустриални открития не са били подети от Китай, който след изумителните експедиции на адмирал Джън Хъ просто се затваря в себе си и изгаря далечния си флот, а технологично не прилага нищо ново след този период (а дотогава е бил доста по-напред от европейците). Или защо ислямският свят, който е имал много по-добре развити средновековни икономически системи и технологии не ги е надградил, а се е оставил на хаотичните, гръмогласни, агресивни, подмолни, невежи на моменти фанатици, готови да се хванат един друг за гушите както и да хванат за гушата целия останал свят.

Давам малко по-ниска оценка единствено заради факта, че сме 2022 г., а не 1967 г., което може би не е много честно към Бродел. И историята не е. Но пък си заслужава.


П. П. Преводът на моменти също е леко империалистически :) Град Алеп не съществува, ние знаем за Алепо. Както и Басора я знаем като Басра. Китайските наименования също на моменти са поомотани, но не твърде.
Profile Image for DoctorM.
836 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2010
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 climate and demographics that undergird all the stories. You read it for a very different kind of pleasure than you get with Gibbon or Ranke. There's not a story here--- but there is a world. Open this book anywhere and dive in. You'll find yourself immersed in the structures of the world and how the pieces fit together and how the rhythms of change work.

Braudel and his followers re-cast how history was written--- they made it an imperial science, annexing sociology and geography and economics and medicine and geology and agronomy all into service of analysing the long-term rhythms and structures that go on beneath events.

The three volumes of this series---- well, just get them. Dive in. And watch a master build up a world and a time from all the half-seen pieces.

Profile Image for Katie.
438 reviews260 followers
October 10, 2012
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 money. Sometimes connections are made, sometimes they're implied, but mostly Braudel brings together little bits and pieces and tries to make them add up into a picture. I'd imagine that for the vast majority of readers out there, there are going to be a couple chapters in here that you think are awesome, and a couple where you wonder why he feels the need to be so all-inclusive about details that don't immediately seem to be all that pertinent.

I remember reading once that the best way to read a Braudel book is to pick it up at random, and read little pieces here and there. I think it's kind of a fair point. Taken in big chunks it's a bit overwhelming, but in little pieces it's full of fascinating information. It's the details here that really shine, and let Braudel explore a world that's often ignored in favor of the bigger political events. That said, the work does feel rather piecemeal on occasion, as if it's more a collection of neat anecdotes than a full book.
Profile Image for Checkman.
508 reviews75 followers
July 14, 2020
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 often dedicate a chapter or two examining about the economic and social conditions of the time. So what seemed fresh and different thirty-five years ago might come across as a bit threadbare now. That is if one insists on taking that attitude. "The Structures of Everyday Life" is a work that is an archetype (no I don't want to debate that statement. This isn't college.) and should be read with that in mind. Yes, there has been more research since Braudel lived. Braudel was the primary leader of what is called the Annales School (style of historiography developed by French historians in the 20th century to stress long-term social history) and not all the research has been done by French historians. But his work is very interesting and still has a fresh feeling to it. That's says something about Braudel and the ground that he broke.

Perhaps I liked it because I have come to appreciate how the simplest things can have such a dramatic effect on our everyday existence. Such as the humble dental filling preventing an infection from invading the body or the ho-hum eye exam catching a brain tumor. These things are not battles and emperors. These things effect us as much as those big events. Maybe more so. We now live longer because of those simple things. As a result (well at least partially) there are now more of us. Can you honestly say that hasn't had an effect on the world? This is what interested Braudel and what now interests me.

"The Structures of Everyday Life" is a very dense work and is not a book that is easily breezed through. I am certain that part of that can be attributed to the fact that the book has been translated from French. I've often found translated works to be more challenging - especially academic works. Nevertheless I enjoyed this book and I would strongly recommend it to those who are curious about how people lived and how their lives have changed over the centuries. How our lives have changed.
Profile Image for Derek.
1,422 reviews44 followers
January 17, 2023
I read this book in high school and was ill-equipped to make much sense of it. But I’ve comes across the book in myriad historiographical book introductions so now appreciate (at a distance) the author’s attempt to look at historical themes that transcend national boundaries and shorter time frames. But maybe he got capitalism wrong here. It’s so much more than the expansion of trade after all.
Profile Image for Jamie Smith.
479 reviews69 followers
July 1, 2020
This is history on a grand scale, a magisterial examination of life from the 15th to the 18th century. As the title says, it is about everyday life; kings and conquerors are mentioned only in passing. The book focuses on ordinary people: what they ate and how they dressed, their homes and furniture; their industry and economy. While recognizing that the primary sources are often incomplete and sometimes of questionable accuracy, Fernand Braudel nevertheless amassed an astonishing amount of detailed information on the lives of merchants, peasants, and bankers.

The Renaissance may have been creating magnificent art at this time, but most people were untouched by it, the rhythms of their daily lives at the start of the 15th century going on as they had for millennia. As the centuries advance Braudel paints a picture of slowly accumulating changes; for instance, with waterwheels replacing manpower to grind grain, run sawmills, and shape metals. In the cities sophisticated financial systems were developed to spread risk and leverage credit. As the book progresses readers can see the modern world starting to emerge right before their eyes.

It was a hard life, and for many a short one. “There was a constant tendency toward equilibrium between the patterns of birth and deaths. Under the ancien régime the two coefficients were both at around the same figure: 40 per 1000. What life added, death took away.” (p. 71) This was especially true for the most vulnerable. “In the Beauvaisis in the seventeenth century 25 to 33% of new-born children died within twelve months; only 50% reached their twentieth year.” (p. 90)

Although the book focuses mainly on Europe, it also includes the Middle and Far East when there is sufficient data, and spends some time comparing and contrasting the civilizations. The Middle East, for example, did not have the resources of wood and coal to support large scale industrialization of the kind that was developing in Europe,“The fact that wood was used everywhere carried enormous significance in the past. One of the reasons for Europe’s power lay in its being so plentifully endowed with forests. Against it, Islam was in the long run undermined by the poverty of its wood resources, and their gradual exhaustion.” (p. 363)

In China the vast pool of manpower slowed the need for more efficient ways of doing things. “The early settlement and then the spectacular increase in population in the Far East were only possible because of the small amount of meat eaten. The reasons for this are very simple. If the choices of an economy are determined solely by adding up calories, agriculture on a given surface area will always have the advantage over stock-raising; one way or another it feeds ten to twenty times as many people.” (p. 104) Horses were much less common for transportation than sedan chairs, with one team of men carrying the chair and others following along and waiting for their turn. Even with a dozen men per chair it was still cheaper than buying, stabling, and maintaining a horse.

Braudel provides some interesting insights into the daily lives on Europeans when he discusses what they ate and how religion affected their options. “Fish was all the more important here as religious rulings multiplied the number of fast days: 166 days, including Lent, observed extremely strictly until the reign of Louis XIV. Meat, eggs and poultry could not be sold during those forty days except to invalids and with a double certificate from doctor and priest.” (p. 214)

The book is at its best in its discussions of applied technology, as commerce prodded experimentation and new developments. “The two principle sources of energy were draught-animals and wood combustion (windmills...cannot have represented more than a third or a quarter of the power of the water under control)” (p. 371) New inventions, however, were starting to change the age-old systems of putting energy to practical use. “The average watermill gave five times the yield of a hand mill operated by two men – it was itself a revolution; but the first steam-driven mill would do five times the work of a watermill.” (p. 371)

Another great advance came with the first, primitive forms of blast furnaces to provide enough oxygen to purify molten iron.

Smelting was achieved for the first time with the installation of enormous water-powered leather bellows and tunnels in the blast furnaces; which virtually means that cast iron was ‘discovered’ in the fourteenth century. Iron or steel could thereafter be obtained as required from cast iron, their common starting point, by extensive decarbonization (iron) or incomplete decarbonization (steel)” (p. 378)

With smelting came new technologies that would, over time, change the world forever, and modern civilization started to appear. “The great technological ‘revolutions’ between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries were artillery, printing and ocean navigation. But to speak of revolution here is to use a figure of speech. None of these was accomplished at breakneck speed, and only the third – ocean navigation – eventually led to an imbalance, or ‘asymmetry’ between different parts of the globe.” (p. 385)

And finally, Braudel examines the cities, where a critical mass of people, money, and opportunity created powerful financial and mercantile empires. The rich got much richer, and resentment arose among the rest of the people, no longer content with the Church’s support of wealth and power, and its casual command that people should accept their station in life, because that is where god put them.

In the financial sphere, the towns organized taxation, finances, public credit, customs and excise. They invented public loans...One after another, they reinvented gold money, following Genoa which may have minted the genovino as early as the late twelfth century. They organized industry and the guilds; they invented long-distance trade, bills of exchange, the first forms of trading companies and accountancy. They also quickly became the scene of class struggles. For if the towns were ‘communities’ as has been said, there were also ‘societies’ in the modern sense of the word, with their tensions and civil struggles: nobles against bourgeois; poor against rich (‘thin people’ popolo magro against ‘fat people’ popolo grosso). The struggles in Florence were already more deeply akin to those of the industrial early nineteenth century than to the faction-fights of ancient Rome. (p. 512)

This book is a remarkable achievement, well deserving its status as a classic work of social and economic history. The breadth of Braudel’s scholarship is amazing, as is his ability to connect data to make a larger point or provide insight into people’s daily lives. He often assumes considerable knowledge on the part of the reader, however; for instance, when he writes “Bramante, who pulled down the old quarter round St Peter’s in Rome (1506-14), was one of Baron Haussmann’s first predecessors in history,” he expects the reader to already know who Haussmann was. This book isn’t something to read quickly, but it is so full of enlightening history that it well repays the effort.
Profile Image for John Jr..
Author 1 book58 followers
July 24, 2011
"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 of Europe—that proceeds from the ground up. The second volume deals with the market economy on relatively small, local scales, and the third with broader, transnational matters. But this volume can be read on its own, regardless of one's interest in economics per se, which is exactly how I have read it, twice now. What to call its subject? "For want of a better expression," Braudel says in his introduction, it is simply "material life."

What does he mean by that? The categories of Braudel's survey include population, disease, food and drink, fashions, agriculture, armaments, climate and living conditions. But that's a dry and flat way of describing the richly varied details that populate this book. Braudel was a leading practitioner of the Annales school of history; among its later proponents were Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, author of a renowned portrait of a French village during the Cathar heresy (Montaillou), and Philippe Ariès, who wrote a groundbreaking study of childhood as a social construct (Centuries of Childhood) and another on attitudes toward death and dying (The Hour of Our Death). I can't speak of Ladurie, but what one finds in Braudel and Ariès are not histories in the familiar public-school sense of stories featuring persons, places, and events. Their interest is more in sifting and analyzing information, often statistical in Braudel's case, gathered from numerous perspectives. The result is a view of the past that's both prismatic and panoramic. A reader in search of stories will find few; one with a taste for illuminating tidbits will encounter a myriad. A few quotations and examples will give the idea.

Perhaps only a blockhead reviewer would write "Life was uncertain in the past" and point to the evidence given here, but Braudel does make clear how widespread were starvation and disease:

• "France… is reckoned to have experienced 10 general famines during the tenth century: 26 in the eleventh; 2 in the twelfth; 4 in the fourteenth; 7 in the fifteenth; 13 in the sixteenth; 11 in the seventeenth and 16 in the eighteenth." There were also, he adds, "hundreds and hundreds of local famines," such as eight in the southwest of France between 1628 and 1713. (Emphases Braudel's.)

• Plague (which, Braudel explains, is really at least two diseases, pulmonary and bubonic) recurred so frequently as to be nearly a constant. "Besançon reported plague 40 times between 1439 and 1640.… Plague occurred in Amsterdam every year from 1622 to 1628.… Plague struck London five times between 1593 and 1664–5."

For those who managed to live, there were familiar pleasures, as well as familiar obstacles, but also some spectacular discomforts:

• "Clarifying [of wine], bottling and the regular use of corks were still unknown in the sixteenth century and possibly even the seventeenth" (casks were the rule earlier).

• "We get our information about the early use of tobacco from violent government prohibitions.… These prohibitions encircled the world: England 1604, Japan 1607–9, the Ottoman Empire 1611, the Mogul Empire 1617, Sweden and Denmark 1632, Russia 1634…" (His list goes on.)

• The original fireplace method of indoor heating was surprisingly inefficient. Of a dinner at Versailles in February 1695, the Princess Palatine wrote, "At the king's table the wine and water froze in the glasses." (This detail is one that stuck with me over the decades since I first read the book.) Not until the 1720s did heating begin to improve, the consequence of new designs by chimney-sweeps and stove-setters.

A few further examples, drawn more or less at random:

• A seemingly minor note on fashion from a traveler named Chardin who had spent 10 years in Persia in the late 1600s—"dress in the East is not subject to fashion; … the Persians… do not vary the colours, shades and types of material any more than the style"—leads Braudel to an important issue which has been answered many ways by historians: "Can it have been merely by coincidence that the future was to belong to the societies fickle enough to care about changing the colours, materials and shapes of costume, as well as the social order and the map of the world—societies, that is, which were ready to break with their traditions?" This is the question of innovation, more often linked purely with economic and technological developments. As Braudel's question shows (he doesn't presume to answer it), cultural attitudes may have been involved.

• After some paragraphs discussing the 16th-century costs of powder and shot for arquebuses, muskets, cannon, and the like, Braudel offers the surprising revelation that "Venice's security was 1,800,000 ducats' worth of powder at the lowest estimate, or more than the equivalent of the annual receipts of the city itself" (emphasis his). And in case you were wondering who the Venetians were fighting at the time: "This shows the huge scale of war expenditure, even when there was no war."

• "The first, rather primitive coaches did not appear until the second half or the end of the sixteenth century.… Diligences were a product of the seventeenth century. Stagecoaches for travellers… only appeared in any number in the Romantic period." One might suppose that most people simply stayed put in the past, and there's some truth to that, but the transport of persons and products, not to mention of news, is hardly a new development. For much of history, getting anywhere has been slow, inconvenient, and unreliable.

I leave it to other historians to assess the value of Braudel's work to their field. For me, a good party conversation is likely to prove its use.
Profile Image for أحمد الحقيل.
Author 10 books226 followers
July 1, 2016

الحكاية بدأت من هذا النص.
أنا خريج ثقافة دينية تراثية في مراهقتي، ولذا أعرف التاريخ نوعا ما. ولكن في السنوات الأخيرة، اكتشفت أن معرفتي تافهة!
قراءة التاريخ فن. ليس من ناحية المصادر الجيدة فحسب، ولكن في طريقة القراءة نفسها، قراءة اللامكتوب أيضا، فالمعلومة لوحدها لاتكفي. لتفهم تاريخ العتبي عن محمود الغزنوي، أو تاريخ البيهقي عن الابن مسعود، يجب أن تعرف السياق التاريخي لتعرف ما لم يُكتب أيضا.
فمثلا، أثق في العتبي في قضايا معينة، لأنني أعلم لماذا قد يبالغ/يهمل وبالتالي أعلم متى سيفعل ذلك. اي أنني أعلم دوافعه ولذا أعلم ما الذي سيقدمه ولماذا.
ولكن الفخ على طريقة هيلر في كاتش-22 (إقرؤوا الرواية، رائعة وممتعة) هو: لتعرف ما يفترض أن تثق فيه وما لا يفترض، يجب أن تدخل الكتاب وأنت تعرف الكثير مسبقا حتى تستطيع التفريق والانتقاء!
ولذا يحدث أمر غريب: كل كتاب قرأته تعاد قراءته في كل مرة تقرأ كتابا مرادفا له! حين تقرأ البيهقي فأنت تعيد قراءة كل كتاب قرأته عن خراسان. العملية لا تتوقف بمجرد تلقيك للمعلومة، ستظل تُقرأ من جديد في كل مرة تقرؤها في مصدر آخر. ومن هنا فقراءة التاريخ "غير قطعية". أي أنك لا تستطيع قراءة عدد من الكتب مثلا ثم تقول أوكي الآن عرفت القصة. بل أنني أحيانا أميل لرأي متطرف يقول أنك لن تعرف القصة أبدا، ولكن هذا له نقاش فلسفي آخر.
ولذا، ربما المسألة فعلا: كلما ازددت معرفة، ازددت جهلا. هاه؟ لا أظن ذلك، ليس بمثل هذه الوعظية. طيب، ربما هي إذن مقاربة لفكرة توماس كون في البرادايم حول أن المعرفة تجلب مزيدا من الغموض والمزيد من المشاكل الجديدة المجهولة؟ ربما. ولكن لا أظن ذلك أيضا. فهنا يأتي دور مدرسة الأنال الفرنسية، أو الحوليات، وأحد أهم أساطينها، فرنان بروديل.
بروديل يطالب بقراءة التاريخ ككتلة بانورامية لانهائية متنافرة متعددة التوجهات. على أن تتم هذه القراءة من العمق، أن تكون منطلقة من العمق إلى أعلى السطح، من أقصى الأسباب إلى ما يُقدم على أنه ظاهر النتيجة. التاريخ كتلة من الجدليات المتنافرة اللاأحادية، والأهم، كتلة بانورامية، فسيفساء من المتشابكات. ولذا هو يقدم أزمانا مختلفا، أزمانا جغرافية واجتماعية وذاتية. فالتاريخ لم يعد نمطا واحدا، ولكنه أنماط مختلفة من التضاريس والحياة الاجتماعية والمظاهر الاقتصادية والطبيعة الحياتية والذهنية الفردية. برودل يصف الطقس مثلا بإسهاب، يصف التضاريس بإسهاب، لأنها تتشابك في تكوين التاريخ الفعلي لما حدث وما سيحدث. الشرطي الذي يقول لك في ظهيرة عاصمة مثل الرياض إن الحرارة هي السبب في زيادة الجرائم، الحرارة وحسب. الفلاح الذي يخبرك أن القسوة في الجبال تنشأ لأن الطريق وعر فقط. التاريخ كتلة من المتشابكات اللامنتهية، اللامنقطعة، اللاقطعية.
هذا كله يعيدنا بطريقة أو بأخرى إلى الفكرة السابقة، وهو أن قراءة التاريخ بطبيعتها غير قطعية، ليس لأنها قائمة على التراكم ولكن لأنها قائمة على التوليد، فكل حقيقة جديدة مرتبطة بأخرى قد تؤدي إلى نتيجة جديدة. التاريخ الاقتصادي والجغرافي والسياسي واليومي والتجاري والمعماري إلخ، كله مرتبط، متشابك، ويعتمد على طريقة توصيل الخطوط، وعلى التتابعية، وعلى عدم القطعية.
التاريخ العربي تحديدا، كتدوين، يتميز في جوانبه السياسية والجغرافية والتجارية، ولذا هو تجربة عظيمة لقراءة أناليّة بانورامية عمقية. ولكن افتقاره للجانب الاجتماعي، للجانب الهامشي من القصة، الجوانب السيسيولوجية التي تصنع قوالب هذه الحياة السياسية الاقتصادية التجارية يكاد يكون نادرا.
ومن هنا نشأت فكرة هذا النص. وما سيتبعه من نصوص مشابهة، من الهامش.
عموما هذه الملحمة التاريخانية تحتاج حديثا أعمق وأكثر تمحيصا لما قام به بروديل في دراسة مظاهر الجغرافيا والاقتصاد والحياة اليومية التي أخرجت التاريخ من سياقاته السياسية إلى مفهوم أعمق وأوسع. سيحين وقته في دراسة أطول ربما تشمل أستاذه أيضا العظيم مارك بلوخ.
Profile Image for Randall Wallace.
525 reviews379 followers
January 8, 2022
In the days of Homer, the bit on a horse’s bridle was worth more than the horse itself. Cologne was the largest city in Germany in the fifteenth century because it was built at the intersection of two Rhine waterways and the overland route. France, Germany, and Italy at the time were overpopulated and many people were emigrating to Spain or the Americas. Extra hands were needed in Spain, “Spanish land would have remained uncultivated without the peasant who came from France”. One lord wrote there were 200,000 French in Spain in 1669. In 1573, emigrating beggars “starving, clothed in rags and covered with fleas and vermin” appeared in the fields and streets of Troyes. The town’s response was to provide bread for all, provided they walk out the town gate and do not return until next harvest. “In the sixteenth century, the beggar or vagrant would be fed and cared for before he was sent away. In the early seventh century he had his head shaved. Later on, he was whipped; and the end of the century saw the last word in repression – he was turned into a convict.”

Worst European famine? Finland 1696-97 when one third of all Finns starved to death. Famines in India in 1555 and 1596 resulted in cannibalism, while during the famines of 1630-31 in India, human flesh was for sale in the open market in Susuntra.

Until the eighteenth century, a Jungle Book could have been written about almost any part of the globe.” Kamchatka had its beautiful and plentiful animals killed off by trappers from English and American vessels in the 18th century. Decimation of sea otters was the name of the tune throughout the North Pacific. If it was cute, render it mute. “They then ran from one otter to another stunning them as they passed, finishing them off later.” Groan.

Wheat was never grown by itself but with other cereals beside it, and wheat has to be rotated every year. Wheat also has a low yield; that was important because back then, “grain was France’s whole life.” A lot of grain went into making alcohol. Millet is very interesting because it can last for twenty years. That sure came in handy when Venice was besieged by Genoa in 1372 and was saved first by its millet stocks. Northern Europe ate more meat, Southern Europe ate more carbohydates. “For the poor, if the cereal supply gave out, everything gave out.” The poor didn’t eat wheat, but ate cheaper secondary cereals like rye, barley, oats, maize, or buckwheat. White bread was rare and a luxury. Bread was “the major preoccupation of towns, states, merchants and ordinary people.” One reason for the success of the potato was that armies could burn your wheat fields, but they wouldn’t get your underground potatoes. No, Siree…

The real Jethro Tull was an Englishman who wanted his countrymen to till and manure. Montaigne didn’t use a fork. Before 1660, people didn’t eat with forks, you used your fingers. This explains why elegant meals then involved hand washing several times per meal. Salt was hard to get in Switzerland and came from Languedoc or Barletta. China and Japan didn’t do milk, cheese or butter; cows there were raised for meat. The Spanish Basques were kicked out of the cod fishing in Newfoundland game by the French, Dutch and English. The first boats to dock with cod anywhere got by far the best prices for their catch. Between 1675 and 1721, the Dutch sent 6995 ships to Spitsbergen where they harpooned 32,908 whales. Sick. Outside of wine growing regions, beer became popular. For the wealthy Chinese at this time “to stalk rabbits and pierce them with arrows at the entrance to their holes were among the greatest pleasures life had to offer.” Twisted. Tea in its wild state becomes trees; commercial tea is pruned at shrub height.

Before the twelfth century, fireplaces weren’t in the wall, but were in the center of the room. Fireplaces didn’t help as much as you would think; in 1695, Princess Palatine, while eating with the king, noticed that the wine and water in their glasses had frozen. Benches and rectangular tables came from needing them for eating and sitting with your back against the fire. No one would sit on a cold night on the other side of the table. The round table’s job was to remove seating preference, but it appeared late because the round table needed a new invention: chairs.

“Privacy was an eighteenth-century innovation.” Reception rooms appeared, the pantry separated from the kitchen, the dining room separated from the drawing room, and “the bedroom was established as a realm apart. Little tables (like card tables, and bureaus) and padded armchairs appeared. The street were open sewers where you emptied your chamber pot. I wonder if some emptied their chamber pot in front of their least favorite neighbor’s house? The Seine at the time was “equally revolting to the eye and nose.” Towns and cities routinely threw everything into the rivers flowing through them. Bathrooms were rare luxuries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Gas lighting appeared in 1808. Underwear appeared in the thirteenth century. In eighteenth century Sardinia, a mourning man would wear the same shirt for a year. I’ll bet no women had to be told to stay away from him after the first month. If you were poor, you wore soles attached to your legs with straps.

Around 1350, people threw off their long robes and went for tightly hugging clothing where men’s bulges and women’s curves could clearly be seen. Soap was scarce. In the North you had liquid soaps made with potash, while in the South had perfumed cakes. In 1657, China had a fire-engine that could shoot “water to a height of one hundred palms by manpower and wind.” “A caravan of 6000 camels could carry 2400 to 3000 tons, or the load of 4 to 6 reasonable-sized sailing ships of the period.” “Every town was full of stables.” And so, the shoeing smith’s place of business was the equivalent of today’s garage. “Windmills appeared very much later than water-wheels.” Civilization up to the eighteenth century were powered by wood and charcoal. Then came the age of coal. Unlike Islam, part of Europe’s wealth was its forests. Each man could build his own tools, furniture and boats. Every European forest was being hacked at. “Two tons of wood was equal to a ton of coal. Coal did not overtake wood in the US until 1887. 1642 was the first English combustion of coal. Output of coal at Newcastle went from 30,000 tons annually in 1563-64 to 348,000 in 1786.

The pike was the weapon of choice in the seventeenth century; arquebuses were too cumbersome. By the end of the century, bayonets became common. Keeping artillery in shape and moving it around was very costly and used a lot of horses and wagons, keeping ships in shape was much cheaper. By the eighteenth century, no Malay pirate would be caught dead without his own cannon on his ship. Paper had “neither the strength nor the beauty of parchment.” Islamic warriors took Grenada in 1492 with artillery. The Champagne Fairs were at their height in the 13th century. Paris was largely supplied by the Seine and its tributaries. Orleans was the main river port. The Loire was the most useful French river for transport. “Paul Valery pointed out that Napoleon moved no faster the Julius Caesar.” Persians used human runners instead of horses. They wore dispatches on their heads and bells to keep them awake. They were taught by the age of seven “to run quickly without losing breath.” These “express runners” could cover between 30 to 60 miles in a day. FootExpress: When it absolutely positively has to be there at some point.

India didn’t have metals like gold, silver, copper and it had to pay “dearly” for them. This is one of the reasons India’s (Gujerat) textile market was so huge, from even before Vasco da Gama arrived. In the eighteenth century, India’s cotton prints had flooded Europe.

Paris in 1780 had 7000 to 8000 abandoned children. When found they were placed on a man’s back in a box that held three infants and walked off to the poor house. It was common for the man to find one of the children had died by the time they arrived. The man would empty the box and then head out to scour the city again. “Many of these abandoned children came from the provinces.” Some dirty and muddy Middle Ages streets had to be crossed by using stilts or wooden bridges thrown down.

Towns between the fifteen and eighteenth century all had ramparts. England being hard to reach was spared urban fortifications. Note that fortifications served the opposite purpose in times of peace against the internal population; guards turned around and watched the townspeople from above, able to respond at a moment’s notice. For warmth the rich used furs, the middle-class lambskin, and the poor sheepskin. London Bridge was the ONLY bridge in London then as Westminster Bridge wasn’t built until 1750. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Really good book. It was really refreshing to finally read a history book not about the famous names and what they did, but to read about the simple basics of life for all concerned (15th to 18th century). Bravo.
Profile Image for Miloš.
122 reviews
April 24, 2020
U I tomu Brodel pokušava da poveže sve što zna, i misli da treba da stane u široko polje materijalne civilizacije, ekonomije i kapitalizma; materijalna civilizacija je mračno dno, ispod tržišta, maltene autarhična oblast ispod-tla, to je mesto infraekonomije - oblast izvan ekonomije-tržišta, mesto trampe, i sitnog privrednog obima; ekonomija je tržište, ili slobodna konkurencija, ili mesto trgovine koja je koliko-toliko "slobodna", to je prostor koji natkrivljuje mračno dno; kapitalizam je aktivna društvena hijerarhija(e), tu sudeluju povlašćeni delatnici, to je trgovina na velike udaljenosti, koja donosi profite i do 1000%, to su kreditne spekulacije, umeće dostatno nekolicini upućenih u te ekonomske misterije;

Profile Image for Anders.
84 reviews21 followers
January 26, 2012
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 developed with its limitations and physical realities over human civilization, the market economy, which came into being with the rise of international trade (and dependence thereon), and finally, capitalism, which he sees as a third sphere constructed upon the first two and he equates with large-scale transnational financial institutions. A lofty argument, and ambitious, and in the hands of a lesser historian it would be a total mess. What I find useful about this book is that it allows one to clearly bring into focus what is new to our modern capitalist world-system--to undertake the vitally important project of denaturalizing the market economy and capitalism, which tends to be dehistoricized.

Basically, the project is to show what the realities of pre-capitalist human civilization were: the problems, the limitations, and the basic structures of life. This means details, and could/would be potentially annoying if Braudel wasn't such an engrossing and knowledgeable writer. The prose is disarmingly easy to move through... and it's also one of those books that can just set your mind meditating on all the questions it brings up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Profile Image for Nova.
Author 84 books25 followers
April 28, 2012
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.
March 23, 2020
Висловлений самим автором принцип historie totale напевне найкраще проявився саме в цій праці. ТАке враження, що він взяв зріз цієї епохи, зробив CTRL+C і CTRL+V на сторінки книги. Ти ніби потрапляєш у переплетіння ��их структур. Проте іноді складається, що автор сам заплутався у longue durée і йому важко прийти до якихось висновків
Profile Image for Judith Johnson.
Author 1 book86 followers
February 24, 2021
Famously, Margaret Thatcher, upon visiting a university and enquiring of a student which subject he was studying, to which he replied “History”, is reputed to have commented, “What a luxury!”
Who among us would agree, I wonder? If we know very little about the past, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about what is happening in the present, surely?

Fernand Braudel’s scholarly work is one of the many weighty tomes I rescued from the discard pile of a boarding-school library, and at over 3lbs in weight, it’s not one to read lying down!

It’s a fascinating read, with a huge overview, and full of rich detail. It also brings home to the reader how foolish we are in modern times, particularly in the privileged developed world, to think that those things we take for granted will always be available. Since Braudel’s book, others taking a longer and wider view have been published and attained popular readership, eg Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, but the former is in my opinion very well worth reading if you can track down a copy.

Reading the section on epidemics - not comforting reading right now .... clearly Boris Johnson’s appalling government (and previous Tory leaderships) hadn’t read this book when they stood down adequate pandemic safeguards... and all their subsequent failings to protect the British people, whitewashed by our, at best timid, mainstream media.

Here are some memorable quotes:

‘Every plant of civilisation creates a state of strict bondage’.

Braudel is referring here to cultivation requirements, but there is another kind of bondage - think opium, coca, sugar, tobacco ...

‘ ... it is undeniable that brandy, rum and agua ardiente were Europe’s poisoned gifts to the civilisations of America ... the Indian peoples suffered tremendously from the alcoholism in which they were encouraged to indulge ... state revenue from pulque in New Spain was equal to half the revenue from the silver mines! It was deliberate policy on the part of the new masters.’

Think also of the long-term effects of alcohol on indigenous populations of North America, Australia, etc, and of opium (Google: opium sold by British to Chinese).

A quote very pertinent to our current predicament, both with regard to climate change and to the pandemic: ‘We should bear in mind the congenital frailty of man compared to the colossal forces of nature.’

Looking forward to reading Volumes 2 and 3 of this series!
Profile Image for Kater Cheek.
Author 31 books258 followers
November 14, 2009
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 nice.

For a writer, this is a good sort of book to read if one is writing about anything pre-industrial. The omnipresences of famine, plague, and wars slips our mind when we are fortunate enough to be healthy, fat, and safe. For those prone to depression, it's a bit hard to read of the endless misery and brutality of most of human existence.

Update: nearly two weeks later, and I'm still reading it. This is why I hate research. I really do. Because you read books that are informative but BORING. BORING. BORING. Really, I get that he's done a gazillion hours of research, but did he have to put everything in? And it's so Eurocentric that even I'm a little offended. I'm still learning interesting facts, like that Europe seemed to be the only place where people ruthlessly followed clothing fashions, but I'm also learning boring and useless things, like how many quintals of wheat a horse could thresh as opposed to a pair of oxen.

Don't know if I'm going to finish it or not. I feel like I've got sunk costs now, but damn, it's boring. Why oh why can't historians write well? Do they really think we're going to be impressed by big words and lots of details? Do they really think that convoluted sentence structure makes us think they're smarter? The writer is trying to cover four centuries of life, all over the world, but he skips Africa and Australia almost entirely, dwells on France overmuch, and tends to throw everything together with such poor organization that it's hard to tell which fact relates to which century.

After this I'm going to have to read some YA to cleanse my palette.
Profile Image for Aaron Gertler.
194 reviews69 followers
February 3, 2019
I can't possibly top this review from Reddit. Read it.

If the review sounds interesting, the book will be interesting; if not, not. I'm the sort of person who will happily read 20 pages about how much better bread has gotten since the 17th century, so... yes, I'm a fan of The Structures of Everyday Life, as well as Braudel's whole thing.

(I suppose it's good to know about kings and battles, but most of human history, measured in "total moments of human experience", has been about things like "making food", "wearing clothes" and "trying not to get sick". Braudel has that stuff covered.)
Profile Image for Todd Stockslager.
1,642 reviews26 followers
April 30, 2020
Review title: Everyday people

History is often told as accounts of the "great men" or "great moments" which end up in the classroom and in the national consciousness. Braudel takes a different path: he tells the history of everyday people and everyday life in the 15th to 18th centuries, in this first of a three-volume survey history. Volume II (subtitled The Wheels of Commerce) covers more traditional national economic history of the period, and Volume III (subtitled The Perspective of the World) international relations and trade.

One reason many historians don't take this approach is the difficulty of finding and synthesizing data on how everyday people lived in those centuries. The poor, the rural, the serfs, the women, the unexceptional just aren't usually documented in sources that have survived. Their homes aren't notable palaces, they can't afford fine fashion or rich foods in venues that are attended and described by the affluent and the influencers. Much of the data has to be estimated or extrapolated from what has been gathered and can be assembled and synthesized. When it comes to quantifiable conclusions Braudel often resorts to estimated calculations and ranges of possible minimums and maximums, and when he makes statements about the non-quantifiable they are many times couched as anecdotal or apocryphal. These qualified conclusions don't detract from Braudel's monumental achievement in producing a global narrative of such broad scope.

While "great men" fight wars, lead councils of war and religion, and write great treatises of science, literature, or philosophy, everyday people in everyday life work to supply the food, clothing, and transport they need to keep body and soul intact.


Diets that were primarily vegetarian during the 15th to 18th centuries enabled population growth because calorie yields per acre for wheat or rice vs. livestock are so much higher. While modern vegetarianism is focused on the dietary benefits to the individual, the collective value to human societies is an interesting consideration that I would never have thought of without Braudel's study. Braudel identifies three levels of food culture:

1. The plow, most of Europe and Asia and the northern part of Africa

2. The hoe, a broad band across the Americas, southern Africa, and southern Asia where "the people involved are remarkably homogeneous, with inevitable local variations." (P. 174)

3. The hunter/fisher/gatherer, what Braudel calls "the primitive peoples . . . [who] do not control their environment: at best they manage to slip in between the obstacles and constraints it offers." (P. 178). They live on the northern and southern fringes of the globe, such as Australia, far northern Europe and North America, and southern South America.


While Braudel is blunt about the difficulty of assembling and synthesizing the data through Everyday Life, he consistently treats the data with the seriousness and value it deserves. It is only in talking about the variations in clothing styles across the centuries and cultures in scope, as fashion, that he feels the need to address the possible challenge of frivolity head-on, and he does it in a powerful statement about the impact of tradition and the innovation of change that makes a convincing argument for the value of this entire volume:
Is fashion in fact such a trifling thing? Or is it, as I prefer to think, rather an indication of deeper phenomena - of the energies, possibilities, demands and joie de vivre of a given society, economy and civilization?. . . . I do not regard these as idle remarks. Can it have been merely by coincidence that the future was to belong to the societies fickle enough to care about changing the colours, materials and shapes of costume, as well as the social order and the map of the world - societies, that is, which were ready to break with their traditions? There is a connection. Did not Chardin also say of the Persians, who 'are not anxious for new discoveries and inventions,' that 'they believe they possess all that is required in the way of necessities and conveniences for living, and are content to remain so'. Tradition was both a strength and a straitjacket. Perhaps if the door is to be opened to innovation, the source of all progress, there must be first some restlessness which may express itself in such trifles as dress, the shape of shoes and hairstyles? Perhaps too, a degree of prosperity is needed to foster any innovating movement? (p. 323-324)


Braudel writes that if he mixed up pictures of transport technologies from the 15th to the 18th centuries and from all the regions of the world with no captions, readers would be able to identify the geographic region (from clues like Chinese sedan chairs, Indian elephants, or northern Africa camel caravans) but not the century from which each came. Adoption of technological changes in everyday life depends less on their technical costs and benefits than on the readiness and willingness of societies to adapt to the disruptions to everyday life that the technology drives. "No innovation has any value except in relation to the social pressure which maintains and imposes it." (P. 431). Throughout the period people and information moved at the speed of feet, hooves, and sails. It is a limitation--driven by the limitations of the available energy sources of the centuries--that is easy for those of us moving at internal combustion and jet engine speeds to completely miss.

Other major topics include furniture and housing (Braudel is referenced in Home: A Short History of an Idea which I just read). The book is heavily illustrated with art from the period reinforcing the data and Braudel's conclusions from it, and is heavily footnoted as well, as you can expect given the difficulty of assembling small facts about small lives from so many sources. The now 40-year-old vocabulary translated from the original French may not always flow smoothly to the modern eye but combined with Braudel's self-deprecating wit add an endearing and sometimes cozy conversational style to the narrative.

While Braudel's narrative and conclusions have since been amended and extended by more modern histories focused on the untraditional fringes, Braudel has never been disproven or abandoned, and his remains the foundation for histories of everyday life. It took a big writer to tackle the unruliness of the data and accept the uncertainties in its gaps to map out the paths of everyday life. It is a path worth taking with him.
Profile Image for الصفاء.
554 reviews342 followers
December 5, 2018

فرناند بروديل هو أحد أشهر المؤرخين الفرنسيين خلال القرن العشرين بل وأحد أكبر المؤرخين الذين عرفهم العالم حتى اليوم. وهو أحد مؤسسي المدرسة الفرنسية الجديدة لكتابة التاريخ المعروفة باسم «مدرسة الحوليات» التي رأت النور في ثلاثينات القرن الماضي «العشرين».

يقتصر كتاب الحضارة المادية والاقتصاد والرأسمالية من تأليف فرنان بردول على دراسة الحضارة من القرن الخامس عشر حتى القرن الثامن عشر، بـأجزائه الثلاثة. يعتبر كتاب موسوعي ومن أهم الكتب التي ظهرت في فرنسا في القرن العشرين في تناوله لمرحلة مفصلية في تاريخ البشرية وليس في تاريخ أوروبا فقط.

«إن الهدف السري للتاريخ، ودافعه العميق، ليس شرح وتفسير ما هو معاصر»، إحدى المقولات الأساسية التي يؤكد عليها بروديل في سيرورة التاريخ هو أن التبدلات العميقة ـ- المنعطفات – تتم على ما يسميه «المدى الطويل» بحيث أنها تستغرق أجيالا كاملة. ومقولة أساسية أخرى أكّد عليها بروديل هي تأكيده على أن دور العوامل الاقتصادية والاجتماعية في صياغة تاريخ مجتمعاتها وفي صياغة «قواعد الحضارات».
يتجزأ الكتاب إلى ثلاثة مجلدات، الأول بعنوان الحياة اليومية وبنياتها (الممكن والمستحيل) ثم يتحدث المجلد الثاني عن التبادل التجاري وعملياته ويأتي المجلد الثالث والأخير بعنوان العالم والزمان.

ي المجلد الأول يحاول المؤلف ما أمكن في وضع العالم في الميزان من أجل التعرف على حدود الممكن في عالم ما قبل الصناعة ومن بين هذه الحدود المكان الهائل الذي تمثله الحياة المادية، المتصلة بالسكان والغذاء والملبس والمسكن والتقنيات والنقود والمدن.

يقول برودل:
إننا نسعى إلى ضم كل العناصر لكي نحدد مجال عمل الاقتصاد بصوره المختلفة في الحقبة السابقة على عصر الثورة الصناعية، ولكي نفهم هذا الاقتصاد بصوره المختلفة وبكل ابعاده ولكن أليس هناك حد؟ حد أعلى تقف عنده حياة الإنسان كلها ويحيط بها شبيها بخط الحدود الإقليمي العريض. إن الحد الذي يمتد في كل عصر من العصور حتى في عصرنا الحالي نفسه بين الممكن والمستحيل بين ما يمكن بلوغه وبين ما استحال على البشر بلوغه لأن طعامهم لم يكن كافيا ولأن عددهم كان اما أقل أو أكثر مما ينبغي بالقياس إلى مواردهم ولأن عملهم لم يكن منتجا بدرجة كافية ولأن ترويض الطبيعة لم يكن قد بدأ إلا لتوه والملاحظ أن هذه الحدود لم تتغير مطلقا في الفترة بين القرن الخامس عشر والقرن الثامن عشر وأن البشر لم يفيدوا كل الإفادة من إمكاناتهم التي أتيحت لهم بل ساروا بخطى بطيئة وبليدة. وهكذا سرت في عدة اتجاهات الممكن والمستحيل الدور الأرضي والدور الأول صور الحياة اليومية وكان هذا هو ما جعل هدف هذا الكتاب يتشعب ويتعقد منذ التخطيط له وقبل أن يبدأ العمل فيه.
Profile Image for Sean Sullivan.
129 reviews74 followers
August 18, 2007
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 fashion in the courts of Europe is covered here in great detail.

As I said in my review of volume two of this work* Braudel is all over the place in these books, chasing every detail and argument to their end, and it can be difficult to grasp the important threads running through the work. In the first volume this isn’t as much of an issue. Braudel is still all over the place, but since he is really only setting the stage, it isn’t as important to try and pick up his overall theory. Volume two is where he really lays out his argument for the separation of capitalism and the market and why certain places in Europe became economic power houses and others didn’t.**

As in volume two, Braudel is at his best when he’s discussing Europe, and is out of his depth when he deals with the rest of the world. There is a trove of good information in this first volume however, and I would recommend it to the academics out there if only because at some point you may need to be able to speak on the Dutch economy in 1500 or the clothes worn in England by the aristocracy in 1600 and this is the place to get all that good info.

*b/t/w I am amusing the shit out of myself by doing these reviews in a forward and backward chronology.

** This is also an idea that he returns to in extreme detail in volume three, which I am about a quarter done with and find…kind of ehh, actually.
Profile Image for Szuwaks.
56 reviews4 followers
May 16, 2022
Książkę zacząłem czytać w zeszłym roku i dopiero teraz ją skończyłem. Przerwy wynikały z różnych przyczyn, ale na pewno nie dlatego, że była nudna, trudna czy zła. Wręcz przeciwnie.

"Struktury codzienności" to pierwszy tom monumentalnego dzieła francuskiego historyka ze szkoły Annales, Fernanda Braudela. Przedstawia on w nim świat XV-XVIII wieku nie przez pryzmat królów, wojen i polityki, lecz przede wszystkim kultury materialnej, gospodarki i przemian cywilizacyjnych - tzw. długiego trwania, w którego perspektywie pojedyncze wydarzenia stają się nieistotne, a prawdziwe znaczenie mają procesy wielokrotnie przekraczające długość życia człowieka.

O czym pisze w pierwszym tomie? O tym co ludzie uprawiali, hodowali i jedli; o tym jak się ubierali, gdzie mieszkali, jakie było wyposażenie ich domów. I to nie tylko bogaczy, ale i biedaków, mieszkańców miast i wsi. Kolejne rozdziały przedstawiają innowacje technologiczne oraz (co nawet ważniejsze) jak i kiedy się przyjęły i dlaczego dały Europie (przede wszystkim zachodniej) aż taką przewagę nad resztą świata. Osobny rozdział poświęca pieniądzu i jego różnym formom, a w ostatnim przedstawia miasta i ich różne typy. W większości tych rozdziałów wplata również opowieść o kapitalizmie, ale nie tym bliższym współczesności, związanym z rewolucją przemysłową i wielkimi fabrykami, ale dawnym, mającym swoje początki jeszcze w średniowieczu, związanym z kupcami.

Wydaje się to ogromem informacji jak na jedną książkę i rzeczywiście tak jest. Jednak, jak sam autor zaznacza, jest ona jedynie wstępem i wprowadzeniem do tematów, o których będzie dalej rozprawiał w kolejnych dwóch, jeszcze obszerniejszych tomach. Powiedzieć, że Braudel wykonał olbrzymią pracę, to jak nic nie powiedzieć. Odwołuje się on do licznych źródeł i opracowań, które pozwalają mu przedstawić świat od kolonii w Nowym Świecie, aż po Chiny i Japonię; od północy Europy, aż po Indie Wschodnie. Jednocześnie, mimo że jest to dzieło naukowe, opisuje to w sposób bardzo przystępny i interesujący, również dla laika. Chapeau bas. Ale żeby nie było, że smaruję tutaj laurkę. Trzeba mieć na uwadze, że jest to książka sprzed pół wieku (oryginalnie ten tom wyszedł w 1967) i część informacji czy opracowań na które się powoływał mogło się zdezaktualizować (tu jako przykład te w odniesieniu do Polski - Braudel powołuje się na prace Witolda Kuli, który nie był złym historykiem, ale część swoich prac pisał w okresie stalinowskim, a jego koncepcje zostały później obalone).

Polecam. Zdecydowanie polecam wszystkim zainteresowanym historią codzienności, historią gospodarczą i powiązanymi. Jak tylko przeczytam kolejne tomy, podzielę się swoimi wrażeniami.
Profile Image for Cool_guy.
143 reviews39 followers
December 17, 2021
Two thoughts:

God, it must've smelled horrible!!

When looked at through the prism of events, of "one damn thing after another", history is a procession of horrors. You start to think that it's a miracle we've made it this far at all. Braudel isn't interested in events, but in their material foundations, the objects of daily life upon which battles and politics and all the rest depend. From this perspective, history, despite all the calamities (or perhaps because, surprises one with it's durability. There are pockets of dymanism here and there. For most people in the early modern period, however, history didn't exist; things moved too slowly. If you were a peasant, changes occured at a scale and a pace too slow to observe. Even amidst war or pestilence, you saw very little difference between your father's life and your own, and you imagined a similar life for your children.
Profile Image for Holly S.
6 reviews14 followers
November 16, 2022
Favorite lines in the book, here when Braudel says “progress” he’s speaking of the progress of labor-saving technology to become widespread in the premodern world: “There were slaves in Greece and Rome, and too many highly efficient coolies in China. In fact there is never any progress unless a higher value is set on human labor. When man has a certain cost price as a source of energy, then it is necessary to think about aiding him or, better still, replacing him.” Page 339
Technology that reduces socially necessary labor time thus, according to Braudel, becomes widespread enough to replace forms of slavery only when a higher value is placed on human labor.
Profile Image for Gib.
93 reviews2 followers
May 15, 2020

So that's why we're the way we are! And for topical entertainment, check over the section on pandemics.
Profile Image for Aykut Karabay.
101 reviews6 followers
February 17, 2020
Bu İlk cildde 15-18. yy arasında kentler,teknik,para,konut,yiyecek,vs. üzerinden kapitalizm çözümlemesi yapıyor Braudel. Devletlerin,kentlerin,köy ve kasabaların oluşumu, birbirine göre evrimlerini ve gelişmelerini detaylıca anlatıyor ve kapitalizmin yarattığı aralarındaki gelir adaletsizliğini çözümlüyor. Başlıca Avrupa kentlerini gelişim nedenleri ve coğrafyaları bağlamında çözümlüyor. Kendi disiplinler arası yöntemini uyguladığı, okuması yorucu ancak muazzam bir eser çıkmış ortaya. Şimdi sıra 3’lü maddi uygarlık serisinin diğer iki cildinde...
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