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

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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,440 ratings  ·  89 reviews
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 techniq
Paperback, 623 pages
Published December 23rd 1992 by University of California Press (first published 1979)
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Start your review of Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life
(Not everyone will find this book easy to read. The author makes no concessions whatsoever to the reader. The book is crammed with place names and technical vocabulary from weaving, joining, planing, sailing, ploughing, leaching, waxing, glazing, coining, minting, metallurgy, etc. etc... none of which are ever located or explained. Readers of Whitman or Catullus, poets who revel in proper nouns, will not be troubled by this cornucopia of names. For me, the book was fabulous, rich, insightful... ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 complet
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Okay, then. Let's be clear: This is how it's done. This is how the structures and flows and mapping of another world, another time are analysed. This is how it's done. The first volume of Braudel's 3-volume "Structures of Everyday Life: Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th-C." is magisterial in the clear sense of the word: the work of a master.

This isn't narrative history. I'll warn you about that. This is an analysis of the bones of history, of the economics and commerce and geography and cl
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs with an interest in social history
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Braudel's work is considered to be one of the seminal works in documenting the evolution of everyday life (throughout many centuries) and how it played into the bringing about the modern world. Braudel wasn't interested in kings, battles or the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms.

Braudel's interest was in economics, food production, living spaces and so on. In 2014 this style of historical research isn't radical or unusual and even historians who are primarily focused on the big picture will
The chapter on daily bread is compelling and worth the cover price of the book. An amazing recreation of the early modern period.

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

Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fernand Braudel is one of the few authors out there who writes books that people call terribly boring and hugely interesting for exactly the same reason: his approach to history is a amass a huge pile of details and then let them breathe. There are 100 pages about population, and a solid 40 about growing wheat. There are whole subchapters about furniture.

This book takes a view of world history from 1500-1800 and delves especially into issues of population, food, drink, fashion, technology and m
John Jr.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"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
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Braudel is a French historian famous for his longue duree conception of large-scale change, which he laid out in his Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, tome 1 : Les structures du quotidien, written in a POW camp in WWII (ha, what did YOU do when you were in a POW Camp in WWII? Olivier Messaien, put your hand down.) In this three volume set he lays out his argument for a conception of history as taking place on three main spheres: material life, which has develop ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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 detai ...more
Todd Stockslager
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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)
Kater Cheek
Oct 07, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Those who think about the apocalypse, and wonder if it will happen to us, should read this book and be reminded that great tragedies are the norm, rather than the exception for most of human history.

I'm going to start a review of this book even though I'm not done with it, because I think I may not finish it. It's a little on the pedantic side, with the author using academese and endeavoring to prove the merits of his methodology even at the cost of readability. It has illustrations, which are n
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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,
Sean Sullivan
The first volume of Braudel’s massive work on the construction of capitalism in the 15th to 18th century sets the stage for all that is to come. It is an exhaustive survey of the social and economics conditions in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world at the beginning of the 15th century.

The amount of primary research that went into this is mind boggling. Everything you ever wanted to know about how much livestock the average farmer in Batvia had to what were the trends in fashio
Aaron Gertler
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 "ma
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing

So that's why we're the way we are! And for topical entertainment, check over the section on pandemics.
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This, the first volume of Braudel's magnum opus, is a wide-ranging world tour of everyday life and it's varied conditions in the pre-industrial world. So much ink has been spilled on the Annales School of history that I feel that I have little to add on that, but Braudel is a pleasure to read, and doing so makes me wish that I had a better memory to keep track the endlessly fascinating facts and anecdotes that inhabit every page. One should also note that reading such a long work is not the chor ...more
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a bad book. Too detailed for me though overall and I must admit that I had to skip it in places. The book is about the way in which Europe predominantly segued into the 19th century and it covers the 15th – 18th centuries and all the fascinating things that happened. It juxtaposes developments in Europe against what happened in the Islamic world, china and India most of the time. The book has some really random chapters in it. It covered: populations around the world, development of food, th ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Incredibly broad and dense look at elements of daily life around the world, including housing, food, money, clothes, transportation, and more. Exhaustively researched, and very insightful. His points tend to get away from him though. It's less of a problem in the middle, but in the chapters on population and later on cities, he gets lost in his own argument and then just hares off on random points before dropping the entire line of inquiry. Also, weighted very heavily towards European history. B ...more
Feb 17, 2013 added it
Shelves: unfinished
Abandoned. A fascinating, if dense book, but I was concerned that I was filling my head with dated and wrong ideas and nothing to counter them. Unfortunately writing grand unifying accounts of history is out of vogue unless you're Jared Diamond... and probably for a reason. ...more
Avis Black
Feb 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, economics
He doesn't get 5 stars because of the torturous prose (it must be nasty to read in French), but this is a simply brilliant book. ...more
Carl Johnson
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
This book, the first of three volumes, reset my level of expectations for history books when the English translation came out in 1979.
Peter Harrison
The foundation layer for Braudel's trilogy this book is interesting for it's focus on the base level of life. Energy use, transport, cereal crops, patterns of travel and settlement, and so on during the period for the 15th and 18th centuries, and therefore the lead up to the development of capitalism and the modern age.

This makes the basis for an interesting read, in particular in the chapters on cereal cultivation and the difference imposed by the differing needs of a wheat-based or rice-based
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is close to a perfect work of history. Every page overflows with interesting and new-feeling material/insights/perspectives. I don't think the book really has an overall narrative or argument (though at times he does draw broader conclusions), but it doesn't need one. It is an astounding work of documentation, and brings world after world to life in ways that make me want to read and learn more about all of them, while also doing a good job of gesturing at standing historical questions rega ...more
Josh Katzenmeyer
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This reads like a history textbook reborn as a fever dream. It's unlikely that anyone would walk away from this and retain more than half of the information, but I imagine with each new visit readers will walk away with something they'd never mulled over too seriously: the importance of the German stove and its history, French doctors who claim to cure syphilis with fire, women from the middle ages boasting about their dirty feet, a king's wine freezing at the pour, the outstanding leisure of ow ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Longer review to come after I finish parts II and III. So far, though, I feel comfortable saying that this is one of the most eye-opening and awe-inspiring works of history I've ever read, one of the few that really impresses me with the sheer size of the past, while maintaining readable and pleasant prose throughout. Braudel is a master of giving details on details which slowly cohere into some kind of pattern, and then pulling back to give a smart, crisp conclusion which makes that pattern com ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: no-ebook
This book is not for everyone. Basically a huge pile of details, collected from (it seems) research, paintings, and speculation of the author. Mostly centered on Europe and especially France, with occasional nods to China and India. Despite the seemingly haphazard coverage, many of said details are quite fascinating and, as noted by the author, not the sort of thing that tend to get much coverage in typical history books - what did people wear? What did they eat? What did their houses look like? ...more
Ann Evans
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in history, but tired of all the kings, queens, and generals, this book will intrigue you. It is about the Common [Wo]Man. Braudel did his research in the halls of records, not the palaces. What did people eat? What work did they do? What changed their lives? What were their rituals, clothes, and habits? The breadth of research is astonishing and I discovered, after learning all that, that people five hundred years ago were pretty much like me—a reassuring discovery.
Erik Wirfs-Brock
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just a vast mass of interesting facts about everyday life during the indicated. Kind of overwhelming, took me forever to read. Thesis in this first volume seems kind of weak, but it's more fun to read then his great volume on the history of the Mediterranean. ...more
Erika Schelby
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it

Essential: This is a book to read over and over. It is a reference text,
showing the amazing connections and mutual learning processes
going on in our world.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Foundational text of the Annales school of historiography. Indispensable.
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Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects: The Mediterranean (1923–49, then 1949–66), Civilization and Capitalism (1955–79), and the unfinished Identity of France (1970–85). His reputation stems in part from his writings, but even more from his success in making the Annales School the most important engine of historica ...more

Other books in the series

Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century (3 books)
  • Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol 2: The Wheels of Commerce
  • Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 3: The Perspective of the World

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