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The Structures of Everyday Life (1979)

by Fernand Braudel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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

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By examining in detail the material life of pre-industrial 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.… (more)
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» See also 15 mentions

English (9)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Look up "rice" in the index. I dare you!
  kencf0618 | Apr 3, 2022 |
economics in early modern Europe
  ritaer | Jun 26, 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 eachproverbial page isn't tured 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.
( )
1 vote jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I think it would be helpful if I was more interested in the topic and know the larger picture Braudel was working towards. As it was, it was interesting, if forgettable culmination of a lot of interesting research ( )
  Lorem | Sep 7, 2018 |
The work is a wonderful example of the Annales School of historiography. A student of Lucien Febvre (1878-1956), Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) stresses long-term social, geographic and environmental factors. The mass of data provided does appear to give the lie to the importance of Great Men or the struggles of contending "classes".

The author does not actually "skip" details -- the data is abundant. But his encyclopedic focus is on the determinative facts taking shape in Europe over the 15th-18th centuries. He is not shy about interconnected global references. He is looked for information distinct from opinion and theory. He cites many "economists" --mostly Spanish and French [530], but also Adam Smith, Marx--but for their data, not their ideology. That may explain the omission of Bastiat and Mises.

The information is continental, not national, in character. Cadastral but not political or class records.

The expertise and data of the working classes and the native inhabitants is not overlooked. For but one example: "not one single nutritious plant of general usefulness has been added to the list of those previously known, so careful and complete was the exploration to which the primitive peoples subjected the plant world".[62]

One can find him tracing frauds and brigandage,usually sponsored or funded by feudal lords or local "nobility, and the mercantile responses. And the vast inventories of inventions, most long delayed in their application, is vetted and exposed, in a detailed explosion on "technology".

This work explodes the myth often repeated that the European "West" knew little about the Islamic world, or China. Here we find the names of travelers and traders and their detailed observations. It is more true that the mullahs and the emperors were indifferent to the West and actively prevented their people from being informed.

1. Weight of Numbers - demographics, scales of reference, biologic events (famine, disease cycles). Documents the fact that from the 15th century on, population fluctuations occurred roughly simultaneously. The globe became a single "stock" as statisticians say. [34]

2. Daily Bread. Data on Wheat, Rice, Maize. Diet between the 15th-18th centuries essentially consisted of vegetable foods. The spectacular population increase in Asia was because land devoted to agriculture feeds 10-20 times as many as stock-raising.

3. Superfluity and Sufficiency -- Food and drink, luxuries, conquest by sugar. Drinks and stimulants. Eternal "class struggle" over luxuries. Cites Bachelard: "the attainment of the superfluous causes greater spiritual excitement than the attainment of necessities." Productivity is the daughter of desire.

Viewed with poverty. It is often thought that hardship increases the farther back towards the middle ages one goes. In fact the opposite is true of the standard of living of the majority. [193] Plate of Velasquez' 1618 Old woman with eggs. [213]

Noting the opium use amongst the Turks and spreading through India to the East Indies along the lines of the Islamic expansion.[261] The Mogul's monopoly of poppy fields thereafter seized by the East India Company.

Tobacco conquered the world between 1600-1700. Violent government restrictions across the globe were ignored. [264] By the end of the 18th century "everyone in China smoked"--men, women and children, rich and poor. Same was true in Bergundy. In 1723, Virginia and Maryland exported through England to the world.

4. Superfluity and Sufficiency -- Houses, clothes, fashion; materials; interiors; costume and fashion. "Where is luxury more conspicuous than in house, furniture and dress?" [266]

"Runaway slaves living in the sertao in independent republics...lived a healthier life in the 19th century than their masters on the plantations". [293]

5. Spread of Technology: Sources of energy, metallurgy.

6. Spread of Technology: Revolution and delays. Great innovations -- gunpowder, printing press, navigation.

7. Money. Currencies, metallic money, capital flight and hoarding, instruments of credit. {Fails to mention Georg Simmel}

8. Towns and Cities. Size, weight, division of labour, newcomers, self-consciousness, artillery and carriages, geography and communications; the case of Islam; originality of Western towns; Free worlds; patterns of development; big cities -- Naples, St Petersburg, Peking, London.

In the second volume, the author turns to the preeminence of economic life and capitalism--with categories of "developed" and "backward" already made familiar to us.[103]

American historians are no longer completely ignoring the Annales school, "Germs, Guns and Steel" written by Diamond, the geologist, was treated the same. ( )
  keylawk | Aug 25, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fernand Braudelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Reynolds, SiânTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Voor Paule Braudel ,die mij ook dit boek heeft geschonken
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By examining in detail the material life of pre-industrial 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.

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