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4 June 1981
Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages 
by Jacques​ Le Goff, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 384 pp., £13.50, January 1981, 0 226 47080 6
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... and finally by a number of clerics. For many historians, this detail, recorded by the chronicler John of Worcester, would be no more than a fascinating piece of useless information. For Professor Jacques Le Goff, it is a clue which helps us to understand the 12th century a little better. Le Goff, whose collected essays, written between 1956 and 1976, and published in French in 1977, have just made ...

Je sui uns hom

Tom Shippey

1 June 1989
Medieval Civilisation 400-1500 
by Jacques​ Le Goff, translated by Julia Barrow.
Blackwell, 393 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 631 15512 0
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The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages. Vol. I: 350-950 
edited by Robert Fossier, translated by Janet Sondheimer.
Cambridge, 556 pp., £30, February 1989, 0 521 26644 0
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The Medieval Imagination 
by Jacques​ Le Goff, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 293 pp., £21.95, November 1988, 0 226 47084 9
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Concepts of Cleanliness: Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages 
by Georges Vigarello, translated by Jean Birrell.
Cambridge/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 239 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 521 34248 1
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Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power 
by Jesse Byock.
California, 264 pp., $32.50, October 1988, 0 520 05420 2
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... by hand, maybe with a wooden spade. In those circumstances the oldest horse and the rustiest harrow must have seemed positively glamorous. It is reflections like these which spring from the pages of Jacques Le Goff’s Medieval Civilisation. The whole book turns on a fascinating blend of the brutally materialistic and the generously imaginative. The Medieval world did not know how to keep wine, Le Goff ...

Into Your Enemy’s Stomach

Alexander Murray: Louis IX

8 April 2010
Saint Louis 
by Jacques​ Le Goff, translated by Gareth Evan Gollrad.
Notre Dame, 947 pp., £61.95, February 2009, 978 0 268 03381 1
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... was an indispensable element in that success. His heirs made sure he was canonised and ever since that happened, in 1297, ‘Saint Louis’ has been a cornerstone of French national history. Jacques Le Goff’s brilliant biography, Saint Louis, came out in French in 1996, and is now published in a readable English translation (despite gaucheries, like the retention of the French forms of names ...

Plenty of Puff

Charles West: Charlemagne

9 December 2019
King and Emperor: A New Life of Charlemagne 
by Janet Nelson.
Allen Lane, 704 pp., £30, July, 978 0 7139 9243 4
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... the wreckage of the Carolingian heartlands, they saw the costs of his empire, and reflected gloomily on its – to them inevitable – failure. As recently as 2003, the eminent French historian Jacques Le Goff dismissed Charlemagne’s empire as an ‘anti-Europe’, created by brute force against the will of its inhabitants, and against the spirit of natural European diversity. Le Goff even ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer

10 November 1994
Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... and helped their learning to seem significant. Court philosophers touted their role as purveyors of secret skills invaluable to the management of church and state, becoming what the medievalist Jacques Le Goff calls ‘an intellectual technocracy’. In the 13th century, the Franciscan philosopher Roger Bacon explained to the Pope that his astrological and technical skills promised big military and ...

Hungry Ghosts

Paul Connerton

19 April 1990
Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Parts I-III 
edited by Michel Feher, Ramona Naddaff and Nadia Tazi.
Zone, 480 pp., £35.95, May 1989, 0 942299 25 6
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... in later Greek thought, partly in its philosophical writing (in which a body is separated from a soul), partly in its medical writing (in which the structure and forces of the body are itemised). Jacques Le Goff shows that Medieval European political thought, like that of Classical Antiquity, persistently perceived analogies between the ways in which the human body functioned and the ways in which ...

Miracles, Marvels, Magic

Caroline Walker Bynum: Medieval Marvels

9 July 2009
The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages 
by Robert Bartlett.
Cambridge, 170 pp., £17.99, April 2008, 978 0 521 70255 3
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... understandable within natural laws) and distinguishing both from magic (what appeared to violate natural process but was actually a manipulation of it). Nonetheless, as Bartlett observes (following Jacques Le Goff), medieval writers not only used the words miracula, mirabilia and magica remarkably flexibly and imprecisely, they also had more complex views of phenomena than their stated definitions ...
20 March 1980
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... to the personalities of such men as Lucien Febvre, Braudel, Ernest Labrousse, history and the social sciences have developed in close symbiosis since 1933-45. Historians like Febvre, Braudel, Jacques Le Goff and François Furet have presided successively over the École Pratique des Hautes Études (now the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), through which have passed many men of ...

Eastern Promises

J.L. Nelson: The Christian Holy War

29 November 2007
God’s War: A New History of the Crusades 
by Christopher Tyerman.
Penguin, 1024 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 026980 2
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... of crusading in its heyday. Not even Tyerman’s ingenuity in the later chapters of this book (and they are among the most original and interesting) obscures the decline in crusading after 1291. Jacques Le Goff said many years ago, and recently repeated, that crusading’s only contribution to western culture was the introduction of the apricot. It was an exaggeration but not an unreasonable one ...

Cite ourselves!

Richard J. Evans: The Annales School

3 December 2009
The Annales School: An Intellectual History 
by André Burguière, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Cornell, 309 pp., £24.95, 0 8014 4665 1
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... then emerging in the US. On Febvre’s death in 1956 Braudel succeeded him as director of Annales and the Sixième Section, and brought in a new generation, among them Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Jacques Le Goff and Georges Duby. The enterprise was based in new premises on the boulevard Raspail, where Braudel founded yet another interdisciplinary research centre, the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme ...

Althusser’s Fate

Douglas Johnson

16 April 1981
The Long March of the French Left 
by R.W. Johnson.
Macmillan, 345 pp., £20, March 1981, 0 333 27417 2
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One-Dimensional Marxism 
by Simon Clarke and Terry Lovell.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 85031 367 8
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Communism and Philosophy 
by Maurice Cornforth.
Lawrence and Wishart, 282 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 85315 430 9
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The Crisis of Marxism 
by Jack Lindsay.
Moonraker, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 239 00200 8
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Class in English History 1680-850 
by R.S. Neale.
Blackwell, 250 pp., £12, January 1981, 0 631 12851 4
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... Saint-Anne hospital to begin his research into madness, he inquired whether there was not a danger of his being kept there.) It was difficult to know what would interest Althusser. When the historian Jacques Le Goff, then a fellow normalien, came back from Prague and spoke about the Communist takeover, Althusser did not stop to listen, yet he wished endlessly to discuss British policy in Palestine with ...

Laugh as long as you can

James Davidson: Roman Jokes

15 July 2015
Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling and Cracking Up 
by Mary Beard.
California, 319 pp., £19.95, June 2014, 978 0 520 27716 8
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... This accords with what Beard calls ‘other negative hints which suggest that smiling was not a major part (if a part at all) of Roman social semiotics … it is hard to resist the suggestion of Jacques Le Goff that (in the Latin West at least) smiling as we understand it was an invention of the Middle Ages.’ An unsmiling people might not seem a good hunting-ground for a student of laughter and ...

Worse than Pagans

Tom Shippey: The Church v. the Fairies

1 December 2016
Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church 
by Richard Firth Green.
Pennsylvania, 285 pp., £36, August 2016, 978 0 8122 4843 2
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... back a fool.’ But the rain-making stone was used by Chrétien de Troyes in his romance Yvain, and he too has his character insist on the truth of the story. That is what romancers do of course, but Jacques de Vitry counted Barenton among the marvels it was legitimate to believe in; the Dominican Thomas de Cantimpré ‘went to great lengths to make this phenomenon seem credible’, including faking his ...

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