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Bitter as never before

David Blackbourn: Einstein

3 February 2000
Einstein's German World 
by Fritz Stern.
Princeton, 335 pp., £15.95, October 1999, 9780691059396
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... historians whose work is ‘weighted down with discourse about the text’, just as his praise for Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre (no argument there) is followed by a peevish complaint about contemporary Annalistes who seem ‘more interested in deconstructing method than in reconstructing the past’. This is an oddly myopic response to the famous ...

Barbarians

Stuart Airlie

17 November 1983
Medieval Germany and its Neighbours 900-1250 
by K.J. Leyser.
Hambledon, 302 pp., £18, February 1983, 0 907628 08 7
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The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987 
by Rosamond McKitterick.
Longman, 414 pp., £9.95, June 1983, 0 582 49005 7
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Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies presented to J.M. Wallace-Hadrill 
edited by Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough and Roger Collins.
Blackwell, 345 pp., £27.50, September 1983, 0 631 12661 9
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...  ...

Rolling Stone

Peter Burke

20 August 1981
The Past and the Present 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 274 pp., £8.75, June 1981, 0 7100 0628 4
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... and society. The history of ‘collective mentalities’, as practised by French historians from Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre before the Second World War, to Philippe Ariès and Michel Vovelle today, appeals to him for much the same reason. The long section on ‘minds and manners.’ in his Crisis of the Aristocracy was one of the first serious ...
6 February 1986
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 350 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 571 13239 1
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Chine et Christianisme: Action et Réaction 
by Jacques Gernet.
Gallimard, 342 pp., frs 154, May 1982, 2 07 026366 5
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... tradition of intellectual history the histoire des mentalités developed between the wars by Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre, Georges Lefebvre and, not least, the Sinologist Marcel Granet, a follower of Emile Durkheim whose major work, La Pensée Chinoise, appeared in 1934. Characteristic of this approach is the triple ...
6 March 1986
Trial by Impotence: Virility and Marriage in Pre-Revolutionary France 
by Pierre Darmon, translated by Paul Keegan.
Chatto, 234 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 9780701129149
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The Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice 
by Guido Ruggiero.
Oxford, 223 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 19 503465 1
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The Tuscans and their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427 
by David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber.
Yale, 404 pp., £32, March 1985, 0 300 03056 8
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Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy 
by Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Chicago, 338 pp., £25.50, September 1985, 0 226 43925 9
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French Women in the Age of Enlightenment 
edited by Samia Spencer.
Indiana, 429 pp., $35, November 1984, 0 253 32481 5
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... Mandrou, a historian of mentalities who had himself been a pupil of Lucien Febvre. Like his friend Marc Bloch, Febvre was a kind of historical anthropologist who insisted on the otherness of the past, and on the need to study the unspoken assumptions in different periods as a way of making this otherness intelligible. To sense the difference between our ...

Fallen Idols

David A. Bell

23 July 1992
The Fabrication of Louis XIV 
by Peter Burke.
Yale, 242 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 300 05153 0
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... the history of royal ceremonial in France, which provided the backdrop for Louis’s innovations. Marc Bloch pioneered its study with his classic The Royal Touch, which investigated how French and English kings supposedly ‘cured’ scrofula and other skin diseases by a quasi-magical laying on of hands. Subsequent works have illuminated royal funerals ...

Where have all the horses gone?

Eric Banks: Horse Power

5 July 2018
The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History 
by Susanna Forrest.
Atlantic, 418 pp., £9.99, October 2017, 978 0 85789 900 2
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Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship 
by Ulrich Raulff, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.
Penguin, 448 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198317 2
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... century; it was its intellectual assistant, its speech therapist.Raulff, who has written books on Marc Bloch, Aby Warburg and Stefan George, makes inspired connections across the history of technology, critical theory, military history, cultural anthropology, philosophy and art. Farewell to the Horse is a narrative that combines odd historical back ...
18 July 1985
... Question: What is the basic idea in your philosophy? Bloch: That I cannot see anything at very close quarters, anything that presents itself in front of my eyes. There has to be distance ... Proverbs express it very simply: ‘The weaver knows not what he weaves’; ‘At the foot of the lighthouse there is no light’; ‘The prophet is without honour in his own country ...

Nothing Becomes Something

Thomas Laqueur: Pathography

21 September 2016
When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi.
Bodley Head, 228 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 84792 367 7
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... cultures have been attracted for millennia. I think sometimes of the great French historian Marc Bloch on the brink of death: the teenage boy to whom he was handcuffed as the two were about to be executed by the SS in the summer of 1944 was terrified. ‘This will hurt,’ the boy cried. ‘No, my boy, it won’t hurt,’ ...

Pick a nonce and try a hash

Donald MacKenzie: On Bitcoin

18 April 2019
... abbot had finally succeeded in prohibiting the townspeople from milling grain by hand, and, as Marc Bloch recorded in an article from 1935, translated in the posthumous collection Land and Work in Medieval Europe (1967), ‘from all over the town the millstones were brought into the monastery, and the monks paved their parlours with them, like so many ...
12 November 1987
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... as the original sin of the history of mentalities, as practised in the early 20th century by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. It was part of their Durkheimian heritage. More recently, historians of mentalities have been trying to avoid these dangers, but Schama continues to follow the Durkheimian model, acknowledging a ‘bias towards emphasising those ...

Hangchow Retrouvé

Emma Rothschild

22 May 1980
... which served iced food or vegetarian dishes. Its markets were ‘innumerable’, according to Marco Polo, selling game, varieties of apricot, early aubergines, live baby fish carried inland in baskets. The capital of Southern Sung China was the largest city in the world and ‘without doubt the finest and most splendid’.1 The most exalted intellectuals ...
22 April 1993
A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... here turn communist. Postan was astonished to find that the medievalists ignored the work of Marc Bloch and none of the lectures on political thought mentioned Marx. Brooke explains on his very first page that though Cambridge draws its students from far and wide, ‘it is also profoundly inward-looking.’ So is his book. Of the effect that ...

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

T.J. Clark: Benedict Anderson

21 September 2006
Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 240 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84467 086 4
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Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 224 pp., £14.99, January 2006, 1 84467 037 6
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... religious community – he has some unforgettable pages on the subject, working with ideas from Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre – was the model of togetherness that the nation displaced. Or whose historical authority – whose productivity and plausibility – the nation took up into itself. I am not a partisan of the idea that the age of the ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’

8 February 2018
The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... opening words – epigraphic if not actually placed as an epigraph – are by the historian Marc Bloch: ‘L’historien ressemble à l’ogre de la fable. Là où il flaire la chair humaine, il sait que là est son gibier.’ It is a potent image, at once menacing and playful. The historian is like the ‘ogre of fairy tales’ because when ‘he ...

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