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Rabelais’s Box

Peter Burke, 3 April 1980

Rabelais 
by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 494 pp., £35, November 1979, 9780715609705
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... When Alcibiades, in that dialogue of Plato’s entitled The Symposium, praises his master Socrates, beyond all doubt the prince of philosophers, he compares him, amongst other things, to a Silenus. Now a Silenus, in ancient days, was a little box, of the kind we see today in apothecaries’ shops, painted on the outside with such gay, comical figures as harpies, satyrs, bridled geese, horned hares, saddled ducks, flying goats, stags in harness, and other devices of that sort, light-heartedly invented for the purpose of mirth, as was Silenus himself, the master of good old Bacchus ...

Reputation

Peter Burke, 21 May 1987

The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 733 pp., £19.95, August 1986, 0 300 03390 7
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Philip IV and the Decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid 
by Steven Orso.
Princeton, 227 pp., £36.70, July 1986, 0 691 04036 2
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... Historians are always claiming that their particular topic of research has been unjustly neglected by their predecessors. The claim, usually exaggerated, occasionally turns out to have some justification. Yet it is rarely so obviously justified as in the case of Professor John Elliott’s rediscovery of a major Spanish statesman of the 17th century, the effective ruler of Spain for more than twenty years and the contemporary, the rival and the opponent of Cardinal Richelieu ...

Patrons

Peter Burke, 15 October 1987

Patronage, Art and Society in Renaissance Italy 
edited by F.W. Kent and Patricia Simons.
Oxford/Humanities Research Centre, 331 pp., £35, June 1987, 0 19 821978 4
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Pienza: The Creation of a Renaissance City 
by Charles Mack.
Cornell, 250 pp., $43.95, June 1987, 9780801416996
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Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice: Bellini, Titian and the Franciscans 
by Rona Goffen.
Yale, 285 pp., £30, July 1986, 0 300 03455 5
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Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance 
by Margaret King.
Princeton, 524 pp., £42.90, April 1986, 0 691 05465 7
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The Venetian Patriciate: Reality versus Myth 
by Donald Queller.
Illinois, 386 pp., $29.95, September 1986, 0 252 01144 9
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Tradesman and Traders: The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe, c.1250-c.1650 
by Richard MacKenney.
Croom Helm, 289 pp., £35, January 1987, 0 7099 1763 5
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Florence, Rome and the Origins of the Renaissance 
by George Holmes.
Oxford, 273 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 19 822576 8
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From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in 15th and 6th-Century Europe 
by Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine.
Duckworth, 224 pp., £29.95, January 1987, 0 7156 2100 9
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Renaissance and Revolt: Essays in the Intellectual and Social History of Early Modern France 
by J.H.M. Salmon.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £30, June 1987, 0 521 32769 5
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... Patrons are patrons,’ a citizen of Florence wrote to the Grand Duke, Ferdinando de’Medici, in 1602: ‘the patron is accountable to no one.’ But what exactly was a patron in Florence or elsewhere in Renaissance Italy? Despite the existence of a large literature on art patronage, the question received few direct answers till the publication in 1981 of a book focused on England: Patronage in the Renaissance, edited by Guy Lytle and Stephen Orgel ...
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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... One of the most lively debates currently engaging the attention of historians, more or less the world over, concerns the so-called ‘revival of narrative’. Ought written history to concentrate on the story of great events, or is the description or analysis of structures an equally important part of the historian’s business? At a time when the pendulum seems to be swinging back to narrative, it is encouraging to find a scholar as gifted as Simon Schama moving in the opposite direction ...

Men’s Honour, Women’s Lives

Peter Burke, 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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... And if you know of any impediments, either of consanguinity, affinity or spiritual relationship, or of any other reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, you are bound to declare the same to us as soon as possible.’ As a child, hearing the banns read out in church, I used to wonder idly what kind of ‘other reason’ there might be ...

Sunflower

Peter Burke, 20 March 1986

Velazquez: Painter and Courtier 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 322 pp., £35, March 1986, 0 300 03466 0
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El Greco and his Patrons: Three Major Projects 
by Richard Mann.
Cambridge, 164 pp., £35, February 1986, 0 521 30392 3
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... The rise of the professional art historian in the later 19th century has been a mixed blessing. Making paintings, statues or buildings are activities which are as much a part of history as making treaties, making motorcars, making war, making love, or making the crops grow. It was good to have art taken seriously by historians of the calibre of Heinrich Wölfflin, but a pity to have it subtracted from the territory of the ordinary historian, the general practitioner ...

State Theatre

Peter Burke, 22 January 1987

The Rome of Alexander VII: 1655-1667 
by Richard Krautheimer.
Princeton, 199 pp., £16.80, November 1985, 9780691040325
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Firearms and Fortifications: Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in 16th-century Siena 
by Simon Pepper and Nicholas Adams.
Chicago, 245 pp., £21.25, October 1986, 0 226 65534 2
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... century, Pope Paul V had his family name, BORGHESIUS, inscribed in equally large letters on St Peter’s, although he had not been responsible for most of the rebuilding. Alexander VII’s self-advertisement appears rather less blatant, but this was due less to his natural diplomacy than to the accident of his dying before he could have the Pantheon ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... Like sociology and anthropology, the study of art and literature, especially the art and literature of the Renaissance, seems to be taking a historical turn in the Eighties. To a historian like myself this trend is obviously encouraging. Indeed, for a historian the problem is not so much to explain the rise of the so-called ‘New Historicism’ associated with Stephen Greenblatt and his friends and followers, as to account for the hostile reactions to it ...

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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... harder than their English counterparts to win lasting admiration. The efforts of Louis XIV, which Peter Burke chronicles in his new book, were truly staggering, even by the standards of Early Modern monarchy. Images of the King were commissioned, Burke recounts, in ...

Good History

Christopher Hill, 5 March 1981

After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... science, crammed with all the riches of the past and of the future.’ And so we move on to Peter Burke, whose book ‘is written for, as well as about, both sociologists and historians’. He defines sociology as ‘the study of human society, with the emphasis on generalising about its structure. History may be defined as the study of human ...

Women on top

David Underdown, 14 September 1989

The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe 
by Rudolf Dekker and Lotte van de Pol.
Macmillan, 128 pp., £27.50, February 1989, 0 333 41252 4
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... with gender, which involves the perception and social construction of those differences. And as Peter Burke points out in his foreword to this short but intriguing book, even historians of gender (and there are now a few of them around) have not made much of the subject of transvestism as it is explored by these two Dutch historians. Yet, as ...

In Search of People’s History

Eric Hobsbawm, 19 March 1981

People’s History and Socialist Theory 
edited by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 417 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 7100 0765 5
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British Labour History 
by E.H. Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 428 pp., £18.50, January 1981, 0 297 77785 8
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... could not bring himself to mention the actual occupation of so undignified a member of society. As Peter Burke points out in a friendly but sceptical contribution to People’s History and Socialist Theory, under such circumstances ‘people’s history’ was a contradiction in terms. We are a long way from Tacitus, upon whom time has taken its ...

Ancient and Modern

M.A. Screech, 19 November 1981

Masters of the Reformation: The Emergence of a New Intellectual Life in Europe 
by Heiko Augustinus Oberman, translated by Dennis Martin.
Cambridge, 269 pp., £22.50, June 1981, 0 521 23098 5
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Montaigne 
by Peter Burke.
Oxford, 96 pp., £5.50, October 1981, 9780192875235
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... as modern as he looks’. In the 74 pages of his contribution to the ‘Past Masters’ series, Peter Burke has to select and condense. He writes clearly on the main topics: scepticism, religion, politics and so on. There is much good sense in this little book, which strives to be fair to opposing views. There are some errors: the prologue to Raimund ...

Born to Network

Anthony Grafton, 22 August 1996

The Fortunes of ‘The Courtier’: The European Reception of Castiglione’s ‘Cortegiano’ 
by Peter Burke.
Polity, 209 pp., £39.50, October 1995, 0 7456 1150 8
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... slow history of how the European aristocracy finally learned to behave in an aristocratic way. Peter Burke treats The Book of the Courtier as an ‘open text’, whose dialogue form and apparent tensions and contradictions may reflect its author’s refusal to offer a simple moral, as well as the long time that he spent at work on it and the changes ...

From Notre Dame to Cluny, via a Beehive Hut

John Bossy: Abelard’s Final Fling, 2 July 1998

Abelard: A Medieval Life 
by M.T. Clanchy.
Blackwell, 416 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 631 20502 0
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... but he does not bang on about it. He is telling a story; his mode, to borrow a phrase from Peter Burke, is thick narrative. First he sets up his characters: Abelard himself; his enemy Bernard of Clairvaux, saint and, on Clanchy’s showing, insufferable rhetorician; his lover, short-lived wife and long-lived correspondent Heloise, niece or ...

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