- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Kirkus ReviewsA plunge into the complex realities of a watershed period in European history, in the company of the remarkable Platter family.
Historian Ladurie, of Paris's noted Collège de France, continues his examination of French popular culture and society by tracing the fate and fortunes of the Platters. Swiss patriarch Thomas was born and abandoned in 1499; forsaking his allotted position as a sheepherder, he roamed Western Europe with a band of beggars and eventually transformed himself into a scholar and influential professor by sheer force of will. We follow him as he joins the Reformation and enters into the rising bourgeoisie. His son Felix, after studying medicine in France, became a physician to the noble and wealthy. As he has done previously for the Middle Ages and other periods (Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, 1978; Carnival in Romans, 1979; etc.), Ladurie unearths a remarkable 16th-century life, deftly using personal narratives, memoirs, diaries, and the like to recreate a dense sensation of actual life (we learn that Felix wore a red silk doublet at his wedding, and the details of the menu, as well). Unlike some who have recently attempted this genre, he is scrupulous in only presenting that which can be documented (there is no imaginative dialogue here). In the language of the Annales school of historiography, of which Ladurie is perhaps the best-known member, this study is a reconstruction of mentalities, an archaeological exploration of the culture and society of early modern Europe. Yet in an attempt to provide an intimate portrait of the tough, remarkably accomplished Platter, his equally determined and successful sons, and their hard, chaotic age, the book sometimes gets bogged down in minutiae, and the narrative thread is sometimes lost.
Still, like his earlier works, this is an impressive achievement.