Bread of Dreams: Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Europe

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In a rich and engaging book that illuminates the lives and attitudes of peasants in preindustrial Europe, Piero Camporesi makes the unexpected and fascinating claim that these people lived in a state of almost permanent hallucination, drugged by their very hunger or by bread adulterated with hallucinogenic herbs. The use of opiate products, administered even to infants and children, was widespread and was linked to a popular mythology in which herbalists and exorcists were important cultural figures. Through a careful reconstruction of the everyday lives of peasants, beggars and the poor, Camporesi presents a vivid and disconcerting image of early modern Europe as a vast laboratory of dreams.
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Editorial Reviews

Critical and analytical examination highlighting the relationship between the musical construction of the symphony and the characteristic ambiguities of its message. Camporesi (Italian literature, U. of Bologna) explores the preoccupations, fears, fantasies, and dreams of the poor in preindustrial Europe. One element of their bizarre imagination, he argues, was their nearly constant state of hallucination caused by hunger, by spoiled food, or by bread that accidently or deliberately contained such psychoactive substances as poppy seed, hemp seed, and ergot. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226092584
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1996
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface by Roy Porter
1. The 'Disease of Wretchedness'
2. Elusive Bread
3. Sacred and Profane Cannibalism
4. 'They Set Out into the World of the Vagabond'
5. 'They Rotted in Their Own Dung'
6. The World Turned Upside Down
7. 'Famine of Living' and 'Times of Suspicion'
8. Night-time
9. Ritual Battles and Popular Frenzies
10. Medicinia Pauperum
11. 'Tightness of Purse'
12. Collective Vertigo
13. Hyperbolic Dreams
14. Artificial Paradises
15. Poppyseed Bread
16. The 'Fickle and Verminuous Colony'
17. Putrid Worms and Vile Snails
18. A City of Mummies
19. The Triumph of Poverty

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