Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Other Side of Western Civilization

The Other Side of Western Civilization: Readings in Everyday Life,
© 1979 ed. Stanley Chodorow
363 pages

The Other Side of Western Civilization collects readings in social history ranging from antiquity to the Renaissance. Its subtitle Readings in Everyday Life is largely accurate,  for the articles contributed by diverse authors largely ignore the halls of power and tell instead the stories of the common man, or detail the historic aspects of everyday life; there are pieces on the  adventures of traveling on medieval roads, for instance, and on family life in Renaissance Italy. Others move near ‘traditional’ historiography – one article covers the Battle of Agincourt – but maintain the 'everyday' focus;  "Feudal War in Practice" examines Agincourt from the perspective of the foot soldier,  taking into consideration how much room for movement there might have been if every archer in the English line had planted a stake in front of him, as official records of the battle establish. Principally, the collection covers trade, city planning, family life, social relations, and religion. Each piece is introduced by the editor, whose commentary attempts with some success to connect them together,  comparing different articles’ coverage of medieval women for instance. While readers will no doubt find some pieces easier reading than others based on their individual interest,  it's generally accessible. Also of note is the fact that this collection doesn't have a political edge to it; the 'other side' of western civilization  simply concerns topics ignored by  conventional military-political histories, like "Ancient Ships and Shipping" or "The Operation of a Monastery".  This is accompanied by a second volume, which covers the Renaissance to the early modern period.

"Ancient Ships and Shipping"
"Cities of the Roman Empire"
"Women in Roman Society"
"The Appeal and Practice of the Mystery-Religions"
"The Conversion of the Germans"
"German Tribal Society"
"Peasants and the Agricultural Revolution"
"Jews in a Christian Society"
"The World of the Crusaders"
"The Training of a Knight"
"The Role of a Baron's Wife"
"Mother and Child"
"Traveling the Roads in the 12th Century"
"The Workday of a Bishop"
"The Operation of a Monastery"
"Hunting Subversion in the Middle Ages"
"The Peasants in Revolt"
"The Organization of the Late Medieval City"
"The Relevance of a University Education in 14th Century England"
"Touring the Holy Land"
"A Community Against the Plague"
"City Women and the French Reformation"
"Cultural Patronage in Renaissance Florence"
"Parent and Child in Renaissance Italy"

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