Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, the author of The Peasants of Languedoc, is a French historian whose works have had considerable exposure in English. The fascinating Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error (and alternate titles- 1975, translation 1978)MoreEmmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, the author of The Peasants of Languedoc, is a French historian whose works have had considerable exposure in English.
The fascinating Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error (and alternate titles- 1975, translation 1978) may be the best-known of his works, as well as the most controversial among historians, based as it is on village gossip recorded by Inquisitors. Perhaps more representative are detailed studies of a popular demonstration / riot in Carnival in Romans (Le Carnaval de Romans, 1979), and of folktale themes as transmitted in popular and literary versions from the south of France, in Love, Death and Money in the Pays DOc (Largent, lamour et la mort en pays dOc, 1980), in which social stresses and personal anxieties come together.Underlying much of this production, however, and perhaps giving Ladurie the confidence to interpret the notoriously difficult inquisitorial records, is this less-inspiring sounding early work, Les Paysans de Languedoc of 1966, here translated under an equally plain and literal title, which appeared in English only three years after the original French edition.
In any case, it clearly underlies his later investigations of provincial culture and society.This is a sophisticated analysis of primarily economic records from one of the traditional provinces of southern France, covering mainly the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. It deals with the basics of ordinary life -- production, consumption, property, and taxes, and how they interacted. There are interesting confirmations of what can go wrong when people act without much guidance from economic theory in determining self-interest.
For example, wide-spread cutting of wages in a time of rising prices reduced income and purchases, ultimately putting meat beyond the reach of most consumers. This was a catastrophe for some of the same employers, who were cattle-raisers (or owners of grazing land) with a diminishing market. (If I understand Laduries tables and charts correctly -- and this involves some interpretation on the part of a non-professional -- the typical response to their falling profits was to cut wages again, again reducing the cash in circulation, and reinforcing the cycle in a time when markets for most goods, especially perishable ones, were strictly local.)It is definitely not light reading, but Ladurie is not above adding characterizations (such as tight-fisted fellows) to otherwise anonymous groups of property-owners and employers, sacrificing a little of the appearance of objectivity for the sake of human interest.
Generally speaking, Ladurie draws such positions from the hard data, and the attentive reader may well reach the same conclusion- I remain happier about the practice from a literary point of view than an historical one.Peasants of Languedoc represents a major move toward understanding the history of people left out of official histories, although the original description as total history is rather misleading.
Taken together with Laduries later cultural studies, however, it does mark a considerable advance.This review by Ian M. Slater aylchanan was copied from Amazon.com. (There was no prior default book description.)