BIOLOGY OF MAN IN HISTORY: Selections from The Annales by Robert & Orest Ranum--Eds. Forster

BIOLOGY OF MAN IN HISTORY: Selections from The Annales

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Since its inauguration in 1929 under the joint editorship of Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, there has been no more prestigious or innovative a historical journal than the Annales. A radical departure from traditional scholarship, the Annales aim at an interdisciplinary, holistic reconstruction of the past (histoire totale) which utilizes, among other things, demography, meteorology, income distribution and price indices--an approach which draws history closer to cultural anthropology, psychology, linguistics and geography. The Biology of Man in History is the first volume of a projected series of selections from The Annales and it is an impressive debut. The eight articles on marriage and birth control, disease, diet and famine and purchasing power represent a drastic discontinuity with history as the biographies of kings and prime ministers, wars, annexations and treaties. Evelyne Patlagean deals brilliantly with cultural and economic imperatives for the decline of marriage and fertility in the early Byzantine Empire--pointing to the immanent expectations for the end of the world, the exaltation of virginity which by interrupting carnal birth would put an end to the human condition, the impact of heretical dualist teachings against marrying and, among the lower orders, the prevalence of infanticide and the selling of children into slavery as alternative forms of ""birth control."" Eliyahu Ashtor investigates Egyptian cookbooks and nutritive levels among the laboring classes in the medieval Orient, demonstrating a rise in the standard of living in the century after the Black Death. And Jean-Pierre Peter's study of disease in the 18th century recreates the awesome magnitude of sickness in rural France and the psychological and material effects of chronic epidemics. Other articles are equally demanding and original. Those familiar with the achievements of Fernand Braudel will welcome broader access to the tradition he exemplifies.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1975
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press