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France in the Middle Ages, 987-1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc (History of France) [Paperback]

Georges Duby

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28 Oct 1993 History of France
In this book, now available in paperback, he examines the history of France from the rise of the Capetians in the mid–tenth century to the execution of Joan of Arc in the mid–fifteenth. He takes the evolution of power and the emergence of the French state as his central themes, and guides the reader through complex – and, in many respects, still unfamiliar, yet fascinating terrain. He describes the growth of the castle and the village, the building blocks of the new Western European civilization of the second millenium AD.


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"Superb ... a great historian offers a fresh interpretation of one of the formative periods of French history." L′Histoire "Superb ... a pleasure to read ... an invaluable work of history and reference" La Voix du Nord "Duby has already changed our conception of medieval Europe. Extensively illustrated, with clear and helpful genealogical tables, this is a boldly written book, impeccably translated by Juliet Vale, that will stimulate discussion among specialists and non=specialists alike." The Jerusalem Post

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Georges Duby has changed our conception of medieval Europe, particularly our about the meaning and operation of ′feudal society′. In this book, now available in paperback, he examines the history of France from the rise of the Capetians in the mid–tenth century to the execution of Joan of Arc in the mid–fifteenth. He takes the evolution of power and the emergence of the French state as his central themes, and guides the reader through complex – and, in many respects, still unfamiliar, yet fascinating terrain. He describes the growth of the castle and the village, the building blocks of the new Western European civilization of the second millenium AD. In so doing, he reintroduces the cast of characters that he has made famous: the youths, the priests and the ladies. Figures monumental in English history, such as William the Conqueror and Henry I, appear afresh in their contemporary context, dangerous and vulnerable. In place of Hastings, Duby offers the battle of the Bouvines (1214) as a decisive turning–point. It marks the successful construction of the French monarchy, which in turn represents a transformation in the exercise of power. Extensively illustrated, and containing many clear and helpful maps and geneaological tables, this book will be of wide interest, and will stimulate discussion among specialists and non–specialists alike.

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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Omnia Gallia Divisa.... 15 Sep 2000
By Dianne Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Once upon a time, France did not exist. Julius Caesar said the land of the Gauls (tribes the Greeks called Keltoi) was divided into three parts and he set out to conquer them all. Caesar was probably speaking of the area known today as France, as well as parts of Switzerland, Germany, and the Low countries. Caesar subdued many tribes in living in the land of the Gauls, but only the southern part was ever completely romanized -- Gallia Narbonensis. When the Roman Empire collapsed, Northern Gaul was once again dominated by warriors known as Franks.
George Duby begins his story in the year 987 A.D. and ends it in 1460 with the success of the Capetians who in defeating Henry VI, finally drove the English from their land. During this 500 year period, France developed from a land composed of small settlements and huge swaths of rural farmland and wilderness to a network of villages and towns centered on commerce and trade. In 987 A.D. Duby says power was tied to geneology, but by the end, wealth was also a major factor.
Duby not only addresses the Middle Ages of 987 to 1460 A.D., but he comments on how he as an historian went about reconstructing his story from contemporary materials available from various sources. So, this is not only a history book, it is a book on historiography of sorts. For example, Duby says the use of various Latin words in various documents could mean many different things. How does the historian know what these terms imply? The underlying meaning of Latin words changed over time, just as English words we use today have changed meaning over time.
My favorite section of the book is "The Village." Around 1,000, villages as they came to be known, did not exist in France. There were 'bourgs' which were small towns outside the gates of walled monasteries, or where a castle or a Roman Villa had once existed. Castles were built everywhere during the Feudal period as lords battled for control of their lands. These castles were known in France as 'maisons fortes' or fortified houses. Lords and their retinues moved from one fortified house to another and never slept in the open. In the southwest, these fortified castles were known as 'castelnaus.'
Because of the power of the church, the territory now know as France seems to have been organized into parishes (parochia). The parish center was a church (later a cathedral) and it's burial grounds. Christian churches were probably built where pagan structures had once stood. (Panofsky suggests the major Cathedrals in France are laid out in the pattern of the constellation Libra). Women came to the burial grounds and left grave goods, a pagan practice Duby says the church eventually eradicated (guess he didn't read "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil").
Duby indicates there was little "law and order" of the sort dominant males appreciate in 1,000 A.D. He says many groups vied for power including a multitude of splinter groups who "occupied the twilight between heresy and orthodoxy." Women, were perceived to wield magical pwoers and were greatly feared. In the rural areas dominated by women, male power was impotent.
Duby's book covers the transition from a world where families fought for power and the rural areas ruled, to one where one lord finally dominated the others--the King. The winning family was named Capet and one or another branch of this family dominated France until the French Revolution. The source of their power was commerce and trade, and their close alliance with the church.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insights from an Important French Historian 6 Feb 2008
By thorsprincess - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This volume by Georges Duby (1919-1996), distinguished professor emeritus of the Collège de France, was written about ten years before his death. It is an excellent resource and a good introduction to French medieval history for the serious student of French history. His argument is especially strong in connecting the evolving French political, economic, and intellectual movements to counter-developments in historic events and thought. It is part of a larger series on French history that was commissioned to celebrate the Millennium, and his section, despite its title, is a short introduction that introduces his real expertise in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, with a short wrap-up of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The choice of Joan of Arc to represent the fifteenth century is meant to connect to the next volume (written by Leroy Ladurie) and to demonstrate the continuing romantic influence of the symbolism of the Middle Ages--especially through adaptation of sacred symbols to modern and secular movements and national allegiance. Duby's historical narrative voice is lively, engaging, intelligent, humble, and authoritative. I like his voice, so I enjoyed the book. Overall, the book is one which would stimulate discussion and cause serious students to want to inquire further, while providing excellent insights from an important French historian.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars its okay 17 April 2013
By Swiftbird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was looking for some college level texts on the history of France so that is why I purchased this text. It has some good information but is not as in depth as I would have liked.
3 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring 7 Mar 2005
By Lance J. Hawk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the most boring book I have ever purchased from amazon.com.

Despite having an avid interest in medieval French coins, and after heroic efforts to finish this book, it remains unfinished on my bookshelf.
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