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Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error Paperback – 28 Oct 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller; 0030-Anniversary edition (28 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807615986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807615980
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 589,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 July 1999
Format: Paperback
Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie's book, Montaillou is an informative look at a medieval village in Southern France. Its writing style is similar to Bibbey in its ability to place the reader inside a historical period and see it from the perspective of the people involved. It is an objective, though intimate look at the hypocrisy of clergy and the excesses to which they were involved. Stake-burning and the debauching of virgins were an ever-present threat, as well as cuckholded husbands terrified to reveal the priests responsible. A smooth, flowing narrative, it is a must-read for anyone interested in medieval European society, and captures the attention of the reader from start to finish.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on 11 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
...even if they've given it a snazzy new subtitle. I append the most useful American review, from Fernand Raynaud

This is one of THE most important books for anyone interested in the varieties of the human mind. Thanks to the compulsive thoroughness of an early 14th century inquisitor (a bishop who became pope), lengthy quotes from the people that he was interrogating came to be preserved in the Vatican library. The accused are heretics, stubborn country folk supporting "the resistance", as it were, that handful of Cathar holy men hiding in the woods following the Church's campaign savage against the flourishing southern French civilization around the town of Albi in the first quarter of the 13th century. In spite of the slashing and burning that had laid waste to the land of the Cathars in the previous century, the folks of Montaillou were stubborn in holding to their beliefs, and here it gets interesting.

What on earth were these people like, what issues could possibly matter enough to medieval farmers for them to put their lives on the line over subtle theological distinctions, like whether the Trinity was indivisible? LeRoy Ladurie thankfully quotes extensively from the sources, and a picture emerges of a Christian religion influenced by contact with the Eastern Gnostics, leaning towards a belief in reincarnation and the virtues of vegetarian asceticism. The Catholic Church was seen as a nasty political beast at odds with a true faith, and the villagers turn out to have been surprisingly sophisticated, reading books, for instance, at a time when only hand-copied manuscripts existed. It is apparent that many popular religious movements preceded the protestant schism.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 April 1999
Format: Paperback
I was also surprised this book is still in print, but I shouldn't be. It really is the best primary source I've ever seen of commoners' lives in the Middle Ages. History buffs know how hard it is to find something that details how NON-saints, NON-royalty lived. Instead of having to infer such details from paintings and architecture, here's a bunch of first-hand accounts, interpreted and commented upon by someone who can actually write interesting history. After MY medieval history classes were finished, I found myself reading this for fun years later. SCA people-- pay attention to this work!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Jan. 1998
Format: Paperback
I am so pleasantly suprised to find this book still in print. I first read it in a class on Medieval religion. Basically, it is an account of peasant life and society in a villiage in Medieval France- taken from, of all things, an inquisitor's depositions. It describes the people's moral and religious beliefs, their superstitions, the vices and virtues of their society, their social structure and so on. Anyone who has any interest in the Middle Ages MUST read this!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 34 reviews
148 of 150 people found the following review helpful
I Defend 'Montaillou'! 11 July 2000
By Amanda HALE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having read many of the reviews of 'Montaillou' at Amazon.com, I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard in defence of this marvellous book. I have read both the original French version AND this most recent translation, and feel that the flavour, color, atsmosphere and historical accuracy lose NOTHING in translation. As to the footnotes, etc - 'Montaillou' is, first and foremost, an ACADEMIC book. It is not a 'light read', and if Le Roy Ladurie is sometimes a little pedantic with his footnotes and cross-references, it is because he is an academic whose chief aim is to adhere as closly as possible to the historical data he is working with. I think that potential readers might be a little 'put off' by some of the critisisms of the Amazon reviewers, yet if they approach 'Montaillou' with the knowledge that it IS an academic work and not a 'novel', then they won't be disappointed. In saying this, 'Montaillou' would work WONDERFULLY as a novel - all the elements are already in place for a beautifully rich and romantic tale of the Middle Ages - but until 'Montaillou - The Novel' is written, we must content ourselves with this sound, insightful and ultimately fulfilling ACADEMIC book.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Everyday Life 700 Years Ago, With the Compliments of the Inquisition 2 Nov. 2005
By James Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Every once in a while, some terrible act results in good. For example, the same Spanish bishop -- Diego de Landa -- who burned the irreplaceable writings of the Mayans wrote a book which was critical in subsequent scholars' understanding of Mayan culture. So also the inquisition established in southwest France in the early years of the 14th century to root out the last vestiges of the Cathar heresy resulted, ultimately, in this little treasure of a book.

The Albigensian Crusade had dealt a death-blow to Catharism, but rural pockets of the heresy persisted. The ambitious bishop of Pamiers, Jacques Fournier, brought in all the residents of one village for questioning. Consisting mostly of shepherds and peasants, Montaillou was a hotbed of Catharism, including the parish priest! Everyone was questioned in detail about their religious practices, households, relationships, work, and travel. Their testimony was taken down verbatim by a clerk; and, after the trial, the records lay untouched in the library of the Vatican until Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie wrote this book.

This is not the usual study of wealthy, educated, and influential Medieval people. Here we have the voice of Everyman. In addition to a great deal of detail about the practices of the Cathar "goodmen," with their sacraments of heretication, the "consolamentum," and the awful "endura," we see how average people formed households, managed to eke out a living, what they talked about, how they got along with their neighbors, how faithful they were to their wives -- in effect, everything.

Because Le Roy Ladurie is a scholarly historian, there are hundreds of footnotes pointing to records of this particular inquisatorial proceeding. They do not manage, however, to cover up the voices of the people of Montaillou, as they tried to explain to their inquisitors the details of their everyday lives.

It took me a little while to realize the uniqueness of this book as I read it. Then it came clear to me that these were the voices of the little people who are almost never heard in history.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Time travel into a different reality. 22 Aug. 2007
By Fernand Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of THE most important books for anyone interested in the varieties of the human mind. Thanks to the compulsive thoroughness of an early 14th century inquisitor (a bishop who became pope), lengthy quotes from the people that he was interrogating came to be preserved in the Vatican library. The accused are heretics, stubborn country folk supporting "the resistance", as it were, that handful of Cathar holy men hiding in the woods following the Church's campaign savage against the flourishing southern French civilization around the town of Albi in the first quarter of the 13th century. In spite of the slashing and burning that had laid waste to the land of the Cathars in the previous century, the folks of Montaillou were stubborn in holding to their beliefs, and here it gets interesting.

What on earth were these people like, what issues could possibly matter enough to medieval farmers for them to put their lives on the line over subtle theological distinctions, like whether the Trinity was indivisible? LeRoy Ladurie thankfully quotes extensively from the sources, and a picture emerges of a Christian religion influenced by contact with the Eastern Gnostics, leaning towards a belief in reincarnation and the virtues of vegetarian asceticism. The Catholic Church was seen as a nasty political beast at odds with a true faith, and the villagers turn out to have been surprisingly sophisticated, reading books, for instance, at a time when only hand-copied manuscripts existed. It is apparent that many popular religious movements preceded the protestant schism.

In their literal testimony we glimpse the villagers' daily lives, their sense of time and reality, their relations with neighbors (like the Moors of northern Spain), as well as a social organization that was more communal (and less class-divided) than our unconsciously marxist-influenced history books would have it. The lady of the manor is seen regularly spending time gossiping in the kitchens of the farmers, the shepherds tend each others' flocks on cash contract, and when it's safe, religion is vigorously debated by the fire. It's not a dark oppressed feudal world. The romantic entanglements of the village priest alone are enough to liven the place up. If we had such documents for other times and places, in which people's thinking was as thoroughly documented, we might better appreciate our origins. This book is a gold mine.
67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Readable, Entertaining Scholarship 28 Nov. 1999
By Sebastian Good - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The year is 1300, and the village of Montaillou in the south of France is full of heretics. One brave man, Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, embarks on a brave Inquisition to get rid of them. For years, he interviews everyone in the village and keeps meticulous notes. The everyday gossip, scandal and concerns of the common medieval man are documented here in a detail unsurpassed in any other primary source. In this book, French Historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie studies these documents and presents an incredible portrait of everyday life: 'love and marriage, gestures and emotions, conversations and gossip, clans and factions, crime and violence, concepts of time and space, attitudes to the past, animals, magic and folklore, death and beliefs about the other world.' An astounding book sitting on the border between history and anthropology. And as expected, the French have been fall-down funny for centuries. [HistoryHouse.com]
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding case studies of commoners' lives. 15 May 2002
By The Strife of Love in a Dream - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is definitely academic reading. Concerning itself chiefly with a cluster of tiny villages in the extreme south of France, the book takes details of villagers' confessions to the Inquisition to show what life was like for them. I found it to be very well-written, lucid, and not difficult to digest.
Ladurie (Amazon misspells his name continually as "Ladruie" -- either that or the book cover misspells it) extrapolates some amazing things from these confessions. Ideas of time and space, how villagers thought of the home and the family, concepts of sexuality and social status.. there's a lot here, extensively footnooted and extensively supported. As someone's said, this is definitely not light reading.
Ladurie spends quite a bit of time talking about religion, which is logical considering that Inquisition files are his source material. I did not detect a bias against either Catholicism or Catharism. Since his focus isn't actually religion, however, but an allover view of life in a remote, isolated 14th-century French/Spanish village, I wouldn't consider this specifically a resource for the study of Catharism. It is, however, an excellent resource for understanding people in a remote, isolated 14th-century French/Spanish village.
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