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The focus of Fernand Braudel's great work is the Mediterranean world in the second half of the sixteenth century but Braudel ranges back in history to the world of Odysseus and forward to our time moving out from the Mediterranean area to the New World and other destinations of Mediterranean traders Braudel's scope embraces the natural world and material life economics demography politics and diplomacy


10 thoughts on “La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époue de Philippe II tome 1 La part du milieu

  1. says:

    We’re all familiar with Isaiah Berlin’s ‘the Fox and the Hedgehog’ and with ‘lumpers and splitters’ – a phrase as Wiki tell us that was first used by Charles Darwin Yet a very brilliant young teacher I had in college and one who like me was not much for ‘lumpers’ used to say ‘there are really two types of people in the world Those who divide things into twos and those who divide things into threes” Fernand Braudel was certainly one of the latter He divides things into threes This is true of his monumental Civilization and Capitalism and it is true of his masterpiece The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II a large dense two volume work that he labored on despite a hiatus of some 15 years from 1927 when it began life as a standard sort of historical dissertation on the diplomatic history of the second half of the 16th century the decline of Spain under Philip II under the direction of a certain long forgotten Georges Pagés but which then came increasingly under the spell and influence of the great Lucien Febvre co founder with Marc Bloch of the Annales School whereupon it grew and grew and grew both in size and in complexity and scope until its first publication marking its submission for the doctoral thesis in 1949 the first draft was famously written largely from memory while imprisoned by the Germans at Lübeck – and then was taken up again and thoroughly revised from 1964 1966 It is this second revised edition that was so brilliantly translated by Siân Reynolds who now translates Fred Vargas the French crime writer and that most of us knowThe Mediterranean can most justly be called a portrait of a ‘civilization’ – the ‘civilization’ being that of the Mediterranean which runs from the Middle Ages and the revival of life after the fall of Rome up until our own times or at least until the 20th century and which Braudel conceives of as being something of a ‘civilizational’ unity It cannot be called a ‘biography’ of that ‘civilization’ – like the “Biography” of Africa by John Reader which covers the whole of that continent from its geological formation till post Independence – since Braudel’s concern is only to talk about the events of the second half of the 16th century the reign of Philip II a mere fifty years itself only a fragment of the so called “long 16th century” a phrase that some historians have used to describe the period from 1450 the uickening after the long recession of the century of plague to c 1650 when the Dutch Empire still in many ways a continuance of this period originally relying on Genoese bankers and ‘Mediterranean’ methods and itself indeed still at least formally a part of the Habsburg Empire until 1648 when its independence was formalized by the Peace of Westphalia can be said to have peaked Well a somewhat Braudelian sentence The Ravages of Time the youthful and brilliant Burgundian Charles I in youthBernard Van Orley 1516To give some context – the first half of the 16th cen the reign of the brilliant and cosmopolitan Charles V see above is the period that sees the fateful irruption of the large territorial states Spain and France into the Italy of the uattrocento and which thus foreshadows the closing of the Renaissance; it is the age of Selim I and of Suleiman the Magnificent and of the rise of the Ottoman Empire the Turkish takings from the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria 1517 and the Caliphate; the Siege of Vienna 1529; it is the age of Machiavelli who died just six weeks after the Sack of Rome 1527 of Erasmus and of Rabelais And of course it is the Age of Exploration The Age of Philip II d 1598 by contrast Charles’ son coincides with the reign of Elizabeth of England d 1603 Lepanto 1571 the Armada 1588 and with the maturation of Shakespeare and Cervantes both of whom died in 1616 and of the birth be it said of Rembrandt b 1606 A brilliant age – and one that was followed by the “long” 17th century years of of crisis and recession not just in Europe The Thirty Years War but in China and Japan the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the coming of the Tokugawa Bakufu ; and even climatically with what is known as the Little Ice Age and the aged Charles V of Spain suffering from gout and on the eve of his abdicationTitian 1548At any rate like the portraits of Rembrandt Braudel’s Mediterranean is but a snapshot of a larger whole a laboratory “slice” of a civilization which like the sea itself had its many swells and ebbsBut to understand that ‘moment’ the age of Philip one reuires context and it is here – in his deep and remarkable contextualizations that Braudel found the genius that will long be associated with his nameSo as to the division into threes Braudel divides his subject into three planes l'histoire presue immobile « le temps géographiue » dont les fluctuations sont uasi imperceptibles ui a trait aux rapports de l'homme et du milieu a movement of thought largely inspired by a French geographical school that flourished briefly around the turn of the 20th century – and which is commonly referred to as the longue durée This is Part I vol 1 pp 23 352 l'histoire lentement agitée « le temps social » une histoire sociale ayant trait aux groupes humains This is Part II vol 1 pp 353 fin642 and vol 2 init657 900 l'histoire évènementielle « le temps individuel » celle de l'agitation de surface – and dealing specifically with the events surrounding the reign of Philip II This is Part III vol 2 pp 901 fin1244But in fact – and this is important – the book really breaks into FOUR parts not three since the two halves of Part II Chs 1 2 3 in vol 1 dealing with “Economies” – distances demographics economic models; gold silver the inflation; the trade in pepper in grain and Atlantic shipping in the Mediterranean both before and after 1550; and chs 4 5 6 7 in vol 2 dealing with the human elements that is with empires the state societies classes ‘civilizations’ Jews and war – both formal and informal piracy these two halves of Part II are utterly distinct in tone and interestAs such the book could have been and should have been issued not in two drooping volumes but in four relatively short fascicles of approximately 300 350 pages each Had it been published in this way I believe that the book would have had a greater readership and been less intimidatingSo volume 1 is really two books – and can be reviewed and in some measure even read as suchThe first half of volume 1 Part I pp 23 352 covers the longue durée – that uintessentially Braudelian synthesis of geography and man – and is a work this fascicle of sheer genius Everyone interested in the shape and destiny of man should read this It can be read by itself the rest of the book the next 900 pages can be ignored – and it would serve as part of the fundamental furniture of your mind ever I cannot recommend it highly enough I know of nothing in the subject of history that repays study Read itThe second half of volume 1 the section on “economies” introduces the middle plane of Braudel’s universe It is dense difficult and not terribly rewarding Rather than presenting a coherent narrative of early modern economies or of the inflation prices rose 6 fold during the 16th century it consists of a series of case studies chosen at random or on the basis of whatever the available sources and studies over approached haphazardly It is as if Braudel were a man reviewing with a wave of his hand a deck of cards scattered face upwards across a table The evidence is incomplete the data is already dated and the topic is dryI had feared that the rest of the book – that is volume 2 – would be of the same sort But it appears as I enter into it to be completely different and far rewarding both in tone and in methodSo the upshot is – everyone should read at the very least the first half of this It is a masterpiece in every sense of the wordThe tughra of Suleiman the Great


  2. says:

    This is not like a normal history book One does not simply sit down and read Braudel's Mediterranean It is a two part thing and each part is seven hundred pages and there really is no narrative thru line I think the best way to approach this book is to keep it around and read it in chunks in between other works of history Then you'll need to refer back to it in the future The thing is you're going to need to take this total history piece by piece and decide if it works for youWhat Braudel does here ostensibly is tell the story of the Mediterranean world during the second half of the sixteenth century during the reign of Philip II of Spain A lot of things happened politically during that time most of which had to do with Phil and the Spaniards in the western part of the sea versus the Ottomans in the eastern part According to Braudel however these military and political events which are only covered in detail in final third of the book are really not very important They are surface manifestations of the deeper structures which truly drive the Mediterranean world What is very important to FB is to examine in painstaking detail the geography of the Mediterranean its climate its many people the economic ties that bind them together the trading routes that snake north and south and east the cyclical symbiotic fellowship between warfare and piracy over the centuries and on and on etc It is only after examining these structures in detail that we can begin to understand the way both westerners and easterners saw the Mediterranean when they found themselves in conflictI finished this a few weeks ago and what I find is that little bits of it stay with me I think that is its use really I will remember occasionally hey Braudel had that interesting bit on the four different major trade routes north from the Mediterranean I should reread that chapter and see whether it helps me understand this other thing I'm reading Or hey I wonder if Braudel's bit on pirates might help me understand that part of American history where the early republic traders were dealing with that pirate problemThis is an amazing work of scholarship Whether or not you like this method of examining history you have to respect the study and craft that went into putting it all together


  3. says:

    what am i supposed to do write a review for braudel? i think he'll be ok without one


  4. says:

    I will admit a few things before I even begin really talking about this book 1 It is almost impossible to read this book if you are unwilling to look things up How many times will you see words like axial or transhumance before realizing you should look them up? 2 The book was written for an audience that already would have some familiarity with time and place Fernand Braudel expected you to have some background knowledge about the Holy Roman Empire European royalty in general and the geography of the Mediterranean the greatest flaw of this book is the absence of a comprehensive map For instance the fact that Charles V the Holy Roman Emporer was Phillip II's father was mentioned only once and this was only offhand after hundreds of pages where knowing that would have helped put things into perspective And I don't believe it was ever made explicit that Charles V Holy Roman Emporer was once Charles I King of Spain As much as I got out of this book I can only imagine how deep a real student of history would have found it3 The book is too much to fit all into your brain at once and you will understand some parts better than others Don't stress yourself This really was the most challenging reading I have ever done 4 Finally I've seen many people complain that this book is too wordy and uses too many big words But I challenge you to find a single wasted word in the entire 1200 pages And there is never a big word used where a smaller one would suffice when you look up the word you'll see that he's using it uite specifically However the only other flaw in this book is the insane amount of untranslated Latin French Italian and German excerpts Like I'm just a bungler and can get the gist but I think providing a translation would have been much better and educationalOk so having said all that this was a beautiful book A truly amazing achievement I have nothing left for it but praise and admirationThe book is divided into three parts Part 1 describes the geographical and ecological reality of the place and defines the place and the people Basically if you walked counter clockwise around the Mediterranean from Morocco across Tunisia Egypt Syria Albania Italy the South of France and across the Pyranees to Spain and Gibralter you would find if not the same language the same way of life The same plants the olive tree the grape and the palm the same weather cold rainy winters and hot dry summers the same houses stone or mudbrick thick walled open air the same rhythm of life the same occupations et cetera et cetera Though the book does partially explain how it was only a political accident that left Africa so separate from Europe Braudel explains that they really make much sense when considered as a single unit He goes on to explain the other permanent features of the place especially explaining the communication and transport routes including explaining the reason a shipperretailer is almost always wealthy than a mere producerinventor something that had always troubled me and also explaining how market towns big fairs and banking towns came to existAfter you've got all that down he explains in Part II the exact breakdown of the global and several specific regional and national though that term isn't UITE right economies He has a lot to say here about the wheat trade and the silver trade the two things that allowed empire building in the first place and which allowed Spain to become the most powerful empire builder of the time Braudel with a huge amount of backing data shows general economic trends of the time as well as how long it took those trends to pass from place to place which allowed him to determine where the economic trendsetters and centers of power really were which wasn't always where the people at the time or the scholars have assumedIn Part II Braudel then explains in just as much specific detail how empires and war work showing some of the features that always surprise one to live through but are actually inevitable parts of this structure He explain that war piracy and crime are really all just economic activities which seems obvious but which is mind blowing as he walks you through all the implications I will never forget the succinct beauty of his definition of brigandry the street crime of the era which he described as an endless and ultimately fruitless form of social rebellion He makes sure you know the empires that existed at that time and explains their specific clashes as well as how civilization clashes in general workAfter you've got ALL that down after reading 900 pages about environment culture economy empire and war Braudel feels you are ready for part III which explains the specific events and people of the 50 year period he is examining Basically after than a thousand years as the political and economic center of the hemisphere and after 500 years of power struggle leaving two big powers in the region everything just faded away Turkey turned to Persia and the Indian Ocean and Spain turned to the Atlantic As you read about the events especially the larger than any other battle naval conflict at Lepanto a victory over the invincible Turk which ultimately led nowhere you watch the glory splendour and wealth drain away from the Mediterranean never truly to return And it makes sense It's something you can mourn with the far sighted people of the time as told in the book Phillip II oversaw Spanish supremacy in the Mediterranean and also Spanish primacy in the Atlantic before he diedThen after all this information and pleasure while facing such an abrupt ending and wondering what the book was FOR the conclusion explains it it wasn't JUST a book about the Mediterranean between 1550 and 1600 this book was an attempt to make a new kind of history one that assigns importance to the permanent structures of our world the geography and climate the social structures and culture and less to the ephemeral features like the specific personalities and individual decisions most of our histories venerate and obsess over Sitting in the middle right between those two levels is the economy and the specific culture of a region or country Three levels of history of opposite levels of importance than commonly understood which all need to be understood and accounted for if you want to understand a time and place that is Fernand Braudel's real thesis here A totally successful one and one that still seems so fresh since we as a culture are still only beginning to learn how to think this wayA really wonderful book very worth putting in the months it will take to get through Cannot recommend enough for anyone interested in real history


  5. says:

    After just a first few pages I am immediately placing this on my highest ranking tier for the all time greatest reference feats I've ever read It's colossal It's staggering One of the best history books I've ever encountered Reminiscent of the great Gibbon; with that much sensitivity but with heart and urgency sweep and scope; inuiry All the flavor and spice that you ever wish'd Gibbon would've recounted about Rome is here even sprinkled in as 'asides' and anecdotes in a text ostensibly focused on Philip II's Spain It's as lively and as lurid as Herodotus but with modern academic chops The type of history Braudel includes but which everyone except Herodotus omits is the gritty granular vernacular minutiae of those distant romantic ages For instance if you want to know what winter pastures were favored by shepherds in ancient Macedonia Braudel has that If you want to know the distribution of fanatic Christian vs fanatic Muslim mountain cults after the Crusades Braudel has that If you want to know how European wheat prices rose with the influx of Peruvian silver brought back in Spanish galleons Braudel has that too Routes for mule teams through the Alps? Here Number of foreign merchant ships docked annually in Venice during the 1510's? Here Position of Bedouin watering holes in the sub Sahara? Here Sumptuous outlandish detail It's as if it was written by GodThis is an epic work for keeping permanently on one's bedside table or taking along on a road trip It's transcendent You can thumb through any section at random; reading at whim and be well rewarded Pick it up put it down just as you choose The narrative never flags Perfect


  6. says:

    It's great Just what I was looking for So lucky we have it in English Part of the overarching theme of course Here The great cities remained in their dominating positions with the advantages of high prices high wages and many customers for their shops while satellite towns surrounded them looked towards them used them and were used by them These planetary systems so typical of Europe and the Mediterranean were to continue to function virtually unimpeded Nevertheless conspicuous changes which could not be ignored did take place they too followed a fairly logical pattern In the first place an increase in population always works both ways it may be a source of strength or of weakness stability or insecurity Many ancient evils persisted and were sometimes aggravated the sixteenth century had neither the courage nor the strength to eradicate them Secondly the cities were no longer undisputed rulers in the world Their reign which had lasted throughout the early rise of Europe and the Mediterranean from the eleventh to the fourteenth century was beginning to be challenged at the threshold of modern times by the territorial states which modern times suddenly projected to the centre of the stage Finally the rural population was still in the majority the towns were reaching a peak perhaps overreaching it When the population declined in the seventeenth century as in Venezia where figures are available the towns declined rapidly than the surrounding countryside Had the picture changed by the eighteenth century? M Moheau claimed in 1778 that rural France was then growing faster than urban France These rapid comparisons may help us to understand the decisive yet fragile fortunes of the towns in the sixteenth century 'famine and the wheat problem' The sixteenth century was not always kind to urban communities Famine and epidemics waged a continuous onslaught on the towns Because of the slowness and prohibitive price of transport and the unreliability of the harvests any urban center could be exposed to famine at any time of year The slightest pressure could tip the balance When the Council of Trent met for the third and last time in 1561 and although the town was on the great Brenner Adige route the route taken by the Bavarian grain which sometimes served Verona the first problem facing the delegates to the council and their staff was the difficult uestion of supplies about which Rome was justifiably anxious Both in the Mediterranean regions and outside famine was a commonplace hazard The famine in Castile in 1521 coincided with the beginning of the war against France and the rising of the Communeros at home Nobles and commoners alike were panic stricken by the lack of bread during that year which was known in Portugal as the year of the Great Hunger In 1525 Andalusia was devastated by a terrible drought In 1528 famine brought terror to Tuscany Florence had to close her gates to the starving peasants from surrounding districts In 1540 the same thing happened Again Florence was about to close her gates and abandon the countryside to its fate when the region was saved by the arrival of ships at Leghorn carrying grain from the Levant; but that was something of a miracle In 1575 in the Rumanian countryside which was normally rich in cereals the flocks died by the hundred; the birds were surprised in March by snowdrifts five feet deep and could be caught in the hand As for the human inhabitants they would kill their neighbors for a piece of bread In 1583 the scourge swept through Italy particularly in the Papal States where people starved to death More often however famine did not attack entire regions but struck only the towns The striking feature of the famine in Tuscany in 1528 was that it extended to the entire countryside surrounding Florence at Perugia in 1529 there was no grain at all for a radius of 50 miles These were still rare catastrophes In normal times the peasants would obtain from their own land almost all the frugal fare on which they survived Urban famine on the contrary within the city walls was an extremely freuent occurrence in the sixteenth century Florence although it certainly does not lie in a particularly poor region experienced 111 famines between 1375 and 1791 than one every four years as against sixteen very good harvests over the same period Even the wheat ports such as Messina and Genoa suffered terrible famines Every year even at the beginning of the seventeenth century Venice had to part with millions of gold to secure the city's food supplyand also had permanent regulations notably in 1408 1539 1607 and 1628 she prohibited the export of any grain outside her 'Gulf'what is in Venice known as the grain office controlled not only grain and flour entering the city but also sales in the city markets flour could only be sold in two public places one near St Mark's and the other near the Rialto The doge was to be kept daily informed of the stocks in the warehouses As soon as he discovered that the city had reserves only for a year or eight months the College was duly informed provision was made by the office on the one hand and on the other by the merchants to whom sums of money were immediately advanced The bakers were also supervised they had to provide the public with loaves made from 'good grain' white whose weight might vary according to the abundance or otherwise of supplies but whose price per unit remained constant as was the rule in most every town in Europe When famine threatened the measures taken were everywhere identical To the sound of trumpets it was forbidden to take grain out of the town the guard was doubled searches were conducted and available supplies were inventoried If the danger increased sterner measures were taken the number of mouths to feed was reduced the city gates were closed or else foreigners were expelled the normal course at Venice unless they had brought enough grain The Protestants were expelled from Marseilles in 1562 a double gain for the city which was opposed to the Huguenots At Naples during the famine of 1591 the university bore the brunt of the disaster It was closed and the students were sent back home After that rationing was generally introduced as in Marseilles in August 1583 But naturally before taking any other steps the town would make every effort to find provisions at any price in the first place from its usual sources Marseilles usually turned to the interior and the gracious bounty of the king of France or applied to 'her very dear and beloved friends' the consuls of Arles even to the merchants of Lyons And in order to reach the grain of Burgundy beyond Lyons and to convey it down river to Marseilles the boats had to pass 'the bridges without grand danger'At Barcelona in August 1557 the Inuisitors begged Philip II to allow them be sent at least for their personal use a little wheat from Roussillon The Inuisitors of Valencia in the following year asked permission to import wheat from Castile a reuest that was repeated in 1559 Verona expecting a poor harvest asked the Serenissima permission to buy wheat in Bavaria Ragusa turned to the sandjak of Herzegovina; Venice asked the Grand Turk for authorisation to load grain in the Levant Every time this meant negotiations expeditions large expenditure not to mention promises and extra payments to the merchants If all else failed the last great resource was to turn to the sea to watch out for grain ships seize them then to pay the party concerned for the cargo later not without some discussion And nobody was skilled at this unpopular practice than Venice As soon as her food supply was endangered no ship loaded with wheat was safe in the Adriatic Her behavior was the source of persistent uite justified and completely ineffective protest from Naples backed up by Spain the ships seized by Venice were usually those that Naples had chartered for her own supplies Venice's captures were likely to provoke riots in a city swarming with poor people All this proved a great financial burden But no town could escape its crushing weight At Venice enormous losses had to be registered at the Grain Office which on the one hand gave large bonuses to merchants and on the other often sold the grain and flour it had acuired at lower than normal prices At Florence the Grand Duke made up the difference In Corsica Ajaccio borrowed from Genoa Marseilles which kept a tight hold on the purse strings also borrowed but always looking aheadpp 296 300 in the 3 volume ed I have


  7. says:

    If Italy took no part in the great movement of colonization of distant territories the reason is perhaps partly to be sought in her preoccupation with reclaiming all available land within her own frontiers from the flooded plains to the mountain peaksThe importance of the shore was such that the coastal route was scarcely different from a river Only the big specialized salt and grain ships had any resemblance to the destination conscious shipping of today The others were like travelling bazaars


  8. says:

    Started reading this a few years ago but never got very far into it I would like to return to it Braudel is of course a monumental historian of the last century and his Civilization and Capitalism is probably thought even highly of than this work However I own both volumes of Mediterranean World and only the first volume of the other The Structure of Everyday Life


  9. says:

    uite some time ago there was a photo on BGG of a bookshelf with the poster's references for a game on the Battle of Lepanto I have no idea how the game is coming along and Braudel's two volume work on the period was on it A little while later I spotted them in my local used book store and I picked them upThey're an interesting set Really the book is a series of two to four page essays These are grouped into larger subjects subchapters and those into chapters and those into three parts split across two volumes It is big weighty history and it is not something to read to get interested in the subject it is for when you already are interested and want as much information as you can get on the Mediterranean and surrounds in the period 1550 1600 It will certainly stay on my shelf as referenceBraudel organized his material to proceed from the things that change the least to the things that change the most So the first part deals with the geography of the Mediterranean and the surrounding lands Ironically the 'large picture' of geology is where our understanding has changed the most and the early parts are noticeably out of date Past that he starts talking of agriculture and peoples and movements and starts the slow process of building up a detailed picture of the world he is writing aboutPart two which is split between the two volumes deals with long term trends which in the first volume mostly means the economy From the flow of metals into Europe from the New World to patterns of trade there is again a lot here Unfortunately he does assume you already know about certain things like bankruptcies of the Spanish crown so there is not always an explanation when I could use one


  10. says:

    This is a seminal work by a great historian Two volumes written after 1940 when Braudel was a prisoner of war in Germany working from memory The breadth of this is astonishingFirst submitted as a doctoral thesis to the Sorbonne in 1947 it established Braudel as a leader of the Annales school The scale of his topic is breathtaking Arguing that the Mediterranean is a sea sourrounded by mountains he then goes on to explain how civilizations in the Mediterranean are shaped by their geography Impressive