Review by Choice Review
One of the most significant works on popular culture is now available in English. Muchembled's thesis is that the vibrant popular culture of late medieval France, still very much alive in 1550, came under powerful attack in the next two centuries by the combined forces of Counter-Reformation Catholicism and absolute monarchy. The goal of the assault on popular culture was to change the loyalties of the common people from dispersed localized social groups to the centralized Church and monarchy. The first half of the work is a detailed description of popular culture; the second half examines the means the higher authorities used to destroy it. The economic depression of the period 1560-1660 greatly contributed to the success of the effort by enlisting the villagers themselves to strike out at the marginal members of their society, especially elderly women. By 1789 church and state had been successful in imposing their elite culture on the masses, although the author has little to say about that elite culture. Muchembled based his work largely on archival sources in Picardy and Artois but draws on other historians of popular culture to arrive at more general conclusions about French popular culture. Must reading for social historians. Upper-division undergraduate and above.-F.J. Buamgartner, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.