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Varieties of Cultural History

Varieties of Cultural History

Peter Burke

ISBN: 978-0-745-66586-3 July 2013 Polity 256 Pages




The aim of this book is both to illustrate and to discuss some of the main varieties of cultural history which have emerged since the questioning of what might be called its "classic" form, exemplified in the work of Jacob Burckhardt and Johan Huizinga. Among the themes of individual chapters are the history of popular culture, the history of Carnival, the history of mentalities, the history of gestures, the history of jokes, and even the history of dreams.

The emphasis of both the introduction and the case-studies which follow is on the variety of forms taken by cultural history today. The classic model has not been replaced by any new orthodoxy, despite the importance of approaches inspired by social and cultural anthropology. Variety is to be found in the cultures studied as well as among their historians. The case-studies included in the volume come not only from Europe (and in particular from Italy) but also from the New World, especially Brazil. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of cultural encounters, cultural conflicts, and their consequences, whether these consequences should be described in terms of mixing, syncretism or synthesis.

Written by one of the leading cultural historians in Europe today, this book will be of particular interest to students of early modern Europe, of the encounters between European culture and the New World, and to students and scholars interested in problems of historiography.

Preface vii

Acknowledgements ix

1 Origins of Cultural History 1

2 The Cultural History of Dreams 23

3 History as Social Memory 43

4 The Language of Gesture in Early Modern Italy 60

5 Frontiers of the Comic in Early Modern Italy 77

6 The Discreet Charm of Milan: English Travellers in  the Seventeenth Century 94

7 Public and Private Spheres in Late Renaissance Genoa 111

8 Learned Culture and Popular Culture in Renaissance Italy 124

9 Chivalry in the New World 136

10 The Translation of Culture: Carnival in Two or Three Worlds 148

11 Strengths and Weaknesses of the History of Mentalities 162

12 Unity and Variety in Cultural History 183

Bibliography 213

Index 241

  • Wide-ranging account of the main approaches in cultural history
  • Covers themes such as history of popular culture, history of Carnival, history of mentalities, history of gestures, history of jokes, and history of dreams
  • Includes case-studies from the New World (such as Brazil) as well as Europe.