A history and description of modern wines by Cyrus Redding

By Cyrus Redding

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12 The Mediterranean is a massive book, even by the standards of the traditional French doctoral thesis. In its original edition, it already contained some 600,000 words, making it six times the length of an ordinary book. The study is divided into three parts, each of which – as the preface points out – exemplifies a different approach to the past. In the first place, there is the ‘almost timeless’ history of the rela­ tionship between ‘man’ and the ‘environment’, then the gradually changing history of economic, social and political structures, and finally the fast-moving history of events.

In the first place, there is the ‘almost timeless’ history of the rela­ tionship between ‘man’ and the ‘environment’, then the gradually changing history of economic, social and political structures, and finally the fast-moving history of events. 13 The third part, which is the most traditional, probably corresponds to Braudel’s original idea of a thesis on Philip II’s foreign policy. Braudel offers his readers a highly professional piece of political and military history. He provides brief but incisive character-sketches of the leading characters on the historical stage, from the ‘narrow-minded and politically short-sighted’ Duke of Alba, ce faux grand homme, to his master, Philip II, slow, ‘solitary and secretive’, cautious, hardworking, a man who ‘saw his task as an unending succession The Age of Braudel 39 of small details’, but lacked a vision of the larger whole.

It begins in an extremely precise, philological manner. According to Lefranc, the atheism of Rabelais was denounced by a number of his contemporaries, so Febvre examined these contemporaries, for the most part minor neo-Latin poets of the 1530s, showing that the term ‘atheist’ did not have its modern, precise meaning. It was just a smear-word, ‘used in whatever sense one wanted to give it’. Widening out from this discussion of a single word, Febvre discussed the apparently blasphemous jokes that Rabelais made in his romance, jokes that Lefranc had stressed in his argument for the author’s ‘rationalism’.

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