At the Dawn of Modernity
Biology, Culture, and Material Life in Europe after the Year 1000
Publication Year: 2001
At the Dawn of Modernity highlights both "top-down" and "bottom-up" changes that characterized the social experience of early modernization. In the former category are the Gregorian Reformation, the imposition of feudalism, and the development of centralizing state formations. Of equal importance to Levine's portrait of the emerging social order are the bottom-up demographic relations that structured everyday life, because the making of the modern world, in his view, also began in the decisions made by countless men and women regarding their families and circumstances. Levine ends his story with the cataclysm unleashed by the Black Death in 1348, which brought three centuries of growth to a grim end.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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At the Dawn of Modernity got its inspiration from my aging mother’s absolute confusion in trying to grasp the implications of twentieth-century social changes for the way that she lived during her last years. The writing of this social history got its energy from my desire to make my understanding of those “implications of social change” intelligible for Matthew...
Considering the Subject
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The roots of the modern world can be located in the new kind of society that emerged after the year 1000—distinct from its ancient predecessors and its modern successors. This transition may have been provoked by changes in the network of social relations that were due to population growth and technical change, but once the transition was under way, both...
1. LINEAGES OF EARLY MODERNIZATION
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After the passing of the Justinian pandemic and Charles Martel’s victory at the Battle of Poitiers, which halted the Moslems’ advance in 732, a new society began to take shape in the northwestern region of Europe. This was a confused and contradictory process; it may have begun in the eighth century, but it was only around...
2. SHARDS OF MODERNITY
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If the success of the Gregorian Reformation represented one aspect of the early modernization of Europe, then the feudal social revolution was the other side of this coin. In the period around the year 1000 the various grades of dependent cultivators found themselves being assimilated into a single class, although originally they and their landholdings...
3. LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
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A new kind of society emerged in the centuries after the year 1000. Many novel processes—religious and spiritual, legal and social and economic, technological and demographic—recombined to create a social mutation. The historical emergence of the northwestern European marriage system was a helical construction in which Christian culture and barbarian demography...
4. REPRODUCING FEUDALISM
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A new kind of society emerged in the centuries after the year 1000. Many novel processes—religious and spiritual, legal and social and economic, technological and demographic—recombined to create a social mutation. The historical emergence of the northwestern European marriage system was a helical construction in which Christian culture and barbarian demography wrapped themselves around one another. Manorialized feudal society...
5. NEGATIVE FEEDBACKS
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The pre-plague period is often cited for the “Malthusian” dynamic of “relative overpopulation [which] was so great as to push the death-rates to a punishing height.” In the terse words of another authority, “What a ‘magnificent’ field of action for the Black Death of 1348, that holocaust of the undernourished.”1 While both M. M. Postan and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie suggest that...
6. RECOMBINANT MUTATIONS
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The population density of Europe—especially the northwestern region— in 1300 was very substantially higher than it had been ten generations earlier, when the long cycle of growth began to take its first halting steps. Indeed, after the year 1000 the traditional social order of early modern Europe took shape as a complex, articulated network of towns, villages, and parishes. However much we want...
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If you want a generalization I would have to say that the historian has got to be listening all the time. He should not set up a book or a research project with a totally clear sense of exactly what he is going to be able to do. The material has got to speak through him.1It is a journey that requires unlimited curiosity, and endless search...
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Page Count: 438
Publication Year: 2001