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People in Early European History

The mode of life faced by people in early European history can be discerned in writings from and about that period. The couples featured in three books--Magdalena & Balthasar by Steve Ozment, The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis, and Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance by Alexandra Parma Cook and Noble David Cook--will serve as reflections of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, and the nature of the relationships between the members of each couple serve to point out the role of women in the period, the development of capitalism, the development of the modern sovereign state, and other cultural and economic issues of the Reformation and counter-Reformation periods.

The couples in these three books represent different aspects of the social scene of the time. The story of the legendary law case surrounding the property and life of Martin Guerre is a story of French village life among the peasantry. The letters written by the husband and wife Balthasar and Magdalena takes the reader to the world of the merchant class in Germany. The central figure in the third book is Francisco Noguerol de Ulloa, an explorer who left Spain for Peru and achieved a successful life there before returning to Spain. These three works taken together show a shifting economic picture as the stratified societies of Europe offer a degree of mobility for the merchant, the explorer, the trader, while maintaining the wide separation among classes for most of society. Women in this era are subordinate to men, defined largely by whom they marry. The society is also beset by currents and counter-currents of religious change and the assertion and reassertion of certain doctrines. Legal cases figure prominently in two of these stories as the state asserts its right to control certain behaviors or decide certain issues.

Natalie Zemon Davis describes the life of the village of Artigat and shows how the nature of the relationship betwee...

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People in Early European History. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:36, August 14, 2020, from