This fifth and final volume in an award-winning series charts the remarkable inner history of our times from the tumult of World War I to the present day, when personal identity was released from its moorings in gender, family, social class, religion, politics, and nationality. Nine brilliant and bold historians present a dynamic picture of cultures in transition and in the process scrutinize a myriad of subjects—the sacrament of confession, volunteer hotlines, Nazi policies toward the family, the baby boom, evolving sexuality, the history of contraception, and ever-changing dress codes. They draw upon many unexpected sources, including divorce hearing transcripts, personal ads, and little-known demographic and consumer data.
Perhaps the most notable pattern to emerge is a polarizing of public and private realms. Productive labor shifts from the home to an impersonal public setting. Salaried or corporate employment replaces many independent, entrepreneurial jobs, and workers of all kinds aggressively pursue their leisure time—coffee and lunch breaks, weekends, vacations. Zoning laws segregate industrial and commercial areas from residential neighborhoods, which are no longer a supportive “theater” of benign surveillance, gossip, and mutual concern, but an assemblage of aloof and anonymous individuals or families. Scattered with personal possessions and appliances, homes grow large by yesterday's standards and are marked by elaborate spatial subdivisions; privacy is now possible even among one's own family. Men and women are obsessed with health, fitness, diet, and appearance as the body becomes the focal point of personal identity. Mirrors, once a rarity, are ubiquitous. In the search for sexual and individualistic fulfillment, romantic love becomes the foundation of marriage. Couples marry at an older age; families are smaller. The divorce rate rises, and with it the number of single-parent households. Women, entering the workforce in unprecedented numbers, frequently function as both breadwinner and homemaker. The authors interrelate these dramatic patterns with the changing roles of state and religion in family matters, the socialization of education and elder care, the growth of feminism, the impact of media on private life, and the nature of secrecy.
Comprehensive and astute, Riddles of Identity in Modern Times chronicles a period when the differentiation of life into public and private realms, once a luxury of the wealthy, gradually spread throughout the population. For better or worse, people can now be alone. This fifth volume, differing significantly from the French edition, portrays Italian, German, and American family life in the twentieth century. The authors of these additional chapters—Chiara Saraceno, Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, and Elaine Tyler May—enlarge and enhance the already broad European and Atlantic canvas that depicts the modern identity.
A History of Private Life has been an immense undertaking… The series has deservedly attracted huge praise from historians of all hues for its scholarly imagination and beautiful presentation. It is thus an unusually strong recommendation to say that the final volume is worthy of its predecessors.
The wealth of materials is impressive, and Arthur Goldhammer’s skillful translation captures the contributors’ voices… Lavishly illustrated with well-captioned reproductions.
The text is leavened with an abundant display of imagery… The entire series amounts to a vast treasury of human thought and experience, a sourcebook of ideas and images. At times lyrical, then analytical, but always provocative… A tool for the analyst and the novelist as much as the historian and anthropologist.
Together these five compact volumes cover much of the history of the classical world, and do so with both ease and authority.
There’s something wonderfully audacious about the very concept of ‘History of Private Life,’ a five-volume study that seeks to reveal the most intimate details of everyday life over three millennia of Western European history. Here is one scholarly work in which the bathroom and the bordello figure as importantly as the storming of the Bastille or the defeat of Napoleon… A fascinating glimpse into the distant and exotic past.
The new emphasis on the history of everybody has now been consecrated in [this] ambitious five-volume series…masterfully translated by Arthur Goldhammer… Copious illustrative materials—paintings, drawings, caricatures, and photographs, all cannily chosen and wittily captioned to display domestic life… Magnificent.
- 640 pages
- 7 x 9 inches
- Belknap Press
- Series edited by Phillippe Ariès and Georges Duby
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