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This is the first of three fascinating volumes in which Braudel, the renowned historian and celebrated author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, offers what is in effect an economic and social history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Like everything he writes, it is new, stimulating and sparkles like champagne. Braudel's technique, it has been said, is that of a pointilliste. Myriads of separate details, sharp glimpses of reality experienced by real people, are seen miraculously to orchestrate themselves into broad rhythms that underlie and transcend the excitements and struggles of particular periods. Braudel sees the past as we see the present - only in a longer perspective and over a wider field.The perspective is that of the possible, of the actual material limitations to human life in any given time or place. It is the everyday, the habitual - the obvious that is so obvious it has hitherto been neglected by historians - that Braudel claims for a new and vast and enriching province of history. Food and drink, dress and housing, demography and family structure, energy and technology, money and credit, and, above all, the growth of towns, that powerful agent of social and economic development, are described in all the richness and complexity of real life. The intensely visual quality of Braudel's understanding of history is brought into sharper focus by the remarkable series of illustrations that of themselves would make this book incomparable