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Flesh and Spirit

Private Life in Early Modern Germany


Steven Ozment (View Bio)
Hardcover: Viking, 1999; Paperback: Penguin, 2001.

Flesh and Spirit
Book of the Month Club Selection
History Book Club Selection

"Steven Ozment, a respected scholar, devoted researcher, distinguished McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard, is a master story-teller.... FLESH AND SPIRIT is a colorful narrative tapestry of new and grander dimensions.... And Mr. Ozment has succeeded, with breathtaking immediacy, in depicting what life was actually like in the family of late-15th-century to early-17th-century Germany. Weaving together source material from letters, travel logs, and family chronicles, Mr. Ozment presents illuminating accounts of the family cycles.... Captivating, insightful." — The Washington Times

"Ozment gracefully and convincingly draws readers into the cycle of family life .... Ozment's profiles are almost novelistic in their specificity.... [The stories] are always absorbing." — Publishers Weekly

"Colorful, humane...The detail is often vivid, even shocking...These are intriguing tales, told with spice, verve, and the dry humor of experience..." — Kirkus Reviews

"A splendidly readable scholar." — The New Yorker

"Ozment adds luster to his already considerable reputation as a social historian with this deft portrayal of German family life in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Passages from private journals and letters allow the reader to see a complexity in the pre-industrial family that defies both negative and positive stereotypes. By focusing on episodes in the domestic lives of five families (four merchant and one clerical), Ozment opens to our view the emotional dynamics of courtship and marriage, of parenthood and child-rearing, in post-Reformation Nurnberg. We become privy, for example, to a secret engagement between a widely traveled merchant's son and the orphaned daughter of one of the city's most prestigious families; we rejoice with a credulous merchant at the astrologically predicted birth of a second son; and we share in a prominent clergyman's anxieties over the academic difficulties of his teenage son. But in his surprising conclusion, Ozment reverses the direction of scrutiny, measuring today's divorce-prone and bureaucratically besieged families against seventeenth-century standards. In our time of overheated debates about family values, this volume offers a much-needed historical perspective on the meaning of home life." — Booklist

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