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Instead of writing about the movers and shakers, the kings or emperors, or large-scale religious change, she writes here specifically focused on a few families in mid-sixteenth century France. The reputations made by the people that exist within the covers were not the result of high birth or diplomatic achievement.


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Without any of the historiographic jargon that we may have come cynically to expect, Davis has wonderfully harnessed most of the elements that allow the causal reader to fully appreciate the story of Martin Guerre. Not long after moving from the Basque village of Hendaye to Artigat with his father Sanxi and his uncle Pierre, Martin Guerre, aged 13, marries a certain Bertrande de Rols. After a period of restlessness and sexual impotence, they conceive a child also named Sanxi ; soon afterwards, he gets into a dispute with his father and runs away, never to return.

From this point on, there are intermittent lengthy discussions of property transfer in France at the time, specifically detailing how Basque tradition stipulates that the property moves from Bertrande to Pierre since Sanxi the elder had already died. He is found guilty, but appeals to an illustrious court in Toulouse, where the author of one of the first accounts of the story, Jean de Coras, sits as a judge.

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After careful consideration, he overturns the ruling of the lower court, and announces Pansette innocent. At that moment, a man with a wooden leg enters the courtroom claiming to be Martin Guerre.


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Davis ends again on a speculative note, suggesting that perhaps Coras found sympathy with Pansette because of their common sympathy for Reformation ideas Coras was and remained fairly liberal for the time. Given the time period, there were countless accusations slung back and forth of faithlessness and apostasy. However, the book is much too short and this part in particular too underdeveloped to seriously support this idea.

Interesting, too, is what Davis never explicitly takes much time to discuss, but nevertheless lurks beneath the surface: ideas of identity, gender, property acquisition, incipient capitalism, and belonging in sixteenth-century France. So, while a causal reader can enjoy it for its unique historical cache, those whose interest is more academic have a lot to unpack, too. Aug 19, Jesse rated it it was ok.

The Return of Martin Guerre Summary

None of this was my business. Feb 01, Lily Zitko rated it really liked it. I really enjoyed this book mainly because the author took real-life people and created a narrative of a rather odd situation solely from primary research. A very quick read that makes you think of life in 16th century France. The book focuses on topics such as identity, peasant life, and the rights of women.

Martin Guerre Final Project

Beautifully written and well researched. Jul 22, Raisu rated it really liked it Shelves: read-in , 20th-century , not-written-in-english , historical , non-fiction. Identity theft, 16th century style: Martin Guerre, an affluent farmer, steals something from his father. Disgraced, he runs away, abandoning his wife and children, and isn't heard from again fo nearly a decade. Sometime during those years, a petty criminal Armand du Tihl runs into two men who mistake him for Marin Guerre.

This gives Armand an idea: he'll impersonate Martin and steal his life. Which he does. For three years, Armand lives as Martin, and even has a child with Martin's wife, Bertran Identity theft, 16th century style: Martin Guerre, an affluent farmer, steals something from his father. For three years, Armand lives as Martin, and even has a child with Martin's wife, Bertrande de Rolls.

But then the first Martin's uncle grows suspicious of the new one, and eventually takes him to court. First he's declared guilty and sentenced to death. He appeals. The appeal goes well and the court is just about ready to announce him innocent when a one-legged man makes an appearence, going "it is I, Martin Guerre! The real Martin Guerre and Bertrande resume their marriage and even have a few more children. Weird, right?

The contemporaries thought so too. Two books were written about the case shortly after it ended, one by the main judge. And it has been repeated many a time over the centuries in various collections of odd happenings. Zemon Davis reads the two original books, and draws conclusions from them. Were that material falls short, she speculates, but the speculations are never plucked out of thin air: they're based on what historians know about the era. As a book The Return of Martin Guerre is close to pefection. What more could you ask? This is the true story written by the woman who was the historian helping out with the movie version with the great French actor Gerard Depardieu.

I recommend both the movie and the book. I learned a lot about village life in 16th century France. The peasant Martin Guerre goes off to war to fight with the Spanish Army. After being away for a few years, an imposter arrives. The peasant Arnaud du Tilh pretends to be Martin Guerre.

He takes over Guerre's wife, property, and life. Finally, about thr This is the true story written by the woman who was the historian helping out with the movie version with the great French actor Gerard Depardieu. Finally, about three years later, the real Guerre will arrive on a wooden leg and denounce him. Arnaud will be hung as a result. Although the author leaves some room for doubt about who is who. Here are two 16th century quotes about marriage in France: 1. Another 16th century quote about the sex life of village boys: "I hardly knew what it was to be in love, but nowadays there is hardly a young man past fifteen who hasn't tried something out with the girls.

They are always laughing, jokjng, and dancing, women and men both.

And there is a Languedoc curse: "Le maulubec vous trousse. Oct 04, Genichka rated it really liked it Recommends it for: historians.

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I was deeply impressed when I read this book. I read it like a fiction not like a historian book. She tried to understand the motivations of her heroes. It's the kind of I was deeply impressed when I read this book. It's the kind of close-up history that impounds with the details the canvas of "general history". I would not reduce it only to the problem of the identity in the early modern history.

Of course it is one of the most important streams but not the single. We could find there the problem of traditional culture and different world-view issues. I recommend this book as the wonderful example of the microhistory and just for enjoying also. View 1 comment.

Dec 04, Breanna Willson rated it it was amazing. This book allows the reader to understand the culture and lifestyles of people in the 1 The Return of Martin Guerre was written by Natalie Zemon Davis. This book allows the reader to understand the culture and lifestyles of people in the 15th century which is a major strength of the book because this lacks within the movie, but the book makes assumptions of what may have happened which becomes a weakness because the identity of individuals can be perceived differently.

He gets married to a woman named Bertrande, but their marriage is based more so on connecting their family and land than their actual love for one another. Trials take place to find Arnaud guilty or innocent of the crime and during the trial the real Martin shows up. The Return of Martin Guerre allows the reader to understand the culture and lifestyles of the peasants in the 15th century. Most peasants in the 15th century could not read or write so there is little to no documentation about the peasant life during this time.

The Return of Martin Guerre

Through this book though the reader can read about the trials of Martin Guerre and his life leading up to the trials as well as the lives of his family. Reading these trials allows a better understanding of the peasant life. The book allows the reader to see what was valuable to the people living in this culture, as well as seeing what peasants lacked such as the ability to read, write, and have self-portraits of themselves. These were all things that could not be used in the trials because they were lacking in the average peasant life.

The Return of Martin Guerre makes many assumptions throughout the book.