An Ogre Minding Long Term Developments

Because of this emphasis on mentalités, Le Goff preferred to speak of birth and genesis rather than origins, decline, or decadence. Hence he wrote The Birth of Purgatory (1981) and The Birth of Europe (2003) (the French title posed a question: L’Europe est-elle née au Moyen-Age?) to communicate the gradual emergence of mental structures within societies in terms of continuity rather than discontinuity. His preference was for “a history of the evolution of deep structures, both material and psychological” over against what he considerd a cursory examination of rapid-moving events. This did not mean that there could be no intellectual revolutions, but such transformations must be viewed as organic extensions within rather than volcanic upheavals of society.

— Dale Coulter, “The Good Historian Resembles An Ogre

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