The Gift in Sixteenth-century France

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Must a gift be given freely? How can we tell a gift from a bribe? Are gifts always a part of human relations--or do they lose their power and importance once the market takes hold and puts a price on every exchange? These questions are central to our sense of social relations past and present, and they are at the heart of this book by one of our most interesting and renowned historians.
In a wide-ranging look at gift giving in early modern France, Natalie Zemon Davis reveals the ways that gift exchange is crucial to understanding alliance and conflict in family life, economic relations, politics, and religion. Moving from the king's bounty to the beggar's alms, her book explores the modes and meanings of gift giving in every corner of sixteenth-century French society. In doing so, it arrives at a new way of considering gifts--what Davis calls "the gift register"--as a permanent feature of social relations over time. Gift giving, with its own justifications and forms in different periods, can create amity or lead to quarrels and trouble. It mixes the voluntary and the obligatory, with interested bribery at one extreme and inspired gratuitousness at the other.
Examining gifts both ethnographically (through archives, letters, and other texts) and culturally (through literary, ethical, and religious sources), Davis shows how coercive features in family life and politics, rather than competition from the market, disrupted the gift system. This intriguing book suggests that examining the significance of gifts can not only help us to understand social relations in the past, but teach us to deal graciously with each other in the present.

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The gift in sixteenth-century France

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Davis (history, emerita, Princeton Univ.; The Return of Martin Guerre) here investigates the use of gifts in 16th-century France. She looks at gifts on all levels of society, from presents to a king ... Read full review

The gift in sixteenth-century France

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Davis (history, emerita, Princeton Univ.; The Return of Martin Guerre) here investigates the use of gifts in 16th-century France. She looks at gifts on all levels of society, from presents to a king ... Read full review

Contents

The Three Graces from Giovanni Pierio Valeriano and Caelius Augustinus Curio Commentaires Hieroglyphiques 1576
12
Allegory of Charity with almsgiving scenes
15
Dont blow your own horn from Georgette de Montenay Emblemes ou devises chrestiennes 1571
16
Hélisenne de Crenne presenting her translation of Virgil to François ler ca 1542
55
Jacques du Fouilloux presenting his book on hunting to the king 1562
56
The priest Melchizedek offering bread and wine to Abraham 1553
57
Abigail offering gifts to David to assuage his wrath 1564
58
Christofle de Savigny presenting his book on the liberal arts to the Duc de Nivernais 1587
59
Judah selling his brother Joseph to the Ishmaelites 1564
63
A woman purchasing fish in Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp Fish Market 1627
64
Esau selling his heritage to Jacob for a mess of pottage and shaking hands to close the deal 1553
65
Peasants lining up at the lawyers office with gifts of food by Pieter Brueghel the Younger ca 1615
86
The judges of Thebes with their hands cut off and a blind president in their midst 1536
91
Bribing the judge from Hans Holbein Les Simulachres de la mort 1538
92
Notes
135
Illustration Credits
173

the bad exchange between Ajax and Hector 1536
60
The farm owner paying his harvester book of hours 1522
61

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About the author (2000)

Natalie Zemon Davis is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emerita at Princeton University and is currently adjunct professor of history, anthropology, and medieval studies and a senior fellow in the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. Her many books include The Return of Martin Guerre and Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives.