In 1499, high in the remote and bitterly impoverished mountains of the Valais, Thomas Platter was born and quickly abandoned, left to make his way among the crags as a herder of goats and sheep. At the age of ten, mustering the ferocity of will that would serve him throughout his life, Thomas walked barefoot and alone out of the hills and into the glorious turbulence of the sixteenth century.
For nearly ten years, he wandered the breadth of Western Europe, throwing in his lot with nomadic gangs of beggars and thieves, scraping and fighting for food and survival, until a chance encounter sparked a stunning humanist conversion, propelling him from illiterate pauper to esteemed professor, printer, and, ultimately, patriarch.
From a wealth of vividly autobiographical writings - diaries, travel journals, memoirs - Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie reconstructs the extraordinary life of Thomas Platter and the lives of his sons as well. Together their rich careers spanned the entire sixteenth century, and their far-flung and often perilous journeys carried them through countrysides and kingdoms, into cathedrals and plague houses.
These personal narratives, among the first to have authors of rural or peasant origin, constitute a rare and intimate portrait of the emergence of early modern European society. With masterful erudition, Le Roy Ladurie deepens and expands the historical contexts of these accounts and, in the process, brings to life the customs, perceptions, and character - the very dialogue - of an age poised at the threshold of modernity.
1. Father and son: Thomas and Felix Platter -- Pilgrimage to the Valais -- 2. Childhoods and undertakings (1499-1551) -- The Platter childhoods: Thomas -- Felix -- Platter enterprises: Thomas -- 3. Five years in the Land of Oc (1552-1556) -- Traveling to Montpelier -- Living in Montpelier -- 4. The year 1557 -- Going to Paris (Spring 1557) -- The Spring of 1557: Anabasis -- Summer and fall: thesis and wedding -- 5. Boy or girl? -- Gredlin -- Tomlin
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