Piero Camporesi is one of the most original and exciting cultural historians in Europe today. In this remarkable book he examines the imaginative world of poor and ordinary people in pre-industrial Europe, exploring their everyday preoccupations, fears and fantasies. Camporesi develops the startling claim that many people in early modern Europe lived in a state of almost permanent hallucination, drugged by their hunger or by bread adulterated with hallucinogenic herbs. The use of opiate products, administered even to children and infants, was widespread and was linked to a popular mythology in which herbalists and exorcists were important cultural figures. Through a careful reconstruction of the everyday imaginative life of peasants, beggars and the poor, Camporesi presents a vivid and disconcerting image of early modern Europe as a vast laboratory of dreams. The book should be of interest to university students and academics in medieval and early modern European history, literature, sociology and anthropology; and general readers interested in life in pre-industrial Europe.
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