The rich and complex texture of working-class neighborhoods in eighteenth-century Paris comes vibrantly alive in this collage of the experiences of ordinary people--men and women, rich and poor, masters and servants, neighbors and colleagues. Exploring three arenas of conflict and solidarity--the home, the workplace, and the street--Arlette Farge offers the reader an intimate social history, bringing long-dead citizens and vanished social groups back to life with sensitivity and perception.
Fragile Lives reconstructs the rhythms of this population's daily existence, the way they met, formed relationships and broke them off, conducted their affairs in the community, and raised their young. Farge follows them into the factory and describes the ways they organized to improve their working conditions, and how they were controlled by the authorities. She shows how these Parisians behaved in the context of collective events, from festive street spectacles to repressive displays of power by the police. As the author examines interwoven lives as revealed in judicial records, we come to know and understand the criminals and the underworld of the time; the situation of women as lovers, wives, or prostitutes; anxieties about food and drink, and the rules of conduct in a "fragile" society. Elegantly written and skillfully translated, Fragile Lives is a book for the curious general reader and for those interested in social and cultural history.