The Great Cat Massacre

3170 words 13 pages
The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History. First Edition. Robert Darnton. New York: Basic Books, 1999 XIII + 298.

The Great Cat Massacre with out a doubt has one of the most unusual titles ever created especially for a book about history. Now this unusual title perhaps fits this book better than any other straight - forward title Mr. Darnton could have conjured. You see the text contained in the book isn't just your standardized, boring, and redundant view of history. Most historical text looks at history from a political standpoint, of which king did what and what were the political effects of a war; then what were the politics like after the war, how were they changed and by which major political figures
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Chapter five looks at the creation of the encyclopedia, or Encyclopedie the creation of Diderot. Darnton looks at is creation from categorization of plants and animal to the "traditional orthodoxies, it contains thousands of words about grinding grain, manufacturing pins, and declining verbs." (Darnton Pg. 191) Darnton's main topic of this particular dealt with why a jumble of words could bring up such a conflict and what set it apart from other "learned compendia" that came before it. The final chapter in the book deals with reading. To be a little more specific the emotions that went behind the task. One way Darnton examines the views of the French literature is by examining the life of Jean Ranson. Ranson was an upper middle class man with high standings in the community. What Darnton looks at are some of his selections of reading tracked down threw private orders through publishers and the archives of Societe Typograpique de Neuchatel (STN) and the record they provided to keep and accurate record of his reading tastes.
At this point of the essay I'm going to add some comments and criticisms I have about Mr. Darnton's book The Great Cat Massacre. On the whole I did enjoy reading this book, it's simply not your standard history book. Organizationally Mr. Darnton has laid out this book rather loosely often jumping right to work explaining the background info for the chapter some


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