The best books in the history of emotions

Barbara H. Rosenwein Author Of Love: A History in Five Fantasies
By Barbara H. Rosenwein

The Books I Picked & Why

Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History

By Carol Zisowitz Stearns, Peter N. Stearns

Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History

Why this book?

Many historians before the Stearnses thought it would be good to study the emotions of the past, but this book on anger was the first to offer a rigorous and satisfying technique for doing so. By carefully researching the advice books offered to middle-class Americans in the nineteenth through twentieth centuries, the authors show how standards for emotional expression changed over time. Emotional standards are in fact key to understanding how different groups at different times evaluate their emotions, understand their uses, and feel their mental and physical impact.


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The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions

By William M. Reddy

The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions

Why this book?

This book electrified the field of the history of emotions. It showed how feelings were not just private but also—and essentiallypolitical. Reddy here demonstrates the utility of his notion of “emotional regimes”—the idea that power involves imposing certain emotional norms on everyone. His book argues not only that emotions are a tool of power but also that they may be so misused and ferociously applied that they give rise to rebellions and revolutions—each, in turn, with its own sets of emotional norms.


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The History of Emotions: An Introduction

By Jan Plamper

The History of Emotions: An Introduction

Why this book?

Himself a brilliant historian of emotion, Jan Plamper here surveys the field as a whole.  He notes some little-known predecessors to the Stearnses, and he devotes chapters to the contributions of anthropologists, the findings of psychologists, and modern historical approaches, methods, and theories. Always he “gets behind” the research to discover its underlying assumptions.This is a book packed with hard-won insights.


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Emotional Arenas: Life, Love, and Death in 1870s Italy

By Mark Seymour

Emotional Arenas: Life, Love, and Death in 1870s Italy

Why this book?

To the many approaches of modern historians—the emotional standards of the Stearnses, the emotional regimes of Reddy, the emotional communities of my own work—Mark Seymour here adds an important dimension, a study of the places and media in which emotions are expressed, from the courtroom to the love letter. He shows not only how emotions aroused by one venue may mean different things to different people, but also how the clash of such emotions may help modify and mold new forms of emotional expression and create new objects of emotional focus.


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Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages

By Damien Boquet, Piroska Nagy, Robert Shaw

Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages

Why this book?

All who are convinced that the Middle Ages was a barbaric period in which emotions were on the whole angry and violent will quickly change their mind as soon as they pick up this book. It shows that, far from being a stagnant interlude between the richly emotional worlds of classical antiquity and our own age, the period we call the Middle Ages was in constant emotional ferment, drawing above all on the implications of Christ’s passion and what it meant for human sensibilities.


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