Humour is without doubt a vital element of the human condition but it has rarely been the subject of serious historical research. Yet a closer look at jokes and other comic phenomena shows us that the nature of humour changes from one period to another, and that these changes can provide us with important insights into the social and cultural developments of the past. <p><br>This important and highly original book sets out to explore the <i>terra incognita </i>of humour through the ages - from jokes and stage humour in Greece and Rome to the jestbooks of early modern Europe, from practical jokes in Renaissance Italy to comic painting during the Dutch Golden Age, from Bakhtin's conception of laughter to the joking relationships of anthropologists. <p><br>These innovative accounts move humour into the centre of social and cultural history and throw an unexpected light on life and manners through the ages.
"[There are] plenty of fascinating nuggets in this book." The Sunday Telegraph
"This is an unusual and stimulating book, packed with valuable information on a subject too often considered trivial and nonscholarly." Sixteenth Century Journal
"Temptingly interesting ... worth indulging in." The Times Higher Education Supplement
"Bremmer and Roodenburg have created a valuable work in the comparative sociology of humour ... excellent research bibliography ... interesting and scholarly work of value to the sociologists." British Journal of Sociology
"Opens up a fascinating subject." Journal of Social History
List of illustrations.
Notes on contributors.
Introduction: Humour and History: Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg.
1. Jokes, Jokers and Jokebooks in Ancient Greek Culture: Jan Bremmer.
2. Cicero, Plautus and Roman Laughter: Fritz Graf.
3. Laughter in the Middle Ages: Jacques Le Goff.
4. Bakhtin and his Theory of Carnival: Aaron Gurevich.
5. Frontiers of the Comic in Early Modern Italy, c1350-1750: Peter Burke.
6. The Comic and the Counter Reformation in the Spanish Netherlands: Johan Verberckmoes.
7. Prose Jest-Books Mainly in the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries in England: Derek Brewer.
8. To Converse Agreeably: Civility and the Telling of Jokes in Seventeenth-Century Holland: Herman Roodenburg.
9. How was Jan Steen Funny? Strategies and Functions of Comic Painting in the Seventeenth Century: Mariet Westermann.
10. Parliamentary Hilarity Inside the French Constitutional Assembly (1789-91): Antoine de Baecque.
11. Humour and the Public Sphere in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Mary Lee Townsend.
12. Humour, Laughter and the Field: Reflections from Anthropology: Henk Driessen.
13. Humour and History: A Research Bibliography: Johan Verberckmoes.
Index of Names.
Index of Subjects.