The Hour of Our Death by Philippe Ariès

The Hour of Our Death

This remarkable book - the fruit of almost two decades of study - traces in compelling fashion the changes in Western attitudes toward death and dying from the earliest Christian times to the present day. A truly landmark work, "The Hour of Death" reveals a pattern of gradually developing evolutionary stages in our perceptions of life in relation to death, each stage representing a virtual redefinition of human nature.The richness of Aries's sour...

Details The Hour of Our Death

TitleThe Hour of Our Death
Release DateNov 12th, 1991
PublisherOxford University Press
GenreHistory, Death, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Religion, Culture, Cultural Studies

Reviews The Hour of Our Death

  • K.D. Absolutely
    If there is one thing that I consider as takeaway from this heavy and thick (651 pages) history book, it is this one: dying is a part of a natural process just like being born, growing up, having sex, giving birth, aging, getting sick. We normally dread thinking about death. The book shows that this should not be the case as death is always imminent. We are all born to die. Every minute that passes by means we are getting nearer to our demise.Thi...
  • AC
    This book is enormous - 600 pages -- consisting of masses of detail, anecdote, quotations, iconographical studies of all aspects of death from tombs, epitaphs, cemeteries, the danse macabre, Sade, the vanitas mundi, mirrors, medicalization, procession.... on and on -- including much about early Christian/medieval eschatology, friars, early modern prelates, humanists... and so forth. I was only able to read it by mustering all my forces of speed, ...
  • John Jr.
    To borrow L. P. Hartley's familiar line, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." Though this book doesn't set out explicitly to make you aware that our social life and even our sense of self is a construct that alters over time, it leaves one with just that feeling. Focusing mainly on continental Europe, with forays into Britain and America, Philippe Ariès surveys a thousand years of Western practices and attitudes tow...
  • Emily
    The last chapter of this book is the only reading I ever had in my academic career that I was so amazed by that I went and bought the book so I could read the whole thing (granted, it took me 4 years to actually read it). A fascinating look at how the French view death--from burying the dead (and the rituals that surround it) to grieving. Although this book was written with a French audience in mind, I found that its ideas are easily transferrabl...
  • Brian
    Study of the Western view of death and burial, starting in the Middle Ages. It's intriguing to read how our attitudes about death have changed through the centuries, as well as watch a scholar sleuth his way through the historical clues and interpret the evidence.
  • Cat
    This is a comprehensive survey of one thousand years (longer, really) of western attitudes towards death. By "western" were mostly talking "French", although Aries does include digressions into German, Italian, Spanish, English and American culture. I didn't find the intense focus on France to detract from the overall majesty of this 600+ page opus. For most of the thousand years, the "attitude towards death" that Aries is describing crosses nati...
  • Marie
    I've been waiting to read this book since I first became aware of it sometime in the early noughties. And I'm very glad I finally took the time to read its 600+ pages. The translation left a little to be desired, but didn't mar the essence of the tractate, which is a charting of the views on death and eschatology in the West during the last 1000 years. The focus is sometimes rather narrowly French, occasionally expanding to include England and, m...
  • Lisa
    Very intriguing history of attitudes towards death in the West, particularly France. I would have enjoyed it even more if there was less about tombs and epitaphs etc. From the 1700s onwards was particularly interesting because it puts a lot of the novels I read into perspective and why they are filled with death and longing for death and contentment with death.
  • John
    This is a 4-star book for me (as I was at my threshold on the topic) but with the breadth of research and detail, I couldn't rate it lower than a five. It's sublimely impressive. It's exhaustive and exhausting. I can't recall a book so thorough since Varieties of Religious Experience for William James (which I have not finished). However, it's so narrow and specific that it's much more a textbook then Death: A Graveside Companion or from Here to ...
  • Roslyn
    Thorough, backed up, explained, no arguments made without evidence. Fascinating conclusion, though I wish he would have led with the conclusions and then repeated it--it would have helped me map his arguments in my head. Fascinating that simply seeing ourselves as individuals had such an extreme and world-changing impact on history. Makes me even more concerned about contemporary psychologies and kantian philosophies that deny the individual.My o...
  • Justina Kančauskytė
    It is one of the most difficult books which I have read in the last period. It was quite difficult English as for not native speaker. Nevertheless, this book gave interesting insights how thoughts about death and acts which contains death changed throw ages. It is a really big book which aims wide topic variety not to forget graveyard (cemeteries) itself.On the other hand, I have mist information about other parts of Europe for an example Scandin...
  • Shea Mastison
    If you've ever thought to yourself, "Man, I would love to know more about the history of death for the last one thousand years;" this is your book. It comes across as a bit more eclectic than what one would imagine, but primarily I suspect this is a result of it being translated from French, rather than any lack of focus by the author. Aries doesn't back down from any aspect of death: everything from funerary practices, to social norms, and relig...
  • Leif
    At times bombastic, at other times perhaps a little credulous, unflaggingly digressive, Ariès' classic is still a worthy read and a fascinating archive. Not quite the historical perspective that a Braudel-inspired view of the longue durée would produce, The Hour of Our Death nevertheless spans a thousand years and a variety of Western Anglophone and Continental cultures. As such it's a great primer for some of the later scholarship on death whi...
  • Shelly
    At times this was a very difficult book to get through. It is historical fiction after all. There were sections that I found fascinating while other parts that were too detailed for my liking. It definitely provided some knowledge that will help me appreciate other classics like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and well, Frankenstein! Death is definitely a topic we shouldn't shy away from and I particularly enjoyed the last part referring to our own ...
  • Bonnie
    I read this as background to a course I'm teaching in the fall called "Death: Perspectives". It covers Western attitudes towards death from the early christian era to the present, as expressed in art, architecture, folk beliefs and customs, and literature. Drier than I expected, and more repetitive of the central thesis. Too much focus on the architecture and art of churches and cemeteries, not enough on the literature and philosophy of the time ...
  • Sharon Blackstone
    This is not a book that I just read straight through. It is possibly my most prized book ever, and I return to it often, and have been kicking myself that I didn't bring it with me, and it is sitting in a box, in a friend's basement, 3000 miles away since I moved across country. I've turned to this book frequently through the years, and it is worth owning an extra copy...or 2!
  • Shelagh Plunkett
    I searched for a copy of this book for two years after a friend recommended it and was thoroughly rewarded for my diligence. A fascinating and detailed examination of our cultural (western that is) response to death. Great historical accounting of where some of our death related rituals and superstitions originate, and how those have changed (in some cases significantly) over time.
  • Joey B.
    A study of 1500 years of death and internment especially in Europe. Mildly interesting and somewhat though provoking, if this is in your line of interest but it usually just reads like a college theologen's senior thesis.
  • Dark
    A bit long winded but is a good jumping point for any study concerning thanatology. A lot of the researchers in the 70's which is when the topic about death really gained academic attention uses Aries as a jumping point to their own research.
  • Dianna
    Excellent book about how people have changed the perceptions of death and how the process of death itself has changed throughout history. It is very well researched, and yet as easy to read as the best novel– I would give it six stars if I could!
  • Ann
    If you have the time, this hefty book (614 pages) covers the attitudes toward death in Western Culture--over the last 1,000 years. Fascinating insights.
  • Gord Higginson
    Classic work on thanatology and death in human history.
  • Andrew
    Although a little tedious at times, a good book on all things related to death.
  • Tyler Malone
    It could use some more humor, it deals with death, after all. But the insights offered are timeless.
  • Ben
    I very comprehensive overview of the process of dying in the Western world. Dry but thorough, peppered with some interesting insights on the evolving ways of perceiving death.
  • Solange
    It can be a lil complicated and there are a lot of facts, but overall the topic is so interesting that it makes up for the complexity.
  • Elizabeth
    Very thorough but too Franco-centric to be an overall guide.
  • Max
    Kind of annoying that this is in a list of Must-Have Cemetery Books but hey people are fucking stupid
  • Sean
    A very long, thorough and often surprising tracing of European burial ritual. You learn a lot about French as well!