History of sensitivities – Books & ideas

Alain Corbin, Hervé Mazurel, dir., History of sensitivities, Puf/Life of Ideas, 2022. 108 p., €9.50. This volume is coordinated by Hervé Mazurelhistorian, lecturer HDR at the University of Burgundy, and Alain Corbin, historian, professor emeritus at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Contributed to this book Damien Boquet, Quentin Deluermoz, Thomas Dodman, Sarah Rey, Anouchka Vasak, Clementine Vidal-Naquet.

Despite ancient intellectual roots, the history of sensitivities has long remained the work of a few pioneers. Undoubtedly because writing the history of the sensitive and affective life of individuals and societies of the past is a project as attractive as it is difficult. To refuse to do so, however, amounts to denying oneself any true understanding of the women and men of the past. Having now acquired its full legitimacy, this field of inquiry embraces a broad spectrum that ranges from the historical study of the senses and emotions to that of feelings and passions.

In addition to probing the relationships between body and mind, such as the nature-culture divide, this skin-deep story allows rich shifts in the concrete articulation of singular stories and collective experiences. Through situated examples, this work shows all that this form of anthropological history bearing on the ways of feeling and feeling, here and elsewhere, yesterday and today, can bring to the intelligence of societies.


• Hervé Mazurel, « The exploration of the sensitive »

Historical Explorations

• Sarah Rey, « The power of tears. Crying in Roman Antiquity »

• Damien Bocquet, “ Should we civilize the barbarians ? Thinking and experiencing emotions in the Middle Ages »

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• Anouchka Vasak, “ « The barometers of the soul “. Meteors and Sensitivities of the Enlightenment to Romanticism »

• Clementine Vidal-Naquet, “ Writing the intimate: the sentimental bond in the conjugal correspondence of the Great War »


• Interview with Alain Corbin: “ Our senses do not escape the story »

• Thomas Dodman, Quentin Deluermoz, Hervé Mazurel: “ Emotions under discussion. Affective Neurosciences and Social Sciences of Emotion »

• Annotated bibliography

To quote this article:

Alain Corbin & Hervé Mazurel, “History of sensitivities”,

The life of ideas

, September 21, 2022. ISSN: 2105-3030. URL:

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