Dietro le quinte della storia

Alessandro Barbero , Piero Angela

Dietro le quinte della storia



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The history books never show us the vicissitudes of ordinary men but tend to focus on the exploits of prominent people and the lives of kings and emperors. In their book Dietro le quinte della storia, (Behind the Scenes of History) Piero Angela and Alessandro Barbero offer a glimpse into the everyday life of the ordinary people who have played an important role in human history since ancient times. Family life, beliefs, sexuality, inventions, crimes and punishments: only by understanding these key components of people’s lives can we really begin to understand how humanity has developed through the centuries. This book is full of new anecdotes and interesting facts to stimulate the reader's curiosity and immerse themself in our distant past.

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Analysis and key concepts


Studying the past to better understand the present


Agriculture fuelled the first great revolution in human history: social structures change when men go from hunter gatherers to farmers


The agricultural revolution is linked to another revolution: rearing animals, an important activity which had a significant impact on people’s diet and workload


The era when slaves were the chosen source of alternative energy


In mediaeval times there was no such thing as medical care, not even for the rich


People in the past were not much different from today: man’s desire to thrive has always been prevalent, as has the desire to raise a family and offer their children a future


Sexuality in medieval times was seen very differently: sex was considered healthy and important, and spoken about openly


In mediaeval times, religion influenced every aspect of daily life: religious affiliation was the most important part of people’s identity


The Middle Ages were also a time of creativity: many inventions that changed the course of history were created during this time although it is often described as stagnant


Pre Industrial society was very violent: people fought more, and family feuds and homicides were commonplace and widely accepted


Corporal punishment was used because keeping people in prison was too expensive


Innovation in the fields of offence and defence: war


Civil rights have never been the same for everyone, citizenship was a coveted status




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand the present by learning more about the past.
  • Discover the ways in which man has changed and those in which he has not.
  • Understand the role of technology, of energy and of knowledge in the development of society.

Alessandro Barbero is a historian, academic and a writer. He is an excellent communicator and populariser who teaches mediaeval history at the University of Eastern Piedmont and Vercelli. In 1996, his novel ‘Bella vita e guerre altrui di Mr Pyle, gentiluomo’ won him the Premio Strega, the most prestigious Italian literary award. Since 2007, he has worked with Rai television on Superquark with Piero Angela, and other programs. Some videos he published on YouTube went viral and made him a web star.

Piero Angela is a journalist and scientific academic, TV presenter and essayist. He joined Rai (the Italian television network) in the 1950’s as a reporter, and is best known for his Anglo Saxon television shows, Quark and Superquark. Angela has written many essays on populations and science and has 12 honorary degrees. He also has numerous other awards and in 2021, was awarded the title of Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Publishing house:

BUR Biblioteca Univ. Rizzoli