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Not sure how to formulate what I want to ask, so please advice if I should change the question: looking at microsocial behaviour today, we follow a lot of informal rules, practices and typical behaviours. For instance when sitting together at the dinner table with a group of people, it is polite to talk, handing the salt, talking about positive things, smile. When there is nothing else to talk we may do smalltalk, talk about the weather.

So question: how similar was the microsocial culture 500 years ago in, say, Europe? If you would put the people from the past into today's clothes and made them talk today's languages, what differences would be still observable? Has this topic been studied in the literature to some extent?

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I would suspect that regardless of how you dress or talk social norms outside of ones own culture will always be different. – MichaelF Oct 21 '12 at 12:53
There is a lot of pertinent information in the multi-volume A History of Private Life – Drux Oct 21 '12 at 19:17

Braudel Longue duree Most cultural/social history of peasantries

Basically: very different.

Class was expressed through legalised social status issues including dress, habit, language, gesture, stance. This was much more rigidly enforced because the classes mingled to a much greater extent than today (when have you met someone who owns $5bn of capital?).

Food customs differed remarkably, though 1512 was a period of food custom change (as always, but) to a greater extent than previously.

Sumptuary laws regulated a hell of a lot of this, and are widely written up.

Herman Pleij, Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life (2001) Columbia University Press might be a good start given that the fantasy of corporeal satisfaction embodies a lot of these issues. (It depends on where, when, and who a hell of a lot by the way.)

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If you could add more detail, it would be great. By detail, I mean, what food customs differed? Did they eat marrow with straws, did they lie down and eat like Romans did? The answer would be very good with more detail. – Russell Oct 21 '12 at 2:36

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