Whenever historical scholarship concerns ‘long periods’ and ‘long centuries’, the discussion usually involves long-term economic, demographic, and intellectual conditions and processes that ultimately shape the political, social, and cultural history of entire epochs. The evolution – and continuities – of these conditions and processes usually escape the notice of those who experience them, and are thus rendered difficult for ensuing generations and scholars to identify. Nevertheless, these cultural phenomena effectively determine the philosophy and actions not only of whole groups of society but also of particular individuals, including even those who we might think were separated from the ‘normal sphere’ by provenance, talent, or achievement.