Read: 31 October, 2007
With very little information available about peasant life, I can imagine that it must have been difficult to stretch out an entire book. Certainly, I felt that it was the chapter on the village from Life in a Medieval Castle with only a few extra details. I did find those extra details interesting and I made good use of the images. All in all, I think that if you are doing research on Medieval life but are strapped for time, read Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel, City, and Castle, but skip this one. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of time, by all means give it skim through.
The book covers what it can about the daily life of peasants, usually from criminal records and so the book is full of amusing stories about drunken farmers hacking at each other with sickles. It also talks about marriage traditions and the church’s efforts to control that. The interaction with the manor, both in law and in harvest feasts, dominates much of the information in the book. There is also a good deal of information on farming – the plants, the seasons, the methods of sowing and reaping, bylaws about grazing, and so forth.
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Read: 20 October, 2007
Discuss the role of games in Medieval society, including its role in gender and class barriers and the way in which games reflected a society that was organized for war (Carter discusses the three estates as being formed around war). The book also touches on the cult of reputation (identified as a remnant of the Greco-Roman tradition) nurtured by sportspeople.
The purpose of this book is to argue rather than inform. If you would just like to read about the types of games people played, what they looked like, what the rules were, etc… this is not the book for you.
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Read: 19 October, 2007
Another fantastic Gies to add to my collection, this one dealing with life in the cities. It covers life for richer women, education, crafts, medicine, trade, religion, and law. The writing style is easy to read and loaded with information. There isn’t much that I can say except that I highly recommend this book. In fact, if you plan to write historical fiction or Medieval fantasy, I think that this (and the Castle and Village books) is a great starting point.
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Read: 24 August, 2007
This is a non-fiction book that deals with the interaction between knights and nobles, two classes that were far more different in theory than in practice. Scaglione tracks the rise of the knight and the eventual merging of the two classes.
I mostly skimmed through this book because the level of detail was far deeper than I needed. I mostly enjoyed the “art imitating life imitating art” portions in which the author discusses the place of the epic romance in the evolution of the knight.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to a casual reader or to someone with a general interest in the Middle Ages. If, on the other hand, you would like a book specifically dealing with knights, epic romance, or the changing political scene near the end of the Middle Ages, this would be far more appropriate.
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