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: 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: 1 October, 2007
This book covers many of the aspects of castle life, including the daily routine of the lord and lady, their costume, their diet, and their hobbies. It begins and ends with a brief history of the castle in England. It also deals with the lives of some of the non-noble residents: talking about knighting ceremonies and life in the village that the castle depended on.
As usual, J&F Gies have written another amazing resource for anyone interested in the subject. Taking notes, I found myself practically transcribing the entire book simply because every single sentence is packed with so much information. This book is more than enough of a resource for anyone interested in the basics. Those who are using this as an introduction for further studies will find enough base material to spawn a great deal of ideas. This is a fantastic resource and the writing style is absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend this and every other Gies book I’ve read to date.
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Read: 23 August, 2007
The book begins with a discussion of the technology inherited from Classical civilization and from the Dark Ages. It then discusses technology adopted from the East. Finally, it covers technology invented (or perfected) within Europe through the Middle Ages, the High Middles Ages, and the end of the Middle Ages (in a chapter titled “Leonardo and Columbus”).
The language is easy to follow and the concepts, though detailed, are well explained. This makes Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel a perfect book for anyone interested in technology (both “domestic” and military) or in what life was like during that time period. In fact, the processes or production are well described and are invaluable to anyone who, like me, hopes to use a Medieval setting in creative writing.
I can’t sing this book’s praises loud enough. It took me a great deal of time to read simply because every sentence provided new information to write down in my notes or to help me jump into further study. I consider this a book anyone with even the most passing interest in history should read.
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