Written in a style that is accessible to junior-high-school students and up, this book shows that life during the Middle Ages was neither as dark nor as primitive as novels, movies, or earlier historians have depicted it. In seven long chapters, the author, a lecturer on medieval history, analyzes "Eating and Cooking," "Building and Housing," "Clothing and Dressing," "Cleaning," "Relaxing and Playing," "Fighting," and "Healing." Each of these topics is broken down into its major components, with numerous aspects of daily life treated under each of the headings. "Clothing and Dressing," for instance, starts with a discussion of the sources for reconstructing what people wore, followed by sections on fabrics, clothing, fashions, and accessories. The section on fashions, to take one example, has subsections for tunics and doublets, capes and cloaks, and other items of apparel. Black-and-white drawings and photographs are used throughout. Though the book synthesizes a wealth of material from all over Europe, Newman rarely discusses the differences in daily life in the various countries of Europe, painting a general picture instead.
Daily Life in the Middle Ages is similar to Jeffrey Singman's Daily Life in Chaucer's England (Greenwood, 1995), which also divides the subject into topics such as clothing and accessories, arms and armor, food and drink, and entertainment. However, Singman's book focuses only on life in England, and each chapter is shorter and less detailed. Singman discusses bread in one paragraph, while Newman takes two pages to talk about not only bread but every grain that was used in bread.
Because of its greater detail and modest price, this is an excellent resource for school and public libraries that need accessible secondary sources for students doing papers on the Middle Ages. Even if libraries have Daily Life in Chaucer's England, they will want to add Daily Life in the Middle Ages to their collections. RBB
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"A wealth of material...great detail...excellent." --Booklist/RBB
"Very readable...appealing." --Mediaevistik