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Life in a Medieval Village Reprint Edition

35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060920463
ISBN-10: 0060920467
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to the authors of Life in a Medieval City , the vast majority of medieval Europeans lived in villages--"permanent communities organized for agricultural production." This earnest but dry distillation of period documents and archeological records focuses on Elton, an extant village located 70 miles north of London. The Gieses examine the dynamics of Elton's open-field type of agriculture; the division of the villagers into free and unfree, rich and poor; and the relationship between peasants and their ecclesiastical lord. Also discussed are the peasants' simple dress; meager diet; primitive housing; quarrels and lawsuits; sexual mores; rites of marriage, death and inheritance; and penchant for ale. Coroners' rolls reveal that parents frequently neglected infants; court accounts demonstrate that witnesses of crimes were obligated to come to the rescue of the victim. While valuable to history students, the barrage of facts presented here won't come alive for lay readers. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Using the English village of Elton, the Gies vividly detail the everyday lives of people during the Middle Ages. The development and difficult-to-define concept of the village is traced, and examples of daily occurrences in the village hierarchy, the inhabitants, marriage and family, work, and in the judicial system are given. The decline of the village as a major social system concludes the study. The book will be a challenge for most high-school students. Many aspects of village life are discussed; because of the brevity of the text, most concepts are not fully developed. Middle Age terminology is used extensively, and often it is not defined until after the term has been introduced. Reproductions and illustrations give glimpses of medieval life, but do not relate directly to the text. However, records of fines, sales transactions, marriages, etc. are quoted to emphasize a point, providing primary-source information, and the book is a good example of history as a living, changing form, for it outlines some new interpretations of life during this period. --Stuart A. MacCaffray, Jr., Lake Braddock Secondary School, Burke, VA
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 30, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060920467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060920463
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Diane Schirf on October 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies. Recommended.
Life in a Medieval Village is one of a series, including Life in a Medieval City and Life in a Medieval Castle, written by Frances and Joseph Gies. This series rarely touches upon the great people and events romanticized by Hollywood and numerous fiction writers (and perhaps even a few historians), but focuses on the basics of everyday life for the average person or even the average lord or cleric. The Gies use a number of primary and secondary sources, the latter of which reveal how the historian's view of the medieval village has changed in the 20th and 21st centuries and how flexible historians must be in interpreting the evidence.
Researched and written for the layperson, Life in a Medieval Village is more accurately about life in an English medieval village, with most of the detail coming from the records of Aethelintone/Aethelington/Adelintune/Aylington (Elton) in Huntingdon, one of Ramsey Abbey's manors. The Gies provide a history of the village concept and its definition; its role in the manorial system (contrasted to the seigneurial system); a description of its people, physical structure, buildings, administration and administrators, judicial system, family and spiritual life, and work; and the background behind its decline.
The world of Elton and similar villages is not found in movies or novels. Social and economic statuses are not always clear cut, economic upward mobility is possible primarily through acquisition of land, and even the distinction between "free" and "unfree" is not distinct. Life revolves around the manor and the villeins' and cotters' obligations to the mostly absent lord and the manor, which come in the form of work, rents, fees, taxes, and fines.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Marc Comtois on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Renowned scholars of medieval history, the Gies credentials are impeccable. However, in this book, they seem to relish in providing piece after piece of redundant references, notes, and other bits of trivia to tirelessly pound the reader into submission as they seem determined to impress with their knowledge and research capabilities. If nothing else, the work provides the reader with a comprehensive bilbliography and reference list of places to go if they are that interested in life in a medieval village. The result of this style is a dry work that ofter reads like paragraph after paragraph of a census roll or register. It's dry, it's well researched, but it's dry. Oh, did I say that already?
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey R. Elver on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Gies have made a career out of filling a niche in the medieval history market. Life in a Medieval Village gives a very detailed view of everyday medieval life to the casual reader. As a result, they walk a fine line. Some casual readers may find the text to be dry, and to lend too much detail to seemingly trivial matters, while specialist historians may find the work too general and superficial (not scholarly).
I find their work to be engaging, and to provide a fairly good picture of the subject matter. In terms of medieval studies, it's useful to provide a general knowledge base prior to more detailed analysis.
I recommend this book as well as their other works.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin N. Alexander on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was very torn when thinking about what to give this book. I felt, as a research tool, it was indispensible. However, It also was dry far more than neccesary and suffered from what I will call 'reader expectation'.

'reader expectation' is, from my point of view, the success of a book by measure of ambition, but falling short of the mark by gauge of the reader. Allow me to clarify;

LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE is a very well researched account of the breakdown of life in a subsistence agrarian collective. It backs up all statements and is, by all accounts, accurate in it's portrayal. Where it fails is two-fold: It is both a painfully accurate chronicle of the mundane life of the peasant, as well as a perhaps too specific in scope.

I originally picked this up as an account of medieval life, and by technical standards, I got what I wanted. However, to any future readers let me iterate what others have said in this page; this is SPECIFICALLY life in the 1300's in England, and not a reference material for people wishing to know how life was for the many centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. You will find this book very succinct in life and political breakdown in villages of 1300's England, but you will be left wanting as far as general Feudal life was for Europe as a whole. Which was what I wanted to know on a more general level.

I guess you can chalk that up to reader expectation. It is by no means a bad book but I was hoping it would tell me more about life in all post Roman rule, not merely the administrative ledger-notes of clerks in the 1300's. Altho, if this is what you want to know about, add another star to my review. It's definitely THAT.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Years ago I checked this book out of the library. I bought a copy the day the book was returned to the library. I have used it so much for my research that it is now held together with tape and glue. (I am a published author of short fantasy stories that have as their framework some of the information on village life from this book.) Thanks are due to these fine people for opening up the past to our modern eyes.
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