Medieval Callings, edited by Jacques Le Goff and translated by Lydia G. Cochrane, is a wonderful volume on professions during the Middle Ages which attempts to give a clear view of how various types of people viewed themselves. The book contains an introduction from Le Goff followed by essays from a number of scholars. You’ll notice many Italian names in the Table of Contents—some of the information tends to focus on Italy during the Middle Ages, particularly concerning city life, but this is not an exclusively Italian piece of scholarship.
I cite this book often on Made of Ƿ. I like that this book is organized by profession (however, information about women can be found in every chapter—the chapter “Women and the Family” focuses specifically on family life). The main focus of Medieval Callings is the daily routine: daily life, daily concerns, mundane jobs, and how the people who lived them likely viewed themselves. It gives excellent information on the three-tiered medieval hierarchy and how the main professions fit into that frame. It also analyzes the people who did not fit into that frame—the intellectual, for example, or the criminal.
One may also begin to understand intellectual trends from this book, particularly how the growth of cities changed a predominantly rural society. Since Medieval Callings focuses on how medieval man viewed himself, it’s a great book for engaging with modern stereotypes of the Middle Ages. The index is detailed, so this book is great for reading cover-to-cover or for research excerpts.
Medieval Callings is intended for a scholarly audience. It’s a wonderful resource for research, but too complex to be a good introduction to the Middle Ages, so if you’re engaging with the period for the first time, I would recommend Those Terrible Middle Ages.
Medieval Callings is well worth the price–$80 new or $0.82 used at Amazon.com. The best time to get it is when the University of Chicago Press has a sale.
Table of Contents
- Translator’s Note
- Introduction: Medieval Man, Jacques Le Goff
- Monks, Giovanni Miccoli
- The Warrior and the Knight, Franco Cardini
- The Peasant and Agriculture, Giovanni Cherubini
- The City-Dweller and Life in Cities and Towns, Jacques Rossiaud
- The Intellectual, Mariateresa Fumagalli Beonio Brocchieri
- The Artist, Enrico Castelnuovo
- The Merchant, Aron Ja. Gurevich
- Women and the Family, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber
- The Saint, André Vauchez
- The Marginal Man, Bronislaw Geremek