Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies

Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies is an interesting little book. I must say I’ve been avoiding books in this series when I saw them at Half-Price Books because the title seemed too simplistic to be well-researched. Shame on me. This is an excellent piece of introductory scholarship. It focuses on a particular city—Troyes—during a particular time period—around 1250. The authors announce themselves in the introduction as amateur historians, but they thank four professional historians for their assistance and have clearly put much research into their work.

Life in a Medieval City covers information often excluded from more comprehensive works of medieval history. City life was not the norm in the Middle Ages, though cities grew vastly during the period. The examples given in this book are almost entirely situations relevant to a city-dweller’s life, so while the same situations may be the same for non-city-dwellers, don’t take it for granted. The chapters are organized by topic—the housewife, weddings, schools, town government, etc.

One of the more interesting aspects of this book is that it covers aspects specific to Jewish life at the time as well as Christian life when the two differ. I say this is remarkable only because most other books focus on the Christian majority and treat Jews as a separate cultural group.

One of my favorite aspects of Life in a Medieval City is that it does a good job of avoiding stereotypes, carefully placing information in its relevant perspective. For example, “To be a woman in the thirteenth century is much like being a woman in any age. Women are somewhat oppressed and exploited, as always, but as in any age, social status is the really important thing….” At 288 pages, Life is not a comprehensive book, but it gives a great deal of general information with a few concrete examples. A perfect introduction. I borrowed this one from a friend, but I often see this and other books in the series at Half-Price Books.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • Troyes: 1250
  • A Burgher’s Home
  • A Medieval Housewife
  • Childbirth and Children
  • Weddings and Funerals
  • Small Business
  • Big Business
  • The Doctor
  • The Church
  • The Cathedral
  • Schools and Scholars
  • Books and Authors
  • The New Theater
  • Disasters
  • Town Government
  • The Champagne Fair
  • After 1250
  • Genealogy of the Counts of Champagne
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies — 1 Comment

Cweþ! (name/e-mail optional)

Your email address will not be published.