Translated by Albert Wimmer
Edited by Steven Rowan
Historian Hans-Werner Goetz presents here the first comprehensive depiction of life in the earlier Middle Ages that focuses on everyday history. According to Goetz it is nearly impossible to write a history of everyday life during the earlier Middle Ages since the written sources of that age had entirely different purposes, never describing everyday life for its own sake. However, by drawing on chronicles, legal documents, and fiction, Goetz is able to produce a lively picture of this era, illuminating everyday life as it was conditioned by institutional, physical, and social environments.
Life in the Middle Ages addresses many of the current concerns of medieval historians in one single volume. After a brief introduction to the general conditions of medieval life, Goetz examines the family, illustrating the family’s fundamental importance as an ideal building block for other forms of society. The book explores monasticism and the monastery, which during the early and the high Middle Ages affected not only religious but also social, political, economic, and spiritual life. Goetz examines peasant life within the seigneurial system, focusing on the social and existential forms of the medieval manorial system. He also examines the life of the ruling class, concentrating on the sociopolitical level of princes and kings and the “courtly life.” Finally, Goetz evokes the beginning of urban life in the early medieval and high medieval town.
Throughout the book, Goetz uses fascinating vignettes to illustrate the lives of simple people who may not have influenced world history but were nevertheless an integral part of it. Written for a broad audience, Life in the Middle Ages will interest students, scholars, and indeed all general readers interested in both history and the Middle Ages.
“The argument of the book is backed up by well-chosen examples from medieval texts and illustrated by a generous selection of contemporary pictures of all aspects of medieval life discussed. They vividly bring to life the world meticulously evoked in Goetz’ prose.” — The Historian
“Goetz has written a useful . . . history of several institutional structures in which everyday life flourished. . . . His work is recommended for its treatment of demography and for good introductions to family, monastic, agricultural, and urban institutions.” — Choice