Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages

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A compelling, lucid, and highly readable chronicle of medieval life written by the authors of the bestselling Life in a Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval City

Historians have only recently awakened to the importance of the family, the basic social unit throughout human history. This book traces the development of marriage and the family from the Middle Ages to the early modern era. It describes how the Roman and barbarian cultural streams merged under the influence of the Christian church to forge new concepts, customs, laws, and practices. Century by century it follows the development — sometimes gradual, at other times revolutionary — of significant elements in the history of the family:

  • The basic functions of the family as production unit, as well as its religious, social, judicial, and educational roles.
  • The shift of marriage from private arrangement between families to public ceremony between individuals, and the adjustments in dowry, bride-price, and counter-dowry.
  • The development of consanguinity rules and incest taboos in church law and lay custom.
  • The peasant family in its varying condition of being free or unfree, poor, middling, or rich.
  • The aristocratic estate, the problem of the younger son, and the disinheritance of daughters.
  • The Black Death and its long-term effects on the family.
  • Sex attitudes and customs: the effects of variations in age of men and women at marriage.
  • The changing physical environment of noble, peasant, and urban families.
  • Arrangements by families for old age and retirement.

This compelling and lucid chronicle of medieval life is worthwhile reading for students of history, sociology and women's studies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060914684
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1989
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 906,265
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Frances and Joseph Gies have been writing books about medieval history for thirty years. Together and separately, they are the authors of more than twenty books, including Life in a Medieval City, Life in a Medieval Castle, Life in a Medieval Village, The Knight in History, and Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel. They live near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Why Condole?

Condole: To express sympathy or sorrow; I condoled with himin his loss.
— American Heritage Dictionary

I'm So Sorry

You read it in the newspaper or the telephone rings; the loved one of a friend has died. Among the thoughts that cross your mind are the desire to help in some way, to respond to your friend's sorrow and pain. The wish to condole is such a human trait, yet most of us are at a loss to acknowledge, in a caring and loving way, the grief of others. That's understandable. No one has ever taught us the art of condolence. And when we try to draw from our own experiences of loss, we find that those who have tried to condole us, friends and relations with the best of intentions, have frequently said or done exactly the wrong thing.

We want to comfort, to condole, but we don't know what to write, what to say, o r what to do. Days fade into each other and the call never seems to be made; that letter just never seems to get written. Sound familiar?

What is it about our confrontation with another's anguish that causes a tightness in our chest, a constriction in our throat, the primal urge, tempered only by social form, to run? What causes the words to slip away when we are faced with another's grief? Is it overwhelming compassion, or is it the reflection of our own mortality mirrored in another's suffering? Sometimes, when we respond to the grief of others, our deepest fears surface and we are reminded of our own experiences with the pain of loss. Yet, we know intuitively that in offering comfortand sympathy to another, each of us gains.

Grieving embraces the mysterious, unknowable aspects of existence and has the possibility of lending insight into oneself, one's choices, and the profound human longing to understand. Those who grieve, as well as those who have died, c! an The Art of Condolence. Copyright © by Leonard M. Zunin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

I. Origins
1. Historians Discover the Family 3
2. Roots: Roman, German, Christian 16
II. The Early Middle Ages
3. The European Family: 500-700 45
4. The Carolingian Age 68
5. Anglo-Saxon England 99
Marriage and the Family in the Year 1000 116
III. The High Middle Ages
6. The Family Revolution of the Eleventh Century 121
7. The Twelfth Century: New Family Models 133
8. Peasants Before the Black Death: 1200-1347 157
9. The Aristocratic Lineage: Perils of Primogeniture 186
10. Children in the High Middle Ages 196
Marriage and the Family in the Year 1300 218
IV. The Late Middle Ages
11. The Impact of the Black Death 223
12. The Late Medieval Peasant Family: 1350-1500 235
13. A Family of the English Landed Gentry 251
14. A Merchant's Family in Fifteenth-Century Florence 271
Marriage and the Family After the Black Death 291
V. The End of the Middle Ages
15. Legacy 295
Notes 307
Bibliography 341
Index 359
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2000

    Very boring reading

    I purchased this book for a school project. I found the book dry and boring. Too many details to follow and by the end of a page you were not sure what you had read. I was forced to completely read it. Only a history major might find it of interest.Don't wasted the $14.00 on it.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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