Old Age in Late Medieval England

Overview

In Old Age in Late Medieval England, Joel T. Rosenthal explores the life spans, sustained activities, behaviors, and mentalites of the individuals who approached and who passed the biblically stipulated span of three score and ten in late medieval England. Drawing on a wide variety of documentary and court records (which were, however, more likely to specify with precision an individual's age on reaching majority or inheriting property than on the occasion of his or her death) as well as literary and didactic ...

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Overview

In Old Age in Late Medieval England, Joel T. Rosenthal explores the life spans, sustained activities, behaviors, and mentalites of the individuals who approached and who passed the biblically stipulated span of three score and ten in late medieval England. Drawing on a wide variety of documentary and court records (which were, however, more likely to specify with precision an individual's age on reaching majority or inheriting property than on the occasion of his or her death) as well as literary and didactic texts, he examines "old age" as a social construct and web of behavioral patterns woven around a biological phenomenon.

Focusing on "lived experience" in late medieval England, Rosenthal uses demographic and quantitative records, family histories, and biographical information to demonstrate that many people lived into their sixth, seventh, and occasionally eighth decades. Those who survived might well live to know their grandchildren. This view of a society composed of the aged as well as of the young and the middle aged is reinforced by an examination of peers, bishops, and members of parliament and urban office holders, for whom demographic and career-length information exists. Many individuals had active careers until near the end of their lives; the aged were neither rarities nor outcasts within their world. Late medieval society recognized the concept of retirement, of old age pensions, and of the welcome release from duty for those who had served over the decades.

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Editorial Reviews

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Rosenthal (history, State U. of New York-Stonybrook) examines the lives and activities of people in the 14th and 15th centuries who outlived their allotted three score and ten. Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, he finds that they were neither rarities nor outcasts; that many were active right until the end; and that society recognized such concepts as retirement, old-age pensions, and releasing from duty those who had labored through the decades. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Abbreviations
Preface
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Inquisitions Post Mortem as a Window on Old Age 9
Ch. 2 Proofs of Age and the Culture of Attesting to Age 33
Ch. 3 The Scrope and Grosvenor Depositions: More Attestations About Age 44
Ch. 4 Three-Generation Family Links and Inquisitions Post Mortem 57
Ch. 5 Three-Generation Family Links and Last Wills and Testaments 69
Ch. 6 Three-Generation Family Links and Some Aristocratic Genealogies 81
Ch. 7 Retirement, for Some, at the End of the Road 93
Ch. 8 Careers and Case Studies of the Peers 115
Ch. 9 Another Case Study: The Bishops 135
Ch. 10 Men and Women of Letters: The Length of Lives and Some Literary Careers 156
Ch. 11 Old Age Within and Across Cultures 171
Notes 191
Bibliography 235
Index 255
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