The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England

Overview

Barbara A. Hanawalt's richly detailed account offers an intimate view of everyday life in Medieval England that seems at once surprisingly familiar and yet at odds with what many experts have told us. She argues that the biological needs served by the family do not change and that the ways fourteenth- and fifteenth-century peasants coped with such problems as providing for the newborn and the aged, controlling premarital sex, and alleviating the harshness of their material environment in many ways correspond with...

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Overview

Barbara A. Hanawalt's richly detailed account offers an intimate view of everyday life in Medieval England that seems at once surprisingly familiar and yet at odds with what many experts have told us. She argues that the biological needs served by the family do not change and that the ways fourteenth- and fifteenth-century peasants coped with such problems as providing for the newborn and the aged, controlling premarital sex, and alleviating the harshness of their material environment in many ways correspond with our twentieth-century solutions.

Using a remarkable array of sources, including over 3,000 coroners' inquests into accidental deaths, Hanawalt emphasizes the continuity of the nuclear family from the middle ages into the modern period by exploring the reasons that families served as the basic unit of society and the economy. Providing such fascinating details as a citation of an incantation against rats, evidence of the hierarchy of bread consumption, and descriptions of the games people played, her study illustrates the flexibility of the family and its capacity to adapt to radical changes in society. She notes that even the terrible population reduction that resulted from the Black Death did not substantially alter the basic nature of the family.

This account offers an intimate view of everyday life in Medieval England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I've always wanted to step back into medieval society, to time-travel through England. Thanks to Hanawalt, I have!"—William Van Vugt, Calvin College

"Well-written and flows smoothly. Hanawalt uses her sources skillfully to build an intriguing portrait of the daily lives of women and their families in medieval England."—Sylvia McGrath, Stephen F. Austin State University

"[An] excellent presentation of medieval life, especially valuable for a course focussing on social history. Clear and vivid, easily comprehended yet subtly argued. Students find it rewarding and interesting."—James Rosenheim, Texas A & M University

"As stimulating for the questions it asks as for the answers it provides....[It] will serve as a corrective to those accounts that only see differences and not similarities between past and present."—The New York Times Book Review

"A vivid re-creation of the family and community life of English peasants during the later Middle Ages, as well as lively criticism of other historians who have generalized about the subject."—American Historical Review

"Meticulous, scholarly, and highly readable....Founded on voluminous and reliable evidence that is interpreted with grace, humanity, and common sense."—David Nicholas, Speculum

"An important new and timely venture....Hanawalt must be congratulated for taking up the task in such an energetic and lively fashion."—J.A. Raftis, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

"A wonderful book....[Hanawalt] brings to her reconstruction of domestic life a wealth of colorful detail....Informed, level-headed, fast-paced, fun to read, and deeply humane."—David Herlihy, Harvard University

"The first comprehensive account of peasant families in late medieval England."—Journal of Social History

"Diligent research...has enabled Hanawalt to speak authoritatively and engagingly about her subject....A significant contribution on its subject."—Choice

"This approach and its detail of everyday mediaeval life make the book of interest to a wide variety of reader. Those who are interested in the mediaeval period (or the family) should not miss it."—Open History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195045642
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/1989
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 364
  • Lexile: 1400L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara A. Hanawalt is Professor of History at the Ohio State University and author of Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300-1348 and editor of Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe.

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