Life in a Medieval Village
© 1990 Frances and Joseph Gies
207 pages, plus index, notes, and a bibliography
This week I continued reading from the Gies’ excellent series on daily life in the medieval era. This book, like Life in a Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval City, uses one particular example as a case-study. The authors chose the village of Elton in England as their case study for this book. The book is divided into ten chapters. The first introduces the medieval village, comparing it to its ancestors. The authors claim that the medieval village is a unique entity: a new way of living and producing, and one that has not been since since feudalism faded from history.
Subsequent chapters deal with how villagers live, the organization of marriage and family, the village as a working area, how the local parish was integrated into the feudal system, village justice, and finally with the demise of the medieval village. As usual, the Gies quote extensively from primary source materials, including the medieval equivalent of police logs and instructions to parish priests. The book is an in-depth look at manorialism, understandably so since the Gies hold that “the medieval village is unthinkable without its lord”. Under manorialism, the majority of people were serfs — slaves, nearly, tied to the land. They were not allowed to leave the village without their lord’s permission. The authors also examine the various types of field systems used.
In general, I found this book to be weaker than the other ones by the same authors. There wasn’t as much information on village laws as I was expecting. I was also looking for more information about craftsmanship. Still, it was an interesting enough of a read.