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.
Two experienced popular historians have assembled a well-researched and well-written overview of a lively topic in medieval scholarship, the history of the family. They start from the Roman, Germanic, and Christian backgrounds of medieval family life, cover its recently discovered 11th- and 12th-century transformations, and exploit the rich late medieval examples of family life. Among other topics the authors treat family definition and size, marriage rules and customs, and sexual relations. Especially because it offers the general reader a critical sense of the scholarship that resulted in this material, this is recommended for public and college libraries. Richard C. Hoffmann, York Univ., North York, Ontario
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January 24, 1989
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