Cover image for Life in a medieval village
Life in a medieval village
Gies, Frances.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper & Row, [1990]

Physical Description:
ix, 257 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HN398.E45 G54 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HN398.E45 G54 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HN398.E45 G54 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HN398.E45 G54 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A lively, detailed picture of village life in the Middle Ages by the authors of Life in a Medieval City and Life in a Medieval Castle. "A good general introduction to the history of this period."--Los Angeles Times

Author Notes

Joseph Gies was born on October 8, 1916 in Ann Arbor, Mich and attended the University of Michigan and Columbia University. He held jobs with several publishers including Encyclopaedia Britannica, and was editor-in-chief for a division of Doubleday.

Gies is best known for several books, such as Life in a Medieval Castle, Life in a Medieval City, and Life in a Medieval Village. These books, written with his wife Frances Carney, explore existence in Medieval times. The works, and his others, are noted for their highly readable, but thorough quality. Topics such as archaeology, government, dining, entertainment, and daily life are presented in fascinating detail.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Through archaeological evidence and historical research, the Gieses re-create life in a typical English medieval village. Elton, England, is the focal point of the authors' efforts to portray the everyday life and social structure of the High Middle Ages. After giving a brief summary of Elton's origins and development in the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods, the book examines just how the residents lived and worked within the feudal structure at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The emphasis is on the conditions of the villagers and peasants and not their masters, and the concentration on routines and events makes for a revealing glimpse of medieval culture at its most elemental level, with all of its religious, economic, and political nuances. Among the specific topics discussed are the justice system, the organization and influence of the church, and the various types of employment. Illustrated with photographs of artifacts from Elton itself and from other sources contemporary to the period. Notes, bibliography, glossary; index. --John Brosnahan

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to the authors of Life in a Medieval City , the vast majority of medieval Europeans lived in villages--``permanent communities organized for agricultural production.'' This earnest but dry distillation of period documents and archeological records focuses on Elton, an extant village located 70 miles north of London. The Gieses examine the dynamics of Elton's open-field type of agriculture; the division of the villagers into free and unfree, rich and poor; and the relationship between peasants and their ecclesiastical lord. Also discussed are the peasants' simple dress; meager diet; primitive housing; quarrels and lawsuits; sexual mores; rites of marriage, death and inheritance; and penchant for ale. Coroners' rolls reveal that parents frequently neglected infants; court accounts demonstrate that witnesses of crimes were obligated to come to the rescue of the victim. While valuable to history students, the barrage of facts presented here won't come alive for lay readers. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The authors of books on medieval merchants, knights, castles, cities, and women have now produced this knowledgeable study of the manorial village--the basic social unit for the vast majority of medieval people. Based largely on the evidence of Elton in Huntingdonshire, England, the Gieses provide a highly readable and soundly researched picture of peasant work; obligations to the lord; marriage and family life; religious practices; and local justice. The authors also discuss such artifacts of daily life as diet, household furniture, and recreation. While volumes 1 and 2 of A History of Private Life (vol. 1, LJ 2//87; vol. 2, LJ 3/15/88) address the scholar, the Gieses' book is aimed at the general reader and the university undergraduate. Cleverly selected illustrations and a glossary support the text. Whether an English village is typical of medieval European villages remains an open question.--Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Using the English village of Elton, the Gies vividly detail the everyday lives of people during the Middle Ages. The development and difficult-to-define concept of the village is traced, and examples of daily occurrences in the village hierarchy, the inhabitants, marriage and family, work, and in the judicial system are given. The decline of the village as a major social system concludes the study. The book will be a challenge for most high-school students. Many aspects of village life are discussed; because of the brevity of the text, most concepts are not fully developed. Middle Age terminology is used extensively, and often it is not defined until after the term has been introduced. Reproductions and illustrations give glimpses of medieval life, but do not relate directly to the text. However, records of fines, sales transactions, marriages, etc. are quoted to emphasize a point, providing primary-source information, and the book is a good example of history as a living, changing form, for it outlines some new interpretations of life during this period. --Stuart A. MacCaffray, Jr., Lake Braddock Secondary School, Burke, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The Gieses' new study complements their Life in a Medieval City (CH, Mar'70), Life in a Medieval Castle (1974), Women in the Middle Ages (CH, Dec'78), and Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages (CH, Jul'88). The authors begin with clear description and well-drawn maps showing the physical location of the English village of Elton. They then move from a historical definition of the term "village"--a concept easier to consider than define--through descriptions of Elton's inhabitants and their daily lives, families, work, church, and judicial systems from about 970 to the 15th century, citing such sources as Tacitus, the Domesday book, and Froissart's Chronicles. Strategically selected and placed photographs of manuscript illuminations, surviving and reconstructed medieval structures, ground plans, and aerial site views enhance and extend the text. Endnotes, bibliography, glossary of medieval terms, thorough index. This well organized and scholarly work is highly recommended for academic libraries, community college level up, to support student research in Western civilization, history, and sociology. -R. Seaney, Moraine Valley Community College