marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Ties That Bound

The Ties That Bound:  Peasant Families In Medieval England by Barbara A. Hanawalt

A meticulous look at peasant life in the 14th and 15th century.  With rigorous attention to what sources point to what -- which can get just a touch ghoulish, because one major source of information is inquests, describing what people were doing at the time of their deaths, and how the corpse came to be found.

It brushes on all sorts of subjects in the course of working things through.  Cottages were commonly rebuilt every generation or so; an old man or woman who had given control of the lands to a child still lived in a separate cottage when at all possible.  Food was commonly part of your wages at the beginning -- even for people who taught at colleges -- but the plague and famine in the middle, which produced both an abundance of available land and a scarcity of labor, resulted in laborers who demanded their wages in cash, and didn't like yearly contracts.  The poor, the middling, and the prosperous peasant, the last of which usually monopolized the village offices as well.  Kinship and inheritance -- the families of this era were clearly nuclear and only seldom extended farther.  Labor for the man, the woman, and the children; boys joined in men's labor later than girls did woman's, but they were kept busy as adolescents on jobs requiring less strength.  The stages of life, where, yes, they knew the children were children and teenagers were not quite adults.  And the bonds of community and friendship.
Tags: history reviews: medieval

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