Life in a Medieval City

by Joseph Gies

Paperback, 1981



Call number




HarperPerennial (1981), Paperback


Recreates the life of the rich and poor family, the housewife, businessman, doctor, scholar, clergy, artist, and writer of the Middle Ages, with insights into many customs and traditions of the period.

User reviews

LibraryThing member twilightnocturne
For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in both medieval life and culture – the way in which people of the era lived, survived and managed their day-to-day lives. As a kid I was fascinated with dragons (I still am), and knights..and swords..and castles, and yes magic. Some of these,
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of course, have little to do with the real life of the middle ages – at least that of battling fiery dragons and sea serpents, but the time in general has always struck something inside of myself – an interest that has grown stronger with time (which is partially due to my love of fantasy novels). For this reason, I have decided to take this fascination to the next level and actually do some real research! That is why I purchased the book “Life in a Medieval City” by Joseph and Francis Gies.

Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Francis Gies covers a huge range of topics and issues – essentially anything you can think of when it comes to a Medieval City – at least the city of Troyes. The book focuses in on the city in the year of 1250 – a year in which, as described by the book, was a relatively safe and prosperous time. A time where society and civilization had truly begun to progress and advance, from medicine to architecture, to schools and to business.

While many history related books tend to bore me – not necessarily because of the content within, but because of the writing itself – I found that “Life in a Medieval City” did more than an adequate job of not only education and enlightening, but doing so without ever becoming dull or robotic. The writing didn’t drag on and on, the author was to the point, and the book in its entirety was written in a more down-to-earth tone. This format, along with the wealthy abundance of interesting content – truly made for a compelling and informative read. I found myself immersed within nearly each page, and came out knowing far more about the subject than I had when going in.

Oh, and did I mention that “Life in a Medieval City” is completely jam packed with information? Just looking at the index had had me salivating. From homes, to churches, to medieval housewives, to childbirth and children, to weddings, funerals, schools, businesses, doctors, natural disasters and more – nearly every aspect of Troyes was covered. Along with this, there were several great illustrations – artwork of the time, as well as actual photos of the city as it stands today. I personally found the chapter on doctors and medicine to be most fascinating – but was was intrigued by the chapters on home life. I’ve always had an interest in the people of that era; of how they spent their daily lives and simply lived. There was a great deal of material on this, and I found enjoyment in every bit. It was also quite interesting to compare and contrast life as it is today, with life as it was then – to note the things that have changed so much, as well as the things that really haven’t.

Overall this was a great and informative work. From the large array of topics, to the excellent writing – I have very few qualms when it comes to this. After finishing “Life in a Medieval City”, I can definitely say that I have learned so much – and would certainly suggest it to those who may be like myself; those who have an interest in medieval studies but have never actually put that interest into action. In other words, this is an excellent starting point when it comes to studies of the Medieval era – especially when it comes to the medieval city. I’ll also say that the two authors have several other published works on the subject, including “Life in a Medieval Village,” “Life in a Medieval Castle,” “Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages,” “Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages“ and more – all of which have rather favorable reviews.

As you can probably tell, I was quite pleased with this read and will continue to delve further into the studies of medieval life. This book has a lot of re-readability, and is a great overview of what the city of Troyes was like in the year 1250. Not only was it informative – but it was full of life. While reading “Life in a Medieval City,” I felt as though the words brought out the true essence of the time – for it wasn’t simply a compiled list of already established information – but a nicely structured piece of work, with great detail and vivid description. Overall this was a fascinating read, and I again, would recommend it to anyone interested in the Middle Ages.
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LibraryThing member EvilJohn
This is a good medieval history book; concise, well written and entertaining.
LibraryThing member CKmtl
As with Life In A Medieval Castle, the authors have collected a great deal of information and created an entertaining and informative read.
I found the sections on Small and Big Business, as well as the description of the evolution of modern credit and banking, to be very interesting.
LibraryThing member ncarman31
Life in a Medieval City takes the reader on a systematic exploration of different aspects of life in a town called Troyes in 13th century France.
One was struck by how deeply uncomfortable life was for even the most wealthy of 13th century city dwellers; they lived in drafty cold houses that were
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infested with fleas and bedbugs.

This was counterbalanced by the book’s discussion of the energetic religious, commercial, and legal activities that were developing at this time. It is possible to imagine a Europe that was gearing up for the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution.

This book is written in a lively and engaging manner that catches the idiosyncrasies of this time and place, and is possessed of a sly sense of humour.
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LibraryThing member heidilove
wonderful survey level fare.
LibraryThing member dandelionroots
Using Troyes, a 13th century French town boasting two annual fairs, numerous aspects of medieval life across the classes are discussed highlighting the advances that separate "current" Troyes from the Dark Ages: the burgeoning of business and all of the legal and monetary advances this entails,
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manufacturing and construction processes, the formation/solidification of town governments, and daily life and its major moments (weddings, childbirth, funerals). Not unlucky to be born now.

"Most of the masonry work consists of old, long-practiced technique. The Romans maneuvered bigger blocks into position than any that medieval masons tackle. On the Pont du Gard there are stones eleven feet in length. But medieval masons are steadily improving their ability to handle large masses of stone. The Romans habitually built without mortar, dressing their stones accurately enough so that walls and arches stood simply by their own weight." Aaaaand now I need an overview of the Roman Empire.
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LibraryThing member aodha
The author uses the city of Troyes as it existed in 1250 AD as the exemplar, and tackles the major institutions and occupations in separate (but connected) chapters. Though this would be useful in a history course, it is not written in a dry, academic style; instead, her style is easy to read,
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interesting, and flows well. The topics are well researched and referenced for those wishing to delve deeper into a subject.
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Original publication date


Physical description

288 p.; 7.9 inches


0060908807 / 9780060908805
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