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A Medieval Family: The Pastons of Fifteenth-Century England
The Paston family of Norfolk, England, has long been known to medieval scholars for its large collection of personal correspondence, which has survived five centuries. Until now, however, they have remained virtually unknown to the general reading public. Revealing a wealth of information about the manners, morals, lifestyles, and attitudes of the late Middle Ages, the let...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 4th 1999 by Harper Perennial
(first published 1998)
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I've come to prefer social history to "big events". This is an account of the fortunes of a newly-prosperous family, who had made their fortunes as lawyers, drawn from an unusually complete collection of their correspondence. The correspondence deals with many matters of money and litigation. They were not unusually litigious for their times; it was just a difficult century. Several letter-writers emphasized that it was necessary to be well-versed in law, besides having powerful friends, in orde...more
A fascinating slice of gentry life in mediaeval Norfolk (UK, East Anglia). This is based on a collection of letters written by and/or to the Paston family throughout the 1400s, including a series covering the Wars of the Roses. Originally I'd expected the book to contain the text of all the letters themselves, and there are indeed a lot of quotes, and a number of photos of originals. Mainly though, this is a narrative description of the Paston family's business and family relationships, as told...more
This is not the Paston letters unabridged and in their entirety, but is a "translation" to clarify wording and archaic words. The author puts the Paston family's activities in the historic context of national and local events. The result is a rich account of the life of this family who lived in the turbulent time of the War of the Roses. Very good execution.
The cover made the historian in me excited, but it was actually fairly boring. I was tempted to put it down and I almost never put books down. The middle section was slightly more interesting when you could get into the characters, but ultimately it was a tale of people suing each other, which according to this book was what the Middle Ages were all about.
The Paston family, whose large collection of personal correspondence is the basis for this book, helps us see firsthand the lifestyle and attitudes of the Middle Ages. Although intriguing, the sheer volume of information makes this a heavy read. A college level text.