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Life in a Medieval City

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,761 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
For students, researchers & history lovers, a look at day-to-day life in a rarely explored era.
"About life & death, midwives & funerals, business, books & authors, & town government."--Choice
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published 2002 by Folio (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 01, 2010 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Life in a Medieval City" is an educational nonfiction book. It covered all aspects of city life in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe. The focus was mainly on what life was like in Troyes, France, but the authors also compared Troyes to various other European cities.

The content was technical (as in, serious research rather than interesting trivia), but the writing wasn't dry. I liked the depth of information and the quotes from documents written at that time. There were some black and white
Karen Brooks
May 31, 2011 Karen Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another outstanding addition to a captivating series for any history buff or beginner historian. Taking the reader through a 'typical' medieval city, in this case Troyes in 1250, the Gies' introduce us to all aspects of everyday life throughout the year - from schools and scholars, to authors and tanners, to the famous Hot and Cold Fairs that ran for a few centuries. Discovering what people ate, wore, how they interacted, the imposition of taxes, the return to Roman Laws and courts (and ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Ash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, 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 m
Oct 02, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just what it says on the cover - this is a slim little book (200 or so small pages) detailing everyday life in Troyes, circa 1250, covering everything from what a housewife did all day to table manners to the economic and religious systems (although, strangely, not much about the political setup). It's quite interesting; the only time I found my attention drifting was while the authors were describing clothing styles, which was also an issue with The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A ...more
Medieval history is mostly about kings, barons, bishops, friars and popes. Occasionally there is a mention of the peasants, but there is very little in traditional histories about the medieval city. I consider it a pity because in my opinion medieval city is what really distinguishes Europe from Asia and the rest of the world. The city had more or less disappeared from the European scene with the fall of the roman empire, and when it re-emerged following restoration of order, its character was d ...more
Nov 27, 2010 Hedlun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this in our basement, it was from one of Stephanie's classes at Alma College. Fairly interesting and quick read. I liked how it was organized by topic: A Medieval Housewife, Small Business, The Doctor, and Disasters to name a few. Most interesting to me were A Burgher's Home and The Doctor. This book gave me a greater appreciation for how difficult life was and included details that get glossed over in even the best literature and film on this period.
Aug 15, 2016 Lorelei rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lorelei by: John
Shelves: history
I loved it! If you have an interest in the subject, you can't do better.
Jan 02, 2013 Catrine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apart from some issues with the language, this is a very good book. I was surprised by how entertaining it is - it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of many similar books, but it is written in an engaging manner that drew me in.

The book doesn't really LOOK like much, particularly if you look at the too-dark photos that are included, but it is really comprehensive for its relatively short length. It does what it says on the cover - life in a medieval city is covered from many angles - it s
This book was fantastic and fascinating, and I think it will probably turn out to be my favorite of the nonfiction trilogy. (Apparently I am very much a city person.)

I really enjoyed the discussion of the politics and economics of craftsmen and businessmen within a medieval city -- the particular city they focus on is Troyes in France -- and how all the other bits of medieval life interacted with business. I also really enjoyed the discussions of medieval literature and creators of fiction, poet
Kelle Campbell
Apr 04, 2015 Kelle Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes you through different aspects of life in the French city of Troyes during 1250, from childbirth to housework, from commerce to various disasters, e.g. famine or siege. It also looks at specific inhabitants such as the burgher and housewife, doctors, scholars, cathedral builders, tradesmen of various sorts, etc.

The book generally takes a day-in-the-life type of approach, but substantiates it with more technical details and quotes from historical sources. To provide context for the
May 03, 2016 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining non-fiction writing! I love medieval history; it usually kings, bishops, knights. This book was about the peasants, the housewives, what they did every day, the routines, table manners, food. A practical view of everyday life. It was easy to read. It only got complicated at the end when the author carefully described how the money and trade systems actually worked. VERY interesting. I liked the way the chapters were organized: doctor, small business, disasters, etc.

Icing on the
Daniel Kukwa
Mar 06, 2016 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a history teacher, always on the look out for concise, easy-to-read, informative research sources, you can't ask for better than this little classic. The icing on the cake of this excellent work is its smooth-as-silk writing style, which makes it a captivating read, as well as a first rate research source.
Dominique Lamssies
This book is recommended for anyone who is interested in the minutae of daily life in Medieval times. Suffice to say, that's not many people, but those who are history buffs will get a lot of enjoyment out of this book. It's also a pretty good reference for anyone who wants to write Medieval set fiction.
Jon Carroll
This is one of those books that comes up a lot when one is discussing fantasy as many genre authors (including George RR Martin) cite it as a source. Focused on the French city of Troyes, the authors paint a vivid picture of European medieval life circa 1250, shortly before everything started to go to hell in the fourteenth century with the Black Death and the hundred years war. The biggest flaw is that you may want more information about some topics, making the book less of a definitive resourc ...more
May 14, 2013 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I thought this was a well-written account of daily life in 1250. I cannot possibly vouch for its accuracy, but nothing set off warning bells. I learned a few things I didn't know, for example that "universities" at first didn't have building, lecture just happened where there was enough space for a teacher and a bunch of students, including in churches. I learned that lords frequently sold strange things, for example entire towns, or the rights to all taxes from a certain craft. But what's proba ...more
Morgan Sanchez
Sep 23, 2016 Morgan Sanchez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites
A wonderfully illuminating chance to get a glimpse at the past.

Written for the medieval enthusiast, this book offers much in the way of historical accuracy and a fun to read narrative. Easily digestible reading and a fun format make the book fly by.

For writers, it offers a unique and detailed perspective in world building without being inundated with simple facts and opinions. Readers will feel as though they are in a time capsule and able to observe all of these events.

Highly recommended for en
Aug 15, 2014 Georgene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Georgene by: Philip Wickstrand
Shelves: history
An older book on the life in the French city of Troyes in the year 1250. I found it quite interesting. It dovetails easily with other books I have read on that period and I learned a lot of things I didn't already know. That's always a plus!
Aug 07, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in everyday life in a Medieval City. I had some trepidations when I started reading because I'd read (or rather, skimmed) some of Gies' other books on medieval life and I'd found them to be a bit dry. But "Life in a Medieval City" is actually quite entertaining and easy to read. There are plenty of examples, anecdotes, and little details that really make this book come to life. The first half, which deals primarily with family, death, and busine ...more
Feb 01, 2016 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder
A trip into time, that explains the basics of life, but not enough details, for my taste. I guess, I had hoped for more family and daily life, versus the institutions that forned the framework of life. Published in 1960, it certainly holds up well.
Jul 31, 2012 Cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised at how often I return to the Life in a... series. It's a fairly friendly yet clinical look at precisely what the titles would suggest. I'm using this review as a means to cover the entire series, as they're all of fairly equal quality. The books manage to cover quite a lot without getting bogged down with overly technical details. If you're looking for the specifics of certain technologies or aspects of life, you might have to do a little deeper digging than what these novels provi ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book so many years ago when it first came out. Terrific read for those interested in Medieval life. I'll have to purchase it again.
Michael Sheen
Awesome research material for any inspiring fantasy writer or just a fan of history.
M.E. Neidhardt
Oct 17, 2015 M.E. Neidhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for research for my upcoming book number 2 in my Domina Lumen series.
Loomy Mišurda
Apr 17, 2016 Loomy Mišurda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a very good book which is describing life in 12th century french city of Troyes
Not at all bad, but the other books in the series are better.
Phil Howard
Disjointed but informative
David Richardson
This was a "half-n-half" book for me. About half of it was interesting and the other half was very boring. Some good info and a few black and white pictures.
Jul 01, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great look at life in the 13th-century French town of Troyes. It describes the day and life of wool merchants, schoolboys, weavers, midwives, doctors, storytellers, city officials, tradesmen, tanners, shoemakers, and more. What's it like to have dinner with a middle-class burgher family? It's an interesting and enlightening view of what life was like when our modern western culture was first being born out of the ashes of the Dark Ages. Definitely a good read if it's something you'd b ...more
I have a low tolerance for nonfiction. This historical snapshot of daily life in one medieval city in 1250 was a delight to read. It had my rapt attention, and I caught myself saying, "Huh!" or chuckling numerous times while reading it. I loved the first half of the book. The second half was a bit less interesting, only because the topics weren't as personal. A truly fascinating read, filled with technical details but somehow never dry. I will definitely devour Life in a Medieval Castle!
Jun 13, 2015 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 A bit dry and traditional but incredibly interesting content. Will follow up with newer/other works to see how they compare.
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Frances and and her husband Joseph Gies were historians and writers who collaborated on a number of books about the Middle Ages as well as wrote individual works.
More about Frances Gies...

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“At mealtime a very broad cloth is laid on the trestle table in the solar. to facilitate service, places are set along one side only. On that side the cloth falls to the floor, doubling as a communal napkin...there are several kinds of knives...but no forks.” 1 likes
“...beggars were permitted to enter great houses and solicit directly from the table, but now they are restricted to the doorstep. ” 1 likes
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