The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
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The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Barbara A. Hanawalt's richly detailed account offers an intimate view of everyday life in Medieval England that seems at once surprisingly familiar and yet at odds with what many experts have told us. She argues that the biological needs served by the family do not change and that the ways fourteenth- and fifteenth-century peasants coped with such problems as providing for...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published February 9th 1989 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1986)
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A book assigned for an undergraduate history class that I picked up with dread and read with increasing interest, I have returned to the book several times. My primary hesitation as a professional historian is that Hanawalt argues that our view of medieval family life is drawn from too little information, but relies heavily upon English coroner's records. My experience with these records is that there is as much information buried in those records as is revealed, after all a great deal of a comm...more
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Mary Catelli
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...more
If reading The Ties that Bound does not bring any revelations, it is only because, in the quarter of a century since its publication, it has become so foundational to our study of the medieval family and English peasantry. Hanawalt combines a statistical analysis of manorial court records with the accidental deaths reported in the coroner's rolls. She argues that, contrary to what had been claimed by previous historians, the nuclear rather than the extended family was the dominant mode of social...more
I loved this book. Pleasant to read, full of interesting information about the lives of medieval non-nobles. Gives a very thorough look at life across the social spectrum in medieval villages, excepting nobles, of course. Very different from other books of medieval history, which focus on what Hanawalt calls "the Bad Old Days" -- you know, nobody took baths, people were dying all the time, things were generally "unenlightened", medieval peasants as cavemen -- and really delivers up what the titl...more
Princess Pepperdoodle
If you're looking for a book about the lives of medieval English peasants, this is one of the best books around that I've found. She uses contemporary coroner’s records (which is a tad morbid, but also humanizes the people she’s describing) and archeological research. She presents her findings in a nicely organized way, by stages of life. She includes a lot of subjects and types of people who have often been ignored. You get neither “nasty, brutish, and short”, nor a pastoral fantasy. Instead, t...more
Melissa Graff
I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I was completely intrigued by the serf/peasant system in the Middle Ages and realized through reading this that I knew little to nothing about it and my preconcieved and generic notions were almost all wrong. This book depicted peasants in a totally different light than I had ever seen them. Really interesting book with great attention to detail.
This book takes a very interesting approach. It uses court and manor rolls to flesh-out our understanding of life in the middle ages. I only wish it included a bit more detail. We may know that some peasants could afford tile roofs because we know some tile pieces fell on people's heads. We just don't know the outcome of the poor person upon whose head the tile fell!
Annemarie Pearson
A fascinating look at medieval peasant life in England as reconstructed through coroner's reports and death records. For example, Hanawalt concludes that houses in medieval times sometimes had two stories because of an account of a little girl mauled by a bear who climbed up the stairs to her bedroom. Sometimes dry, but the conclusions are fascinating
This book was very informative and creative in that the author used criminal and death records to find historical data. In looking at coroner's records, we are able to see more of the "everyday" people in medieval society.
Erik Graff
Jun 03, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: middle ages fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I generally enjoy histories which attempt to bridge the gap between our lives and those of people of other times and places. Hanawalt does so for the European middle ages, emphasizing the similarities.
Judy Perry
A very good introduction to medieval social history in England. I really fell in love with her writing while I was studying medieval history in college.
Mar 23, 2010 Hannah added it
This is an amazing book! Really well researched, and easy to read. Challenging to so many of my preconceptions about medieval peasants.
One of the best books on medieval family life. There may be some bias because most of the material pertains to London.
Nicole Hurley-Moore
This is an excellent book and I find myself delving back into pages time and time again.
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