Medieval Life

July 2012
18 colour, 36 black and white, 44 line illustrations
360 pages
24.4x17.2 cm
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC SOC003000, HIS037010

Medieval Life

Archaeology and the Life Course

Roberta Gilchrist

eBook for Handhelds
An examination of daily life in the Middle Ages which reveals the intimate relations between age groups, between the living and the dead, and between people and things.
"An important and timely volume... an elegant summary of complex theory, and synthesis of an impressive body of material. It will be eagerly read by current and future generations of archaeologists, and will demonstrate the significance of historical archaeology to a much wider scholarly audience." Dr Kate Giles, University of York.

The aim of this book is to explore how medieval life was actually lived - how people were born and grew old, how they dressed, how they inhabited their homes, the rituals that gave meaning to their lives and how they prepared for death and the afterlife.
Its fresh and original approach uses archaeological evidence to reconstruct the material practices of medieval life, death and the afterlife. Previous historical studies of the medieval "lifecycle" begin with birth and end with death. Here, in contrast, the concept of life course theory is developed for the first time in a detailed archaeological case study. The author argues that medieval Christian understanding of the "life course" commenced with conception and extended through the entirety of life, to include death and the afterlife.
Five thematic case studies present the archaeology of medieval England (c.1050-1540 CE) in terms of the body, the household, the parish church and cemetery, and the relationship between the lives of people and objects. A wide range of sources is critically employed: osteology, costume, material culture, iconography and evidence excavated from houses, churches and cemeteries in the medieval English town and countryside. Medieval Life reveals the intimate and everyday relations between age groups, between the living and the dead, and between people and things.

Roberta Gilchrist is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading.

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Table of Contents

Archaeology and the Life Course
Experiencing Age: the Medieval Body
Clothing the Body: Age, Sexuality and Transitional Rites
The Medieval Household: the Material Culture of Everyday Life
The Medieval Church and Cemetery: the Quick and the Dead
Medieval Lives: People and Things


In accessible language and compelling prose, Roberta Gilchrist applies a substantial corpus of archaeological evidence and anthropological theory on material culture to the social construction of the medieval life from c. 1050 to 1540. This book is essential reading for medievalists already working with material evidence, and provides an elegant example for historians and religious scholars of all periods interested in how material theory can shape their own projects. RELIGIOUS STUDIES REVIEW

A significant book that has potential to open new areas of study and to bring innovative approaches to a wide audience of medievalists from different disciplines. ARCHAEOLOGICAL JOURNAL, vol. 170

Gilchrist draws from an impressively wide range of evidence with skill. The volume is a detailed interrogation of the personal objects that furnished Medieval life [and] as a result it is a notable contribution to a growing body of complex interdisciplinary social archaeologies. CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY

A vital and innovative contribution to our understanding of how medieval people interacted with and comprehended the world they inhabited. . [It] is an exemplary model of interdisciplinary history. JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY HISTORY

If you prefer your medieval studies written with sustained brilliance, elegant, concise prose and frequently ravishing insight, then this is the book for you. MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLOGY

This important book is well written and supports every conjecture with evidence and citations. By organizing the book along thematic questions as opposed to categories of objects, Gilchrist gives a stimulating new perspective on the interdisciplinary topic of life cycles in medieval England. MEDIEVAL REVIEW

This is an important book. The scope of the work is impressive [and] the presentation is excellent. ANTIQUITY

A very original work of analysis and synthesis. [...] An unusual, and unusually interesting study. NORTHERN HISTORY

Vivid and rich in humanity. [...] For anyone who wishes to sense what being medieval meant, it is a key text. BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY

The great merit of Roberta Gilchrist's volume is that it shows us a past that was infinitely more complicated, and often complicated by people whose voices have left no articulate trace. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
A wonderful bringing-together of archaeology with standard history. BIBLIOBUFFET

Author Bio

Roberta Gilchrist is Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and held the post of Archaeologist to Norwich Cathedral for 12 years.

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