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The Axe and the Oath:
Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages
Robert Fossier
Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format]


"The immense value of a book like this lies in its latent ability to stimulate readers--be they historians professional or amateur--to ask stimulating questions. If a reader drinks in Fossier's readable, intriguing discussion of medieval lay-learning, and learns enough from his wide-ranging discussion to ask a question either of Fossier or of the medieval sources, he has made great progress."--Emily A. Winkler, Oxonian Review

"Fossier draws upon over four decades of experience in the social history of medieval France to produce what is an immensely wide ranging, eclectic and engaging study of human life from conception to burial."--Carol Hoggart, Parergon


"What did men and women eat, drink, and wear in the Middle Ages? How did they work, fight, pray, and laugh? This book reduces medieval life to its most elemental functions. It encompasses not only material and social conditions, thought, and belief, but the natural environment as well. In other words, it raises all the questions that one never dares to ask. Among France's most active medieval scholars, Robert Fossier has spent more than six decades studying historical documents. Now he steps back from them to propose a deeply personal perspective. The result is a tour de force. Viewed in their bare flesh, humans living in the Middle Ages appear not much different from us."--John W. Baldwin, Johns Hopkins University

"This is a provocative meditation on the human condition in the Middle Ages, written by one of the field's most distinguished historians. Robert Fossier thoughtfully probes the continuities and discontinuities of everyday life for ordinary people, with constant and daring comparisons to modern knowledge and experiences."--William C. Jordan, Princeton University

"This is an outstanding book, an ambitious and strikingly successful attempt to capture the huge experience of human life in the Middle Ages. The most impressive aspect of this extraordinarily vivid work is the author's breathtaking mastery of everything he writes about. And the beautifully crafted and translucent prose gives the effect of a friendly and seamless conversation with the reader."--Piotr Górecki, University of California, Riverside

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File created: 4/21/2017

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