In The Axe and the Oath, one of the world's leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. Writing for general readers, Robert Fossier vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. While most histories of the period focus on the ideas and actions of the few who wielded power and stress how different medieval people were from us, Fossier concentrates on the other nine-tenths of humanity in the period and concludes that "medieval man is us."
Drawing on a broad range of evidence, Fossier describes how medieval men and women encountered, coped with, and understood the basic material facts of their lives. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and how they buried their dead. But The Axe and the Oath is about much more than simply the material demands of life. We also learn how ordinary people experienced the social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of medieval life, from memory and imagination to writing and the Church. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.
Robert Fossier is professor emeritus of medieval history at the Sorbonne. He is the author of many books on medieval history and the editor of The Cambridge History of the Middle Ages.
"This is a wonderful book--the product of a lifetime's immersion in the documents and artefacts that survive from the 1,000 years that we call the 'Middle Ages.'. . . In the end, Fossier concludes, 'I felt like saying all this, and that is enough.' More than enough, when a book as absorbing and challenging as this is the result."--Helen Castor, Times Higher Education
"This remarkable book . . . belongs with William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire as a window into a world so far removed from us and yet still very much present today."--Nick Schulz, National Review
"Fossier writes with a passion that makes this amazing period of European history come alive for any reader interested in medieval or social history."--Library Journal
"[A] grand-scale, breathless, dizzying tour, whisking us through a labyrinth of concepts, texts, authors and centuries in pursuit of the lives of the ordinary people who make up the world of medieval Europe."--Juanita Feros Ruys, Australian
"The subject of this skillful, elegantly produced translation of Ces gens du Moyen Age is immensely important and represents the culmination of a lifetime of work by one of the leading French medievalists of his generation. Fossier examines 'ordinary life' under a series of illuminating thematic headings: the physical being of man himself, growth from childhood to adulthood, private life, the workplace, and death. But he also considers external and psychological categories, such as the weather, trees, animals, memory, expression, faith, and salvation. In doing so, Fossier has been careful not to impose the arbitrary divisions of modern society upon a civilization that know no such compartmentalization, doing readers a great service."--Choice
"The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers."--Spartacus Educational
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