A 3 book series by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies, published here by the Folio Society in 2012 as a box set
1) Life in a Medieval City
This is the classic account of the year 1250 in the city of Troyes, in modern-day France. The acclaimed historians focus on a high point of medieval civilisation-before war and the Black Death ravaged Europe-providing a fascinating window into the sophistication of a period we too often dismiss as backward.
Urban life in the Middle Ages revolved around the home, often a mixed-use dwelling for burghers with a store or workshop on the ground floor and living quarters upstairs. A developed economy, focusing on textiles, farming, and financial services, could be found in the town centre, where craftsmen competed for business while adhering to the guilds' codes of conduct. There were schools for the children, though only boys could attend and the lessons were taught in Latin by a priest. The church was a hub of both religious and civic life; services were lively and filled with song, and baptisms and other special occasions brought neighbours together to celebrate. The weddings of wealthier townsfolk were lavish affairs full of song and dance and drinking that could sometimes last for weeks.
2) Life in a Medieval Village
Focusing on the village of Elton, in the English East Midlands, the Gieses detail the agricultural advances that made communal living possible, explain what domestic life was like for serf and lord alike, and describe the central role of the church in maintaining social harmony. Though the main focus is on Elton, c. 1300, the Gieses supply enlightening historical context on the origin, development, and decline of the European village, itself an invention of the Middle Ages.
Meticulously researched, Life in a Medieval Village is a remarkable account that illustrates the captivating world of the Middle Ages and demonstrates what it was like to live during a fascinating and often misunderstood era.
3) Life in a Medieval Castle
Focusing on a castle called Chepstow on the border between England and Wales, the acclaimed Medievalists offer an exquisite portrait of what day-to-day life was actually like during the era, and of the key role the castle played. The Gieses write eloquently about the many people whose lives revolved around the castle, from the lord and lady to the commoners of the surrounding village. We discover what lords and serfs alike would have worn, eaten, and done for leisure; the songs sung; and the codes of sexual conduct that maintained order. We learn of the essential role of honour in medieval culture, the initiation process undertaken by knights, and how castles attempted to keep the constant threats of outside violence at bay.
Exhaustively researched and as engaging as any novel, Life in a Medieval Castle is the definitive text for anyone wishing to learn more about this fascinating era.