WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE AGES by Frances & Joseph Gies


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This chatty book in the currently popular vein of ""women-have-been-more-important-than-you-think"" tells (or retells) the stories of some medieval women widely different in time and place but still part of that vague lump called The Middle Ages. Rather oversimplified background chapters are followed by accounts of the life and milieu of several different medieval women: an abbess, a queen, an aristocratic lady, a merchant's wife, and some women of the working classes. Oddly enough, some chapters tell more about men than women, but Gies and Gies--authors of previous books on the medieval city and the medieval castle--seem to think that any discussion of domestic arrangements, marital property rights, clothing, or food must be about women, not men. Their reliance upon secondary sources and their haphazard documentation will not recommend the book to historians; and there are erroneous generalizations that give away shallow research. Nevertheless, the introductory reader may well enjoy some readable biography and amusing incident: Albertus Magnus theorizing on female sexuality, Bishop Hugoccio describing ""a certain itching,"" the Abbess Odette de Pougy leading an armed mob to demolish the church Pope Urban IV tried (vainly) to build on her property. An enjoyable book, but certainly not the last word--perhaps not even the middle one.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell