Eileen Power's Medieval People sets out to study the Middle Ages not from the viewpoint of an Historical abstraction, but rather from that of the people who lived during the age. It is an account of six individuals who lived during the MA's; Bodo, a Frankish Peasant; Marco Polo, the famous Venetian merchant; Madame Eglentyne, prioress of Chaucer; an anonymous middle-class Parisian housewife; and two English merchants, one engaged in the wool trade and the other a clothier in Essex. The author has illustrated various aspects of social life of the era by drawing on such sources as account books, diaries, letters, records, and wills. She starts the work with a previously unpublished essay entitled "The Precursors," which describes the barbarian conquest of Rome. In this, she describes the lives of three men, Ausonius, Sidonius and Fortunatus and uses them to foreshadow the life that would re-emerge in the Middle Ages.
She starts by imagining a day in the life of the Peasant Bodo, in the time of Charlemagne. From her study of primarily economic documents from the Middle Ages of this time, she not only extrapolates but truly brings to life Bodo and his wife Ermentrude. From there, she goes on to the better documented life of Marco Polo, and also describes how he served as an inspiration for Columbus. Madam Eglentyne is next. Here, Power humorously details the inner workings of a gossipy nunnery and how Eglentyne would have gone about her life as an aristocratic women of God. She next details the life of a middle class Parisian housewife by studying the contents of the Menagier's Wife and validating many of it's points by citing other documents. She concludes by detailing the lives of the two Thomases; Betson and Paycocke of Coggeshall. Both are merchants and provide a chance for Power to really show off her grasp of medieval economics as well as an ability to compile disparate correspondences into a story of a life. This is a rare scholarly work that truly entertains while being read. One of the best books I've ever read.