"For those intrigued with early Christian thought and exploits, the bulk of this book will be fascinating. There are surprising chapters depicting the early Christians as violent, often drunken, and sometimes clueless as to the rules of their religion." Amazon.com Reviewer
What was it like to live in the medieval times? Medieval people followed what was told to them by the church, without any serious questioning. People who lived in the Medieval times, "...required deference at all times -a bowed head when met in the street, a special place in the parish church, an immediate response to any request or command. ... As for the men, they would find themselves tending to the daily chores that needed to be done, and hope for the best. In medieval life, the role of women was rather secondary to their husbands and fathers. All that they knew of religion was learned through word of mouth and from watching services.
People living in medieval times and before were more apt to accept the tales as true. They lived in a world less understood than our own, and what couldn't be explained in rational terms was often given a supernatural cause. The fey, fairies and hobgoblins lived in the dark woods, and the tales of human encounters filled the nights before books, let alone electronic entertainment, took over the role of the storyteller. Only gradually did those creatures take on Christian form as angels and demons.
According to Carolly Erickson, Midievals did not view the world in quite the same way that we do, "... the medieval world view was holistic. But this abstruse term eclipses the most striking characteristic of the medieval perception - the extraordinary perceptual significance attributed to the visionary imagination." This view was not limited to pagans (uneducated peasants). The real and the magical impinged on one another at all levels. Mythical creatures adorned the carefully illuminated pages of religious books, while the edges of maps the oceans were filled with such dire warnings as "Here abide monsters." However, at least in Western culture, tales of magic gradually become folklore rather than accepted fact.
"From the fifth well into the twelfth century A.D., medieval Europe was likewise dependent on the full range of human senses. Early medieval religion was a highly tactile experience which for many individuals culminated in contact with a relic of the saints. The words of God and man were primarily received from the lips of preacher and poet. The limited number of available writings were not perused as much as pronounced. It followed that early medieval 'wise men' were those who "heard well." Early medieval law depended for its efficacy on an orchestration of diverse sensory experiences-gestures, words, deliveries, blows, and even tastes-that enabled transactions to be remembered months, years, and even decades after the fact." B. Hibbitt, Mirrors of Justice
The Forces of Disorder:
As Carolly Erickson writes, Adam installed himself as the 'robber king' of the town, and made this 'kingdom' into a playground for his men, 'commandeering ships and issuing proclamations while pillaging and murdering with impunity.' Adam the Leper was the leader of a fourteenth-century robber band, operating in the south west of England in the 1330s and 1340s. Like the north Midlands bandits Eustace Folville and James Cotterel, he and his gang specialised in theft and kidnap. His men would apparently enter a town while a fair was in progress, and the place would be conveniently filled with 'strangers'. They would commit widespread robbery and abduction, before setting fire to houses, and retreating as the townsfolk battled the flames. Adam is also distinguished by his particularly brutal treatment of prisoners. His hostages invariably suffered 'horrible mutilation', regardless of whether their ransoms were paid or not.
The Vision of Women:
In 1975 Carolly Erickson and Kathleen Casey published in Medieval Studies what they called a "working bibliography" on the subject of medieval women." In these works the themes of religion and rituals, the role of women, and the role of Lords were discussed. "This resurrection is part of a great retrieval effort which has been directed at medieval womanhood in general. Much research has been done on this subject with a remarkable surge starting about thirty years ago. In general, married women were not allowed to inherit or bequeath land, or to appear in court on their own behalf. If someone of higher class questioned a peasant, the peasant would have to immediately drop what they were doing and deal with the Lord or Lady, as nothing was more important than the Lord or Lady. This was due to the ignorance of the people; however, in their defense, they did not know any better. "Even the first moments of life were a gendered experience, for childbirth was women's work from which men were banished."
This reader amusing book describes how medieval men and women perceived their world, and how their vision of it dominated their ideas about nature and supernature, and their attitudes about land and property, the power of Kings, and pillaging robbers gangs, lawlessness, and crime, the role of women, and the image of faith. Medieval themes such as the belief in myths and magic, Good versus Evil, and feudalism were expounded. Carolly Erickson's The Medieval Vision, a collection of various essays regarding the medieval period.
A Profuse Author:
Prolific biographer Carolly Erickson, a pride of Berkley, is best represented by Judith Warner, in the NYT Forum: Book News and Reviews. "Erickson is a seasoned biographer who has previously published nonfiction accounts of the lives of Queen Elizabeth I, the Empress Josephine and Marie Antoinette herself, among many others. In "The Hidden Diary,"she paints an affectionate yet damning portrait of Louis XVI,..."
In spite of the absence of other important themes that are found in other serious treatments of the medieval period, (ex; Judith Bennett's A Medieval Life,) "This is a book designed to make the reader think. It's easy to see how different our world view has become in which science and technology, not the imagination, define what is real."
My favorite chapters that entertain while inform are: Canons, Monks & Priests, The Image of Belief (her debut in historical theology), The Forces of Disorder (her debut in medieval times), and the Vision of Women (her debut in Feminist Theology)