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Women in the Middle Ages [Hardcover]

Joseph Gies , Frances Gies
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

16 Nov 1978
Correcting the omissions of traditional history, this is "a reliable survey of the real and varied roles played by women in the medieval period. . . . Highly recommended."-- "Choice" "Many a quaint and amusing side, as well as a wealth of solid information." "--New York Times"
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Ty Crowell Co (16 Nov 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0690017243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0690017243
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,376,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Many a quaint and amusing side, as well as a wealth of solid information.""--New York Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Traditional history, all about politics, wars, and revolutions, has devoted few pages to women because few women were prominent in those male-dominated activities. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Women in the Middle Ages 20 Oct 2004
I found this book reasonably useful for a History essay I had to write, there is some information about the role of women, and the attitudes towards them. Its quite interesting reading about the way women were treated.
Definately useful for essays and projects, and also a good read if you're interested in knowing more about the subject!
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Readable Book 24 Feb 2000
By E. A.B Phelps - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a welcome addition to the medieval history books written by these authors. It profiles several prominent women of medieval times, and in so doing, gives us a glimpse of what life was like for all women back then. Well written, not at all dry. Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in medieval history and/or women's history. Also check out, by these same authors, "Life in a Medieval Village" and "Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel."
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A scattershot introduction to a millennium of European women 11 Nov 2007
By D. Cloyce Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Frances and Joseph Gies, singly or as a pair, have cranked out one or two dozen short primers on topics in medieval European history over the last four decades, and they are used, I suppose, primarily for the classroom. This one, summarizing nearly a millennium of "women," is a mixed bag.

The first part of the book covers the period to the year 1100 and "summarizes what is known about woman's situation in that fascinating and, to the historian, frustrating era" and describe "the principal attitudes toward women that prevailed." It's an impossible task for fifty pages: much of this section is filled with a string of unavoidably vapid generalizations ("medieval marriages often developed into closed and loving relationships") and context-free anecdotes, spiced with the occasional factoid or randomly selected quote from medieval sources. The lack of focus makes for incredibly boring reading--akin to making sense of a professor's lecture notes. Fortunately, this section has been superseded by Lisa Bitel's recent "Women in Early Medieval Europe," which covers the same period in much greater detail.

The meat of Gieses' book can be found in the seven chapters on individual women who lived during the High Middle Ages (1100 to 1500). A trio of chapters spotlights the aristocracy: Hildegarde of Bingen serves as the example for female monasticism; Blanche of Castile and her daughter-in-law Marguerite of Provence for queenship; Eleanor de Montfort for noblewomen, with an excellent synopsis of the siege of Kenilworth Castle. The best of these is the last: the authors recast the familiar story of Simon de Montfort (Eleanor's husband) and King Henry III (her brother) from the equally pivotal perspective of the powerful woman in the middle of their egos.

A chapter on the peasantry uses the fictional wife of Piers Plowman as a metaphorical stand-in and examines scattered evidence from local court and tax records. The final three chapters survey what might be termed the rising middle class: the fascinating Agnes li Patiniere and her mother, cloth dyers in Flanders who (fortunately for historians) sued their employer--and won; Margherita Datini, a merchant's wife in the late 1300s outside of Florence, whose story we know from a cache of business papers discovered in a stairwell in 1870; and Margaret Paston, the matron of a nouveau riche family whose surviving letters have served in recent years as the basis for a BBC dramatization and a number of books--including one published a decade ago by the Gieses.

These seven quasi-biographical chapters give a far better sense of what life in the medieval period may have been like than do the random simplifications offered by the earlier portion of the book. Still, readers would probably be well served avoiding the scattershot approach offered by this book and instead choosing among the abundance of more recent titles that concentrate on specific lives, topics, regions, and periods.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Written 12 Jun 2013
By KRM - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The Gies have written several books on teh Middle Ages and if this is an area of study for you I would encourage you to read them. If I could give them a 10 I would!
4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval women brought to life 6 Feb 2013
By Karen B - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love anything written by this couple; always entertaining, always educational, they do their research, combine it with their sound knowledge of the era or people they are writing about and produce something that history buffs, writers, or just those with a healthy curiousity about the past will thoroughly enjoy.
Women in the Middle Ages is no exception. A concise book it starts with a working definition of the Middle Ages (around 600AD to the end of the Fourteenth Century) before explaining popular misconceptions and some facts about the role women played in these fraught and fascinating times. They then explain the primary models against which women were measured – Eve and Mary – sinner and saint, mother and whore, basically. Reductive they might be and yet they set the framework against which women lived, worked, loved, worshipped, ruled, and died.
The second part explores specific women, using contemporary sources, in more detail. We are introduced to (or reacquainted with) Hildegarde of Bingen, one of the most highly educated and clever women of the Middle Ages, an Abbess; the magnificent Queen Blanche of Castille a canny ruler who, despite enemies seeking to capture her throne managed to rule beside her husband and later, as a regent, handling the power thrust upon her with courage and intelligence; Eleanor of Montefort, sister to Henry III, devoted mother, wife to the courtier and warrior Simon de Montefort (their relationship is beautifully and sympathetically explored by Sharon Kay Penman who, though working in fiction does extensive research and she paints a softer portrait of Eleanor), and someone very aware of and prepared to fight for her rights. We also meet Agnes Patiniere of Douai, a woman who lived in a city and who had a successful trade, negotiating the politics of the guilds. Then there’s Margherita Datini, an Italian woman who became literate later in life, helped run her husband’s business and avoided succumbing to the plague. Finally, there’s Margaret Paston, member of one of the most successful families of the Middle Ages who rose from crofters to wealthy landowners (and later, Earls) and who are survived by abundant correspondence (the book of their letters, The Pastons, is enthralling) that reveals their daily lives, enmities, private and more public relationships and even their ambitions for themselves and each other.
While it seems sad that there are so few women to draw on in order to explore their diverse roles over such a long stretch of time, when considering the division that occurred in medieval lives – men = public, women= private, and the fact most females were confined to domestic space, it’s fortunate we have anything. The Gies’ also ensure they compare and contrast the women they discuss in relation to place and class and draw analogies with literature (eg. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) as well demonstrating how women’s role altered (for better and worse) over time.
The contradictions in women’s roles are evident in this book, as is how women worked within and against popular and religious expectations, how they managed, sometimes against impossible odds, to find and create their own spaces and lives – some more successful than others.
Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of information 19 Nov 2012
By TNL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Clustered around each woman's biography are descriptions and facts about the time. Makes it interesting to read; not dry like history
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