Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520
Dramatic social and economic change during the middle ages altered the lives of the people of Britain in far-reaching ways, from the structure of their families to the ways they made their livings. In this masterly book, preeminent medieval historian Christopher Dyer presents a fresh view of the British economy from the ninth to the sixteenth century and a vivid new account of medieval life. He begins his volume with the formation of towns and villages in the ninth and tenth centuries and ends with the inflation, population rise, and colonial expansion of the sixteenth century.This is a book about ideas and attitudes as well as the material world, and Dyer shows how people regarded the economy and responded to economic change. He examines the growth of towns, the clearing of lands, the Great Famine, the Black Death, and the upheavals of the fifteenth century through the eyes of those who experienced them. He also explores the dilemmas and decisions of those who were making a living in a changing world - from peasants, artisans, and wage earners to barons and monks. Drawing on archaeological and landscape evidence along with more conventional archives and records, the author offers here an engaging survey of British medieval economic history unrivaled in breadth and clarity.
A richly illuminating ride through life in the medieval past
By Michael J. Warby "lorenzo" - November 10, 2003
This is a splendidly readable and highly informative book.
Dyer takes us from Anglo-Saxon England, through the Normal Conquest, the long medieval surge then the calamitous C14th (as Barbara Tuchman memorably called it) and ending in early Tudor England. We are guided with erudition and ease through the choices the various levels of society faced, the rich texture of life and the ebb and flow of social change.
Carefully evidence based, and willing to admit uncertainty, Dyer nevertheless informs with a telling mixture of general trends and revealing examples.
I was struck, for example, how the owners of lordly (and other) estates faced similar types of management choices as modern firms, whether to engage in direct command-and-control (farm oneself), franchise (lease), donate (grant) or sell. The balance of choices shifted back and forth, as circumstances changed.
This is an excellent book I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in... read more
By doc peterson - April 6, 2008
Christopher Dyer's thorough study of social and economic life in Britain in the high and late middle ages is fascinating. The details are remarkable showing a thriving, bustling commercial network that criss-crossed the island - not at all what one would expect of Europe in the middle ages.
All facets of society are examined here - peasants, merchants, craftsmen and aristocrats of all levels - close attention is also played to the roles women played in the medieval economy, their social and economic position was striking. Far from the droll, insulated and simple life that typically comes to mind when one thinks of medieval Europe, Dyer's treatise shows quite the opposite - a bustling and growing economy that was financially diverse and tied to the rest of Europe and the wider world. Utilizing an abundance of primary sources from throughout Britain, a clear picture of the daily economic life of England is provided, with solid analysis of the role economics played in the... read more
Review of Christopher Dyer's Making a Living in the Middle A
By Kate Lukach - November 7, 2004
Christopher Dyer presents a general economic history of England during the Middle Ages. He uses primary sources to support his claims and addresses a number of issues that this broad topic encompasses. His language is accessible to a wide audience, yet contains elements that require some scholarly background in order to fully appreciate the impact of the information that he presents. The main problems with Making a Living in the Middle Ages revolve around the inconsistency between Dyer's introduction and the majority of his book.
This book was written very recently so one could assume that the author would take into consideration some of the most recent theories on the matter. While it is possible that this is the case, Dyer does not make specific reference to any such sources. Overall, the text is well written. Syntax and word choice make it accessible. His transitions were lacking, which would make it difficult to read if the reader lacked background knowledge... read more
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