That Old Time Religion

Perhaps it takes an Irishman to offer Englishmen (and others) a convincing picture of the religion of the ordinary lay people of England in the age before the Reformation. Over four hundred years following the Elizabethan settlement the established Anglican church developed traditions of worship and practice, focused around the …

The Birth of Childhood

Shulamith Shahar’s admirably ambitious book seeks to present a new view of the history of European childhood over nearly four centuries, between the early twelfth century and the fifteenth. One of her chief aims is to question the view of Philippe Ariès and his followers that the Middle Ages lacked …

Sex and Power in the Middle Ages

The story is told of a young Oxford don, newly commissioned in the infantry at the outbreak of war in 1939, returning to his college after his first dinner with the regular officers of his regimental mess. He was asked what they were like. “Charming people,” he replied, “but quite …

All This and Heaven, Too

“It tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me,…the men all so good for nothing and hardly any women at all, it is very tiresome.” That was the verdict on “real solemn history” of Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. The two very interesting books here …

A Master of the Middle Ages

Jacques Le Goff is one of the most distinguished of the French medieval historians of his generation, a generation in which the French have consistently set the pace for medieval studies. Through his writings, through his long tenure as president of the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes and as a co-director …

Spying on the Neighbors

In the foreword to the first volume of the ambitious new series on the history of private life from classical times to the present day, Georges Duby, the survivor of the two original coeditors, wrote thus: “Our subject was fraught with peril. The ground we hoped to explore was untouched.

Crash Diets

Holy feast, in Professor Bynum’s title, means exclusively the Eucharist—the sacrament of Holy Communion—and the attitude of late-medieval religious women to the mass and to the Host especially is the first main theme of her study. In a prefatory section which is a model of lucidity and perception, she reviews …

Neediest Cases

“The poet Gray was wrong,” the late Peter Fleming once remarked, “anyone who has had much conversation with the poor will know that their annals are neither short nor simple.” But Gray was right about the thinness of the record that they leave behind when they are gone, and that …

The Knight of Knights

It is a remarkable coincidence that the two most distinguished medieval historians of their generation in France and England respectively, Professor Georges Duby and Sir Richard Southern, have a particular gift in common, although their interests are very different. Both have a striking capacity for seizing on a single career, …

Robin Who?

Robin Hood, so the old story goes, lived in Sherwood Forest as an outlaw, in company with seven score of “merry men” clad in Lincoln green, poached the king’s deer, plundered the rich, and successfully defied all the efforts of the Sheriff of Nottingham to lay him by the heels.