An age of chivalry, color and faith from which the modern world still draws inspiration- or centuries of violence, squalor, and superstition best forgotten? Marjorie Rowling refreshingly avoids any such extreme judgments so often passed on the Middle Ages. Instead, she looks closely at some of the people who lived and worked in that fascinating era of European history. These men and women are drawn from all classes and occupations: The serf and his family stealing a day off work to go to the fair are as vividly described as the lord and his lady in their newly built keep of stone. Beside the feudal lords and their vassals are set the burgher and traders of the towns, while their womenfolk mind their homes, perhaps awaiting the return of a husband on pilgrimage or Crusade. Finally, in addition to the numerous monks and friars and the great scholars, church builders, and artists whose works are still admired, the largely forgotten doctors, scientists, and technologists receive their due. In each case we learn of their work and their homes, of their hopes and their fears. The many direct quotations skillfully woven into the text and the book's plentiful illustrations (all drawn from contemporary sources) reflect the full vigor and variety of everyday life in medieval Europe, which the author so successfully evokes.
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