Life in a Medieval City Summary & Study Guide

Frances and Joseph Gies
This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Life in a Medieval City.
This section contains 437 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Life in a Medieval City Summary & Study Guide Description

Life in a Medieval City Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Life in a Medieval City by Frances and Joseph Gies.

Life in a Medieval City provides a hypothetical, though factually researched and historically accurate, day in the life of the city of Troyes, the capital of the Champagne region of what is now modern-day France, in the year 1250. Rather than relying on the normal historical record of royals and wars, the book instead looks at life from an "everyday" perspective.

From Troyes' humble beginnings as a Roman fort, Troyes in 1250 is a bustling city of about 15,000 people, and the center of the Hot Fair and Cold Fair, two in a series of important merchant markets central to the economic success of the region. Troyes is part of a large and complex web of trade routes.

Wealthy merchants are called burghers. A typical residence is a four story home. Such things as dinner and etiquette are explained in detail. Housewives, while holding no political power, share the power of the purse and are crucial to the home for daily shopping and the direction of the several servants in the home. A pregnant woman is a woman in danger in this time; childbirth is still a mysterious process plagued by pagan myths.

Events like weddings, funerals, church services, and cathedral school (reserved for only well-to-do young boys) are explored in detail.

Of particular emphasis are the various craft professions. City professionals such as the smith, goldsmith, tanner, weaver, and miller are highly skilled in their individual work, and carve out a comfortable middle-class, clearly departing from the servile peasants of the feudal period. One professional of particular importance is the mason, who with a wide knowledge of mathematics, engineering, and stonecutting, erect the massive Gothic cathedrals of the error. Glass-makers, glaziers, also rise to prominence in this period, providing beautiful and complicated stained glass works of art.

Towns are governed by charters, agreements between the feudal lord and the city. In return for paying taxes, the privileged members of Troyes enjoy a certain freedom, though self-government remains elusive. This era is a prosperous one; books read for pleasure and humor become valuable commodities, songs and plays become popular, and in general a growing secularization threatens the iron grip of the Church.

Eventually, the rise of Paris as a commercial center, the wasteful spending and taxation of nobility, and the increasing localization of commerce, cause Troyes to decline in power and to become no longer the commercial epicenter it was. Today, apart from a few crumbling buildings from the period, Troyes' lasting legacy as a trade powerhouse seems to be contained in the "Troy weight," a measurement used to this day in gem cutting and ammunition.

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This section contains 437 words
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