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In The Axe and the Oath, one of the world's leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. Writing for general readers, Robert Fossier vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. While most histories of the period focus on the ideas and actions of the few who wielded power and stress how different medieval people were from us, Fossier concentrates on the other nine-tenths of humanity in the period and concludes that "medieval man is us.?


Drawing on a broad range of evidence, Fossier describes how medieval men and women encountered, coped with, and understood the basic material facts of their lives. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and how they buried their dead. But The Axe and the Oath is about much more than simply the material demands of life. We also learn how ordinary people experienced the social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of medieval life, from memory and imagination to writing and the Church. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.

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From the Back Cover:

"What did men and women eat, drink, and wear in the Middle Ages? How did they work, fight, pray, and laugh? This book reduces medieval life to its most elemental functions. It encompasses not only material and social conditions, thought, and belief, but the natural environment as well. In other words, it raises all the questions that one never dares to ask. Among France's most active medieval scholars, Robert Fossier has spent more than six decades studying historical documents. Now he steps back from them to propose a deeply personal perspective. The result is a tour de force. Viewed in their bare flesh, humans living in the Middle Ages appear not much different from us."--John W. Baldwin, Johns Hopkins University

"This is a provocative meditation on the human condition in the Middle Ages, written by one of the field's most distinguished historians. Robert Fossier thoughtfully probes the continuities and discontinuities of everyday life for ordinary people, with constant and daring comparisons to modern knowledge and experiences."--William C. Jordan, Princeton University

"This is an outstanding book, an ambitious and strikingly successful attempt to capture the huge experience of human life in the Middle Ages. The most impressive aspect of this extraordinarily vivid work is the author's breathtaking mastery of everything he writes about. And the beautifully crafted and translucent prose gives the effect of a friendly and seamless conversation with the reader."--Piotr Górecki, University of California, Riverside

About the Author:
Robert Fossier is professor emeritus of medieval history at the Sorbonne. He is the author of many books on medieval history and the editor of The Cambridge History of the Middle Ages.

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  • PublisherPrinceton University Press
  • Publication date2010
  • ISBN 10 0691143129
  • ISBN 13 9780691143125
  • BindingHardcover
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages384
  • Rating

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