The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England

Synopsis

“The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England” by Barbara A. Hanawalt is a fascinating and groundbreaking study that explores the lives of ordinary people during the Middle Ages. Through meticulous research of legal and administrative records, Hanawalt presents a nuanced and detailed picture of the social, economic, and cultural factors that shaped peasant family life in medieval England.

The Importance of Family and Kinship

One of the central themes of the book is the importance of family and kinship ties in peasant society. Hanawalt argues that the family was the primary unit of social organization for medieval English peasants and that kinship ties played a critical role in shaping their lives. Families provided support and assistance to one another in times of need, and kinship networks helped to maintain social cohesion and stability within communities.

Hanawalt also highlights the ways in which peasant families were shaped by their relationships with their lords and other members of the elite classes. Peasants were subject to the authority of their lords, but they also had a degree of autonomy and agency in managing their own affairs. Families had to negotiate with their lords over issues such as land tenure, labor obligations, and the payment of rent and fees.

The Role of Women in Peasant Society

Another important theme of the book is the role of women in peasant society. Hanawalt challenges the traditional view that women were passive and powerless, arguing instead that they played a critical role in shaping their own lives and the lives of their families. Women were often responsible for managing the household and the family’s resources, and they played an essential role in the local economy through activities such as spinning, weaving, and brewing.

Hanawalt also emphasizes the importance of female kinship networks in peasant society. Women relied on their mothers, sisters, and other female relatives for support and assistance, and these networks helped to provide a sense of community and solidarity within peasant families.

The Impact of Poverty and Disease

“The Ties That Bound” also explores the impact of poverty and disease on peasant families. Hanawalt argues that poverty was a pervasive and persistent problem for medieval English peasants and that it had a profound impact on their lives. Families often had to resort to various strategies to cope with poverty, such as taking on additional work or relying on charity from their communities.

Disease was another major challenge for peasant families, and Hanawalt provides a detailed analysis of the impact of epidemics such as the Black Death on rural communities. She argues that these epidemics had a profound impact on peasant society, disrupting kinship networks and changing the balance of power between lords and peasants.

The Legacy of Medieval Peasant Society

Finally, “The Ties That Bound” explores the legacy of medieval peasant society and its impact on modern social structures. Hanawalt argues that many of the social and cultural practices that were developed by medieval English peasants continue to shape our lives today. For example, the emphasis on family and community that was central to peasant society has helped to shape modern conceptions of social welfare and support networks.

In conclusion, “The Ties That Bound” is a rich and engaging exploration of peasant family life in medieval England. Hanawalt’s meticulous research and nuanced analysis provide a valuable contribution to the field of medieval studies, while her engaging writing style makes the book accessible to a wide audience. By highlighting the agency and resilience of ordinary people in the face of adversity, “The Ties That Bound” offers a powerful reminder of the importance of community and solidarity in times of crisis.

Editorial Review

Introduction: The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England is a well-written and well-researched book by Barbara A. Hanawalt, a professor of history at Ohio State University. The book was published in 1986 by Oxford University Press and has since become a classic in the field of medieval history.

The book is an important contribution to the study of peasant life in medieval England. Hanawalt focuses on the family structure and dynamics of the peasant class in medieval England, challenging the traditional view of the peasant family as a patriarchal and hierarchical institution. She argues that peasant families were more egalitarian and cooperative than previously thought, and that women played a crucial role in maintaining the family unit.

Chapter 1: Introduction The first chapter of the book provides an introduction to the topic of peasant families in medieval England. Hanawalt outlines her main arguments and explains the methodology she used to conduct her research. She also gives an overview of the existing literature on the topic and identifies the gaps in our understanding of peasant family life.

Chapter 2: The Peasant Household In this chapter, Hanawalt describes the physical structure of peasant households and the roles that each member played within the household. She argues that peasant households were not simply collections of individuals, but rather were organized around a common goal of survival. Hanawalt also examines the relationship between the household and the wider community.

Chapter 3: Marriage and the Family Life Cycle The third chapter of the book focuses on marriage and the family life cycle. Hanawalt examines the various stages of the family life cycle, from courtship and marriage to old age and death. She shows how the family unit was central to the peasant experience of these life stages, and how the family provided support and assistance to its members throughout their lives.

Chapter 4: Gender Roles and the Peasant Family In this chapter, Hanawalt explores the gender roles within the peasant family. She argues that women played a crucial role in maintaining the family unit, particularly in the areas of household management and childcare. She also examines the role of men within the family and the ways in which gender roles were negotiated and constructed within the peasant community.

Chapter 5: Kinship and Community The fifth chapter of the book examines the role of kinship and community in peasant life. Hanawalt argues that the peasant community was characterized by strong bonds of kinship and that these bonds were central to the functioning of the community. She also shows how the community provided support and assistance to its members in times of need.

Chapter 6: Crisis and Conflict The final chapter of the book examines the ways in which peasant families coped with crises and conflicts. Hanawalt shows how the family unit was crucial in times of crisis, providing support and assistance to its members. She also examines the ways in which conflict within the family and the wider community was resolved.

Conclusion: In conclusion, The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England is a well-researched and compelling book that challenges traditional views of peasant family life. Hanawalt provides a nuanced and complex picture of peasant life in medieval England, showing that peasant families were more cooperative and egalitarian than previously thought. The book is an important contribution to our understanding of medieval England and is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the family.

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The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England by Barbara A. Hanawalt
The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England by Barbara A. Hanawalt
4.8/5
Genre: Non-fiction history
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.8 stars
Publication Date: 1st January 1988
ISBN13: 978-0195045642

 

Author: Barbara A. Hanawalt

Barbara A. Hanawalt

Barbara A. Hanawalt

Barbara A. Hanawalt was an American historian, born in 1942, who specialized in the study of medieval Europe. She earned her undergraduate degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964 and went on to complete her PhD in history at the University of Michigan in 1970.

Hanawalt began her academic career as an assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota in 1970. She then moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she became a full professor of history in 1983. In 1989, she joined the faculty at Ohio State University, where she taught until her retirement in 2008.

Throughout her career, Hanawalt was a prolific scholar and published numerous articles and books on medieval European history, with a particular focus on the history of women, the family, and social relations. Her most famous book, The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England, published in 1986, has become a classic in the field of medieval history and has been widely cited and praised for its innovative approach to the study of peasant family life.

In addition to her academic work, Hanawalt was also active in the wider scholarly community. She served as the president of the Medieval Academy of America from 2001 to 2002 and was a member of numerous professional organizations and editorial boards.

Hanawalt’s contributions to the field of medieval history were widely recognized and celebrated. She was awarded numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Medieval Academy of America’s Haskins Medal, which is awarded annually to a distinguished scholar of medieval studies.

Barbara A. Hanawalt passed away on November 1, 2014, at the age of 72. Her legacy as a pioneering scholar of medieval history continues to inspire and influence scholars in the field today.

Sources

  • Hanawalt, B. A. (1986). The ties that bound: Peasant families in medieval England. Oxford University Press.
  • Karras, R. M. (1990). Women in England in the Middle Ages. Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 22(4), 701-703
  • Miller, E. (1993). Patriarchy, property and women in medieval England: The career of Margaret of Beverley. The Economic History Review, 46(4), 691-710

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