Medieval Life: DK Eyewitness Books
written by Andrew Langley; photographed by Geoff Brightling and Geoff Dann
(1996; reissued 2011) Dorling Kindersley
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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If you teach European history (North Carolina sixth grade), you will want to find a copy of Medieval Life. This book does a terrific job of explaining how Middle Ages (5th century to end of 15th century) society was so class conscious (peasants, knights, barons, etc.) and how each of these groups operated and influenced each other. Like other DK Eyewitness books, Medieval Life covers all aspects of its topic. One subset that is especially informative is the information about the influence of religion during this time. The importance of both Christian and Islamic faiths in shaping this time period are investigated. Along with religion, agriculture is also extensively examined. It was a miserable life being a peasant (also known as serfs or villeins) in the Middle Ages and having to eke out an existence on land that didn't belong to you and using tools that didn't belong to you. In the section on peasants, author Andrew Langley writes "According to the law, most medieval peasants owned nothing except their own stomachs." The author adds that the average life span for a peasant was 25 years. The Middle Ages is not my strong suit in history knowledge, so reading Medieval Life was a helpful and interesting primer.
Medieval Life would be the perfect companion to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Students who enjoy Laura Amy Schlitz's Newbery winning classic will be able to have a deeper understanding of the characters in the plays by also reading Medieval Life. This Eyewitness book would also be useful in teaching nonfiction text features. Some of the best back matter I have ever seen is contained in this book and with the accompanying CD of clip art, students could create a fantastic multimedia project on the Middle Ages.