Introduction
in The life–cycle in Western Europe, c.1300-c.1500
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This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The main thrust of this book is that age formed an essential part of a person's identity in late medieval Europe. It discusses theories of ageing in a range of medieval literature, demonstrating the tendency to group people together on the basis of age and to employ terms to denote childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood and old age. It is the case that medieval society may have understood these terms to refer to different chronological ages or reflect different qualities from those understood by modern society. The book also considers the changing opportunities and possibilities for people as they progressed through life. A number of studies have drawn attention to divergences between northern and southern Europe in terms of marriage patterns, family formation, opportunities for women and attitudes towards death and its rituals.

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