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Maurice Keen

In a period of French cultural dominance, it was in French handbooks of knighthood and in romances in French that the ideals of medieval European chivalry found their most powerful expression. As the companions and partners with the chivalrous knighthood in the chivalrous business of war, the culture and values of chivalry rubbed off naturally on the newcomers to recognised gentility, and was absorbed by them as theirs as well as the knights'. The military experience of the fourteenth century had cemented a mental equation of chivalry and gentillesse, which now included the esquires, and had anchored it firmly in the mind-set both of the gentry themselves and of their superior patrons. Acculturation must be the keynote in any assessment of the place of chivalry in the culture of the gentry in the late Middle Ages.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
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The wages of sin
J. J. Anderson

Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. All three have a number of episodes. The overarching structure of the poem is based on the pattern of alternating passages of discussion and narrative. The discussions not only link the narratives to each other and reiterate the importance of cleanness; each also draws attention to a particular aspect of cleanness which the story it introduces highlights. Cleanness offers only an abstract discussion of penance, and a shadowy instance of it in action, showing it not as forestalling God's punishment but following it. It uses its considerable length not to develop its opening message, examine it, or move on from it, but to drive it home.

in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
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Chaucer: validity in interpretation
S. H. Rigby

It would seem that on virtually every aspect of Geoffrey Chaucer's work, his readers are currently assailed by a host of mutually exclusive interpretations and critical approaches. On the one hand, Chaucer is an Augustinian allegorist; on the other, he is sceptical about exegesis as a mode of interpretation and satirises the excesses of moral allegorising. On the one hand, he is a misogynist; on the other, he a defender of women. This book emphasises the ways in which seeing Chaucer in the context of the political issues, social values, generic conventions and literary theory of his own day can help us to understand the meaning of his work. It concludes that what a contextual approach to Chaucer's work reveals, above all else, is that literary texts are nowhere more historical in their nature than when they seek to pass themselves off as timeless and dehistoricised.

in Chaucer in context
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Phillipp R. Schofield

The study of the medieval English peasantry began, in the nineteenth century, as an adjunct to the study of other themes. Thus, the history of the manor, of rent, of the early origins of the community, all included inevitable reference to the peasantry. Historians have addressed rural society and the peasantry in particular through sources generated at the level of the manor and the estate. It is also noteworthy that there has been an important shift in emphasis in terms of sources, and especially a heightened focus upon manorial court rolls as the principal object of study for comprehending peasant society and economy in medieval England. Historians of the medieval English peasantry have, with their predominant focus upon matters economic and structural, abandoned most opportunities for close engagement with literary and artistic sources potentially relevant to the study of medieval peasants.

in Peasants and historians
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Deborah Youngs

This chapter aims to survey and assess the studies on what might be called literary or reading networks. It focuses on a highly literate group of book owners and writers connected with the household of Sir John Fastolf at Caister Castle, Norfolk. The richness of the information on the Fastolf household and East Anglian culture is well known and may lead to doubts that such an approach to literary and regional networks can be adopted for other lesser known groups and areas. When Raymond Williams stated that 'culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language', he probably did not have 'gentry' and 'networks' in his mind as the other two. The chapter highlights the problematic nature of those three words, separately and in combination.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Phillipp R. Schofield

After c.1970 few medieval economic and social historians approaching the topic of the medieval peasantry could do so without including some discussion of the demography of their object of investigation. The introduction of subtle and involved demographic technique into the research of medievalists was dependent upon the development of the subject of demography and of an overlap between historians and demographers. J.C. Russell, one of the most important exponents of historical demography in the middle decades of the twentieth century, had begun to consider the sources and approaches to the population history of the middle ages in the 1920s and 1930s while teaching relevant university courses in New Mexico. Russell's own discussion of medieval demography, while certainly not confined to the sources of the social elites in this period, offers little comment on the rural population per se or the demography of the medieval English peasantry in particular.

in Peasants and historians
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Phillipp R. Schofield

This chapter examines the earliest attempts, in terms of a modern historiography dating from the second half of the nineteenth century, to discuss the medieval English peasantry. It begins with one of the most resilient of the themes in the historiography of the medieval English peasantry: lordship. The chapter explores the following main themes from this early period: economy, population and demography, and the village community. One of the more vibrant themes in later nineteenth-century historiography of the medieval peasantry was the nature and development of the village community. Political theorists and historians in the middle decades of the nineteenth century sought to identify long-term continuums and the interconnectedness of village communities over time. Studies of the village community by H. S. Maine, F. Seebohm and G. L. Gomme identified the organisation of the farming landscape as a major factor in the regulation and nature of the village community.

in Peasants and historians
Raluca Radulescu and Alison Truelove

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book begins by exploring the origins of, and influences on, the culture of the late medieval gentry, thus contributing to the debate on defining the membership of this group. It considers the gentry's emergence as a group distinct from the nobility and looks at the various available routes to gentility. Through surveys of the gentry's military background, administrative and political roles, social behaviour, and education, the book provides an overview of how the group's culture evolved, and how it was disseminated. It offers a broad view of late medieval gentry culture, which explores, reassesses and indeed sometimes even challenges the idea that members of the gentry cultivated their own distinctive cultural identity.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Nicholas Orme

The medieval gentry read about education in didactic literature, meaning literature whose purpose was to instruct. The home is the place where all education begins, and this was so for the English gentry in the fifteenth century. They grew up in households consisting of parents, nurses and servants, all of whom might play a part in raising and educating the children. The culture of the fifteenth-century gentry was ambivalent socially. The gentry of the fifteenth century took education seriously. It figured as a topic in much of the material that they heard in sermons or read in literature, even in recreational reading such as romances. Hunting was important for the gentry both recreationally and socially. Socially it provided the gentry with a common activity in which they could meet and entertain one another.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Phillipp R. Schofield

Alongside investigation of the demographic study of peasant populations there has been closely related work on social and familial structure. This chapter discusses historical work on gender and the condition and role of women in peasant society. It begins by examining the peasant family and household in demographic terms and by looking at household formation, age at marriage and the size and structure of the peasant household, as well as the evolution of the peasant household in the high and late middle ages. Historical interest in household formation owes a great deal to work on post-medieval populations. Clearly, discussion of age at marriage and the process of family and household formation are closely associated with discussion of the size and structure of the peasant household as well as any regional and temporal differences.

in Peasants and historians