The life–cycle in Western Europe, c.1300-c.1500

Author: Deborah Youngs

One of the key aims of this book is to offer a synthesis of the main findings of current research on age. It is intended as an outline survey and consequently the scope of the book is deliberately broad: it covers two centuries, considers the large land mass of Western Europe with its diverse languages, customs and cultures, and ranges across the social spectrum. The book focuses solely on the Christian West, including consideration on the extent to which social rank influenced life expectancy, the methods and goals of upbringing, marriage patterns and funerary memorialisation. The book also demonstrates how extensive that range can be. Examples are drawn from manorial accounts, tax assessments, spiritual writings, didactic literature, romances, elegies, art and architecture. The main thrust is that age formed an essential part of a person's identity in late medieval Europe. During adolescence, men and women progressively took on their adult roles. Three chapters are devoted to educating girls. The book discusses young people's period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It draws attention to pious young women who fought against marriage and wanted a chaste life. Divergences between northern and southern Europe in terms of marriage patterns, family formation, opportunities for women and attitudes towards death and its rituals are discussed. The book shows that attitudes towards the undeveloped young meant that children had few legal responsibilities. Another aim of the book is to consider the changing opportunities and possibilities for people as they progressed through life.

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