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Living in Medieval England (Paperback)

The Turbulent Year of 1326

P&S History > British History P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History P&S History > Social History

By Kathryn Warner
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399021272
Published: 30th July 2024


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1326 was one of the most dramatic years in English history. The queen of England, Isabella of France, invaded the country with an army of mercenaries to destroy her husband's powerful and detested lover, Hugh Despenser the Younger, and brought down her husband King Edward II in the process. It was also a year, however, when the majority of English people carried on living their normal, ordinary lives: Eleyne Glaswreghte ran her own successful glass-making business in London, Jack Cressing the master carpenter repaired the beams in a tower of Kenilworth Castle, Alis Coleman sold her best ale at a penny and a half for a gallon in Byfleet, and Will Muleward made the king 'laugh greatly' when he spent time with him at a wedding in Marlborough. England sweltered in one of the hottest, driest summers of the Middle Ages, a whale washed ashore at Walton-on-the-Naze, and the unfortunate John Toly died when he relieved himself out of the window of his London house at midnight, and lost his balance.

Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326 tells the true and fascinating stories of the men and women alive in England in this most eventful year, narrated chronologically with a chapter devoted to each month.

Featured in

Medieval Archaeology, vol 65.1

In Living in Medieval England, Warner has produced a book that is both entertaining and informative at once. Using household accounts, an underappreciated and often ignored Medieval source, as her basis, the author has written a vivid account of life in early 14th century England, from across the social spectrum.. Some details are interesting, some are widely known, such as the political events of his reign, and others are suprising, such as the story of Anneis May, a seamtress, who recieved the same pay as her husband for her work. From the King, no less. Or that the average age of marriage for common people in many areas of the country was not that far removed from today.

Edward II's proclivities did not just involve his love of unusual activities (for a Medieval King) such as swimming, but seemed to go as far as him taking an active interest in the lives and activities of ordinary people. He would get down and dirty, digging ditches along with them.

The last and turbulent year of the reign of a controversial Medieval King comes alive through the lives, deaths, occupations and daily struggles of those around him. This book comes highly recommended from a historian herself, and is a great addition to the shelves of anyone interested in social history.

NetGalley, Joanna Arman

"Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326" offers a unique glimpse into the past. Using the account book of Edward II's chamber as her main source, Kathryn Warner paints a vivid picture of England in 1326. Month by month, she tells the stories of ordinary people living their lives in England before Edward II's deposition. While most books about the fourteenth century concentrate on the lives of the royalty, Warner shines a light on the common people of England such as valets who served in the King's chamber, carpenters, fishermen etc.

The book offers delightful insights into the past and is a must read for everyone who loves to learn about the Middle Ages.

GoodReads, Constant Reader

This book looks at the turbulent year of 1326 in England, now this covers the period of Edward II, whose reign was particularly well received as he didn’t make the best decisions about those around him. But this isn’t really a book about monarchy, it’s a book more about the people having to get on with life with a little bit or royal information thrown into the mix. In what turned out to be a momentous year in history. This book looks at the lives of various individuals and how they got on with their lives, such Alis Coleman who was selling her finest ale at a penny and a half for a gallon, or John Toly who ended up falling out of a window at midnight whilst going to the loo, or there is even a story about a stranded whale.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed this book and that is probably because the way it was written by the author Kathryn Warner, who wrote it month by month, which just gave it a better flow. Although I wasn’t expecting to like it so much, I actually did because it was more about everyday people and their lives rather than just about Kings and Queens, which is usually the case. I must give compliments to the author again as there has been a lot research put into this book which I find makes it stand out above others. You can tell that time effort and research has been put into it. Highly would recommend it and to be honest the only disappointing thing is that the book was too short, would like to see some more similar work from the author. Or even do a similar thing looking at a particular year from Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

In Living in Medieval England, Kathryn Warner provides an insightful and well-researched look into the very different world of medieval England. in 1326. She carefully chronicles the changes to live brought about by the invasion of Isabella of France and her quest to overthrow her husband, King Edward II.

NetGalley, Melisa Safchinsky

As featured on the Royal Reviewer Vlog

Royal Reviewer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What was it like to live in the year 1326 in England near the court of Edward II? How did your name reflect where you lived or your profession? How much did it cost to buy fish, bread or weapons? How were death duties collected? How did you tell time? And how did Isabella, Edward II"s wife, decide invading England from Paris was her only choice in 1326?

This book will answer all these questions in an engaging and informative style, while also giving actual histories of families who lived through this violent period. It highlights the pivotal role of women in this time, as well as the unusual accessibility of Edward II to his subjects. It gives monthly accounts of births deaths, marriages, business transactions and goods bought, while tempers flare over Hugh Despenser's increasing control over Edward. It chronicles Edward's mismanagement of his personal affairs with Isabella as well as public affairs, that create resentment and engender switching of loyalties among the common folk. Instead of a historical overview, you get an intimate detailing of daily and monthly events such as punishments meted out, religious leaders at war with each other, landowners who either lost or gained lands when a family member died, how food was acquired and how much it cost. It is a fascinating look at an ultimately doomed reign before they knew of their demise, and one which shines a vibrant light on the commonfolk living in 1326.

NetGalley, Ann Gergits

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating and meticulously researched and detailed account of England in the year 1326. Edward II is on the throne, but is estranged from his wife Isabella who is living in France with their son and his heir.

Edward has always had a very bad press - everyone knows about his unfortunate demise at Berkeley Castle and he made unfortunate choices in his friends, having favourites like Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser, to whom he gave land and titles. This understandably peeved the other barons, who also disliked Edward's affinity with the working classes. Today having a king who rolled up his sleeves and helped ditchers and workmen would be endearing, but I understand it was then considered to be below his station to do that type of work.

The book takes you through the calendar for the year. Some of the detail is a little extreme, especially some of the family relationships, particularly if you don't then meet any of the characters again. It is fascinating how detailed the records were, and to see a king paying quite lowly staff to go home to sort out domestic problems and paying them if they were off sick. In many ways he was way ahead of his time.

A great read, fascinating in its detail and shining a new light on a much-maligned king. After all, history was always written by the victors, so while Edward made mistakes, it is good to see someone paint him as a less two-dimensional figure.

NetGalley, Sue Andrews

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you were curious about the lives of the not so rich and famous, then you have found the right book! Kathryn Warner goes into great detail with the lives of ordinary citizens of Medieval England, with a little royal drama thrown in for reference.

While the reign of Edward II has been dominated by the She-Wolf, or Queen Isabella and her not so secret affair with Roger Mortimer, there were still the everyday people, just trying to survive during the royal tumbles. From fisherwomen, carpenters, and those who waited on the royal couple, this book will keep you engaged from the start.

I really enjoyed this one, as it was a nice look into what was going on while the royal couple was hashing out their differences (with the use of armies, of course), and the daily goings-on of those who were living, and dying, during the tumultuous year of 1326. While the war drug out much longer, this brief look into this year gives us an idea of what happened, who was getting married, and the different prices for goods, death investigations and more,

A great read for those interested in social (and some royal) history!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

1326 was a pivotal year in British History; a year in which a weak king and his “evil counselors” were ousted by a far more talented queen in favour of a son who would live to be one of England’s most successful monarchs. Whilst the great and good of the land were adapting to the times the rest of the nation carried on as normal; plying their trades, having extra-marital affairs, dying under bizarre circumstances and murdering their neighbours.

All human life is here courtesy of the wit and exemplary research of Kathryn Warner. Using an account book from Edward II’s court Warner has weaved a wonderfully rich tapestry from the warp and weft of medieval life. We hear the names of those who are often lost to time; the glovers, sadlers, archers, brewsters and damsels. This is a beautifully written book - very easy to follow all the way back to the fourteenth century.

NetGalley, Zoe Nock

I thoroughly enjoyed this book--it was well-researched but accessible and while it covered major events that happened involving royalty, its predominant focus was on information about every day people. I have had quite an interest in English history since I was young and consider myself to have a decent knowledge of the subject, but within the first chapter alone I had taken notes on several interesting things that I had never known--like the fact that Edward II hired a husband and wife to work in his household (unheard of to hire a woman in such a position!) and paid them the same wage! The book is full of these interesting tidbits, but ties them all together nicely to give the reader a true sense of understanding of daily life and occurrences in 1326 England; it never feels like reading a bunch of dry dates and facts.

NetGalley, Jess Lafferty

It is 1326 in England. The King is Edward II.

This book takes the year month-by-month to tell the stories of not only Edward, but several townspeople, courtiers and politicos.

The tales are very interesting and I found the book to be a delight to read. The everyday lives of these individuals were so different than ours, it was very hard not to be entranced by them. A few of the stories were funny (forgive me for thinking so). And it's all based on fact. These were real people and their stories were very real.

I enjoyed the book. It was well written and easy to follow.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

A book relating the day to day life of Edward II intertwining with historical events and many details of Edward II 's daily life in 1326. Very informative and interesting details about this complex king who could be generous but also cruel.

NetGalley, Christine Boos

About Kathryn Warner

Kathryn Warner holds a BA and an MA with Distinction in medieval history and literature from the University of Manchester, and is the author of biographies about Edward II and his queen Isabella. Kathryn has had work published in the English Historical Review, has given a paper at the International Medieval Congress, and appeared in a BBC documentary.

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