The Great Household in Late Medieval England

Woolgar, C.M.
Date published: 
April 1999

In the later medieval centuries, a whole range of important social, political and artistic activities took place against the backdrop of the great English households. In this vividly illuminating book, C.M. Woolgar explores the fascinating details of life in these great houses. Based on an extensive investigation of household accounts and related primary documents, he examines the daily routines, the weekly and annual patterns, and the life-cycle observances of birth, childhood, marriage, death and burial. He also delineates the major changes that transformed the economy and geography of both lay and clerical households between 1200 and 1500.

In his portrait of aristocratic and gentry life in medieval England, Woolgar describes the roles of family members, the situations of servants, the uses of space within the household, how meals were prepared and served, food and drink for daily consumption and for special occasions, furnishing, clothing, arrangements for travel, household animals, cleanliness and hygiene, entertainment, the practices of religion and intellectual life. The author also analyses the qualitative and social evolution of great households as definitions of magnificence and conventions of etiquette became increasingly elaborate.