The Bottom Line
A highly enjoyable and vastly informative exploration of how medieval people enjoyed life, well-supported with scholarly resources.
- Well researched and authoritative
- Well written and enjoyable to read
- Nicely produced with both color plates and black & white photos
- 11 color plates and numerous black & white photos
- Chapter-by-chapter list of sources as well as a bibliography
- Nicely-produced on high-quality paper
- Published by Oxford University Press
- Paperback; 228 pages plus front matter; 0.8 x 7.0 x 9.5 inches
- ISBN 0195214234
Guide Review - Pleasures and Pastimes in Medieval England by Compton Reeves
There is a tendency to view the Middle Ages, even by those who don't consider it a "Dark Age," as a grim time, when life was brutal and short, and where the daily life of all but the nobility was too filled with work and hardship to offer any leisure time. It is also fairly common for historical works to focus on political history over the social, and even social histories can fall short on the fun to be had in medieval times.
Pleasures and Pastimes in Medieval England by Compton Reeves remedies both these gaps.
Offering a fairly comprehensive survey of the enjoyments to be had in the Middle Ages, Reeves does not merely limit himself to sport, games, and play but covers literature, art, music, fashion, food, gardening, mysticism, and, of course, such dark arts as sorcery and such disreputable pursuits as prostitution.
Yet, while just about any pastime in which a medieval person might indulge is explored, Reeves only takes it as far as historical evidence will permit. His work is thoroughly supported by solid references, which he explains within the text and backs up with a chapter-by-chapter list of sources at the back of the book. Any speculation is clearly identified, and the reader is left with a clear understanding of what is and isn't known about the topic.
With lucid information and numerous photos, Compton Reeves succeeds in bringing the enjoyable side of life in the Middle Ages to light.