Chaucer's People

I'm currently reading Chaucer's People: Everyday Lives in Medieval England by Liza Picard.

"What did people eat, wear, read, and think in fourteenth-century England? These were turbulent times, ravaged by war, plague, and the overthrow of a king. Among the surviving records, the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer is the most vivid. Chaucer wrote about workaday lives outside the walls of the court—days spent at the pedal of a loom, or maintaining the ledgers of an estate, or on the high seas.

"In Chaucer’s People, Liza Picard puts these lives into historical context and sheds light on their mysteries. What was the Prioress, a well-mannered young nun, doing on the road to Canterbury with a band of men? How did the “gentle Knight” end up on military service in distant lands like Lithuania and Spain? Drawing on a vast range of subjects, including trade, religion, and medicine, Picard offers new insight into Chaucer’s characters and re-creates the medieval world in glorious detail."

It's a eye-opening, entertaining look at a complex Middle Age civilization. Where we could end up on the long descent.

I enjoy this kind of book; it illuminates my own fiction in my own world made by hand (on Mars).

Thanks for the tip!
I've put Chaucer's People on hold at the library.

A Canterbury Tale was written 700 years ago. It's remarkable how complex society was in the 14th C. I was just thinking that Somebody might want to try a pilgrimage story 700 years in our future.

I couldn't find a copy in any library I have access to, so I ordered a used copy from Abebooks. It's on its way at a not unreasonable cost!\

The section on bread was fascinating. The ration for a worker was 2 or 3 lb of bread daily. Baking bread was a regulated industry in London with inspections and standards. There were three types of bread produced: one with a finely ground flour that made a biscuity loaf for the well-to-do, a second finely ground loaf with a nice texture and a third very coarsely ground bread for the lower class and feed for horses! Never ever imagined urban horses eating bread. The poor got trenchers, which you may have come across. The wealthy used flats of four-day old bread for plates. After dinner the plates, soaked with gravy or sauce were distributed to the poor. Those folks might also eat bread made from bean flour and bran.

In the appendix of the book there's a breakdown of what things cost in 14th century money. Amusingly a rabbit carcass without the skin sold for less than one with the skin.

And there was a fascinating section on different kinds of furs, where they came from, and who was allowed to wear them. Minniver (?) was the fur from the bellies of squirrels in the Balkans(?). How specific can you get?

Well worth reading