Making a Living in the Middle Ages


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

The People of Britain 850–1520

Christopher Dyer

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $32.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

Dramatic social and economic change during the middle ages altered the lives of the people of Britain in far-reaching ways, from the structure of their families to the ways they made their livings. In this masterly book, preeminent medieval historian Christopher Dyer presents a fresh view of the British economy from the ninth to the sixteenth century and a vivid new account of medieval life. He begins his volume with the formation of towns and villages in the ninth and tenth centuries and ends with the inflation, population rise, and colonial expansion of the sixteenth century.

This is a book about ideas and attitudes as well as the material world, and Dyer shows how people regarded the economy and responded to economic change. He examines the growth of towns, the clearing of lands, the Great Famine, the Black Death, and the upheavals of the fifteenth century through the eyes of those who experienced them. He also explores the dilemmas and decisions of those who were making a living in a changing world—from peasants, artisans, and wage earners to barons and monks. Drawing on archaeological and landscape evidence along with more conventional archives and records, the author offers here an engaging survey of British medieval economic history unrivaled in breadth and clarity.

Christopher Dyer, formerly professor of medieval social history at the University of Birmingham, is now professor of regional and local history at the University of Leicester.

“The finest synthesis of the subject now available.”—Albion

"This history of Britain’s economy from the Vikings to the Reformation is the latest offering from Yale’s superb collection of titles on medieval and early-modern social and economic history. These significant scholarly works manage to be unusually engaging reading. With ease Dyer appraises (among other topics) the economic aspects of various dimensions of daily life, including marriage and sex; broad changes in class relations, technology, demography, and the economy; and the ramifications of two sudden catastrophes—the Great Famine and the Black Death of the fourteenth century. His is a sweeping but often intimate portrait, full of arresting details."—Atlantic Monthly

"Dyer’s excellent general economic history . . . [takes] an eclectic approach to accounting for change, allowing for factors ranging from Malthusian population cycles to rising commercialization. . . . Quite informative for the general reader and a helpful synthesis for the specialist. This volume is a must for any library giving coverage to general European history."—Choice

“[A] work of immense ambition and erudition.”—Daniel Snowman, History Today

"An exceptionally wide-ranging book. . . . [Dyer’s] mastery of his material is indeed enviable. The book abounds with a wealth of illustrative examples, which bring the discussion to life. Yet the author’s learning is always worn lightly. . . If Dyer does not give us answers to all our questions, he has none the less given us something very important—an entirely new framework for our thinking. This is a major book—much more than a synthesis, it provides an overall interpretation of a long and significant period. With is consumer emphasis, it is very much a book for our time. However, with its solid grounding in scholarship, it will last a good deal longer than many of the age’s passing fads."—Nigel Saul, History Today (UK)

“The past fifty years or so have been ones of considerable scholarly debate, discovery, and interpretation concerning the social and economic history of medieval Britain. Dyer . . . undertakes to synthesize, contribute to, and make accessible that scholarship. He succeeds with flair, intelligence, and brilliance. Not only is Making a Living in the Middle Ages satisfying, but it is written with clarity, direction, and humanity. . . . He delineates complex scholarly arguments clearly. The book is a model of rigorous explanation and analysis without the use of jargon. Because Dyer covers so many historical controversies and discoveries, the volume should be a must-read for any thoughtful person interested in medieval Europe or in the transition to the modern social and economic world.”—Robert L. Woods, Jr., History: Reviews of New Books

“This elegant account of the economic history of Britain over seven centuries is an exhilarating book—this is serious history that can be read for pleasure.”—Danny Danzinger, London Sunday Times

“The only one-volume economic history of medieval Britain currently available. . . . Students . . . will find Dyer’s volume extremely user-friendly. . . . In producing a survey with such wide chronological, thematic and geographical scope, he has performed an invaluable service for all students and teachers of medieval social and economic history.”—S.H. Rigby, Social History

“Dyer’s book is unique. No other book provides such comprehensive, detailed, and interesting analyses of the socioeconomic history of Britain from the late Anglo-Saxon to the early modern period. . . . The author uses abundant new evidence from his own and other historians’ studies and often interprets it in a novel way. . . . The study is undoubtedly an original and important contribution to the historiography of medieval society. It will greatly benefit both scholars and students.”—Zvi Razi, Speculum

"Making a Living in the Middle Ages deserves to be . . . popular and to have a long shelf life. Christopher Dyer extends the genre in an exemplary fashion; he is the ideal author for an introductory survey of the economy and society of medieval Britain, written for interested laymen and the beginning student, which seeks to reconstruct the daily lives and experiences of common people. He has an open style, an encyclopedic knowledge of a vast sweep of over half a millennium of history, and he offers accessible and cogent introductions to an infinite range of potentially complex and obscure topics, which he knits together into an effective and fascinating patchwork quilt, if not quite a seamless web. With commendable assurance, Dyer guides his readers through all corners of the economy."—John Hatcher, Times Literary Supplement

“A succinct and lucid summary of modern scholarship on medieval urban history.”—A.J. Pollard, Urban History

"A thorough, detailed, and comprehensive survey. . . . Dyer succeeds admirably in his goal of bringing to life both the medieval English economy and the people who fueled it and felt its effects. . . . It is clear that a complete understanding of historiographical debates underlies his careful account. . . . Dyer's interpretation knowledgably engages current scholarship and weaves it into a coherent narrative. . . . A lively, full overview of a complex subject, presented in admirably clear prose. [The book] serves as a useful introduction to its subject, appropriate for presenting economic history to upper-level undergraduates in a  fashion likely to keep their attention, or even for providing graduate students with an entree to the topic."—Anna Dronzek, Canadian Journal of History

“A work of medieval economic history may not sound the most riveting read but Dyer’s erudite, sweeping account of Britain’s finances between 850 and 1520 turns out to be endlessly fascinating and often relevant to our own plight.” - Belfast Telegraph Morning

“Dyer’s erudite, sweeping account of Britain’s finances between 850 and 1520 … [is] endlessly fascinating and often relevant to our own plight.” - Christopher Hirst, Independent
ISBN: 9780300101911
Publication Date: August 11, 2003
424 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 maps
The New Economic History of Britain Series
Earthly Necessities

Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain

Keith Wrightson

View details
The Enlightened Economy

An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850

Joel Mokyr

View details