The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500


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C. M. Woolgar

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In this revelatory work of social history, C. M. Woolgar shows that food in late-medieval England was far more complex, varied, and more culturally significant than we imagine today. Drawing on a vast range of sources, he charts how emerging technologies as well as an influx of new flavors and trends from abroad had an impact on eating habits across the social spectrum. From the pauper’s bowl to elite tables, from early fad diets to the perceived moral superiority of certain foods, and from regional folk remedies to luxuries such as lampreys, Woolgar illuminates desire, necessity, daily rituals, and pleasure across four centuries.

C. M. Woolgar is professor of history and archival studies at the University of Southampton and editor of the Journal of Medieval History. He lives in Hampshire, UK.

'Chris Woolgar has served up a hearty stew of a book, scattered with tasty morsels. Now we know how oats, peas, beans and barley were cooked, but Woolgar also shows us that medieval food was more colourful than just pottage and gruel.' - Emily Cockayne, author of Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England, 1600-1770

‘Chris Woolgar has an unrivalled knowledge of the variety of sources for medieval eating and drinking, and makes excellent use, not just of household accounts and recipe books, but also of fables, proverbs, sermons, coroners’ records and saints’ lives, to reveal previously unknown details of diet in all sections of society, and the wider meaning of meals which served to reinforce connections across the community.’ – Christopher Dyer, author of Making a Living in the Middle Ages

'A landmark work. By going beyond cookbooks and patiently sifting through account books, legal records, town regulations, inventories, miracles, moral stories and proverbs, Chris Woolgar offers a window into the diverse, interconnected ways country folk and city-dwellers, nobles and churchmen acquired, prepared and thought about food in medieval England.' - Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking and World History

“In this meticulously researched study, Christopher Woolgar serves up a feast of information about food in medieval England… By successfully interrogating the relationship between, communities, institutions and food, Woolgar provides some fascinating new perspectives on medieval life.”—Louise Wilkinson, Literary Review

“Woolgar has written a social history of cooking and eating that will provide raw data for many years to come and inspire many more...”—Economic History Review

“This book provides a vital perspective to the study of food in the late Middle Ages, increases our knowledge of the period, and provides an excellent model for working with wide-ranging source material.”—Bobbi Sutherland, Agricultural History

“C.M. Woolgar has created a comprehensive and astute survey of food customs in medieval England. Addressing a wide variety of topics, this is a book that not only informs but also entertains.”—Mihaela L. Florescu, Comitatus

“This book is, in effect, an innovative tour de force by a scholar, whose knowledge and understanding of food history in late-medieval England is unrivaled. . . . Woolgar fills a visible and notorious historiographic gap and makes an invaluable contribution to the historiography of food consumption in particular, and social and cultural history of late-medieval England in general.”—Philip Slavin, EuropeNow

ISBN: 9780300181913
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
360 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 pp. b/w illus.