Life in a Medieval Gentry Household : Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk, c.1360-1435 book cover
1st Edition

Life in a Medieval Gentry Household
Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk, c.1360-1435

ISBN 9781032030418
Published November 26, 2021 by Routledge
220 Pages 13 Color & 48 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

In the Middle Ages the household was such a fundamental part of the social structure that the post-1350 era has been termed ‘the Age of the Household.’ Academic studies have generally focused on the grand, itinerant households of the wealthy aristocracy, illuminating the lifestyles and pastimes of this elite class. Using the household accounts of Alice de Bryene, a widowed gentlewoman, together with bailiffs’ and stewards’ reports from her home in Suffolk and other estates further afield, this richly detailed study paints a vivid portrait of the lives of ordinary people in the medieval countryside, of festivals and feast days, marriage and monuments, family loyalties and betrayals, life and death, the rhythms of the working day and year, and the changing scene in the wider world beyond the household.

[Originally published in 1999 by Sutton Publishing Limited (UK) and Routledge Kegan Paul (USA) as Medieval Gentlewoman: Life in a Widow’s Household in the Later Middle Ages by ffiona Swabey.]

Table of Contents

1. The Medieval Household

2. Marriage and the Family

3. Estate Management

4. The Gentle Lifestyle

5. Men at the Table

6. Women at the Table

7. The Wider World

8. Considerations for the Afterlife


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ffiona von Westhoven Perigrinor is an independent scholar and Jungian psycho-analyst. Her previous publications include: Reluctant Pilgrim: the Lost Book of Margery Kempe’s Maidservant (2021) and Strange Tales from my Studio: a Psychotherapist in China (forthcoming). And under her pen-name ffiona Swabey: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Courtly Love and the Troubadours (2004) and Medieval Gentlewoman: Life in a  Widow’s Household in the Later Middle Ages (1999).


‘Written in a lively and accessible style, this book appeals not only to scholars of the period but very much to the general reader with interests in such matters as marriage and family, the stages of life including widowhood, and the lifestyle of the gentry, both in the material sense and in terms of attitudes and values’ - Peter R. Coss, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History, Cardiff University.

'Who would have thought that a simple household account, for the single year 1412–13, could be used to produce such a rich and readable book? Dame Alice de Bryene’s enterprising engagement and her busy household are brought to life in a way that is both scholarly and enlightening. A remarkable achievement' - Caroline Barron, Professor Emerita, Royal Holloway, University of London.

'When this book of daily life in the household of an affluent widow first appeared it anticipated much of the scholarship that has followed. As our interest in "ordinary" lives continues to grow, ffiona Perigrinor’s study of Alice de Bryene remains central to many lines of investigation touching the kitchen and banqueting hall, guests at the table, relations with the clergy, and an active widow's role in family and community life. This was a book before its time' - Joel T. Rosenthal, Emeritus Professor, Stony Brook University.

‘The detailed research reveals the rhythms of farm life in the Suffolk countryside, explores in detail the management and economics of a gentry household, and uncovers the web of personal and religious obligations that also marked the year for Dame Alice and her household... Dr Perigrinor brings her material beautifully to life’ – Martha Carlin, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.