1st Edition

The Making of Manners and Morals in Twelfth-Century England The Book of the Civilised Man

By Fiona Whelan Copyright 2017
    244 Pages
    by Routledge

    244 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How different are we from those in the past? Or, how different do we think we are from those in the past? Medieval people were more dirty and unhygienic than us – as novels, TV, and film would have us believe – but how much truth is there in this notion? This book seeks to challenge some of these preconceptions by examining medieval society through rules of conduct, and specifically through the lens of a medieval Latin text entitled The Book of the Civilised Man – or Urbanus magnus – which is attributed to Daniel of Beccles.

    Urbanus magnus is a twelfth-century poem of almost 3,000 lines which comprehensively surveys the day-to-day life of medieval society, including issues such as moral behaviour, friendship, marriage, hospitality, table manners, and diet. Currently, it is a neglected source for the social and cultural history of daily life in medieval England, but by incorporating modern ideas of disgust and taboo, and merging anthropology, sociology, and archaeology with history, this book aims to bring it to the fore, and to show that medieval people did have standards of behaviour. Although they may seem remote to modern ‘civilised’ people, there is both continuity and change in human behaviour throughout the centuries.





    Manuscript Sigla


    Chapter 1. The Background to Urbanus Magnus


    Introduction to the Manuscripts



    Chapter 2. Genre and Urbanus Magnus

    Scholarship on Urbanus Magnus

    The Genre of Courtesy Literature

    The Origins of Courtesy Literature

    Other Sources

    Chapter 3. The Manuscript Evidence

    Twelfth-Century Satire

    An Educational Tool

    Religious Use

    A Medical Text

    Chapter 4. Introduction to Themes

    Chapter 5. The Medieval Household and Beyond

    Administering the Household

    Householder, Home, and Hospitality

    Children and Wives

    Staff and Servants

    Outside the Household

    Social Mobility and Appropriate Courtesy

    Chapter 6. The Medieval Body in Urbanus Magnus

    Bodily Moderation and Restraint

    Speech and Laughter

    Bodily Vices

    The Body and Sex

    Bodily Emissions


    Chapter 7. Medieval Dining and Diet

    The Archaeological Evidence

    The Medieval Meal

    Preparation and Consumption


    Continuity and Change

    Diet and Health

    Chapter 8. New Interpretations

    The Impetus for and Precursors to Urbanus Magnus


    Social Habitus

    The Court of Henry II

    ‘A Monument to Anxiety’


    The Impact of Urbanus Magnus


    Appendix: Contenances de table poems




    Fiona Whelan completed her DPhil in Medieval History at the University of Oxford in 2015, and has previously studied at Trinity College Dublin and University College London. She has published on manuscript dissemination and has contributed to the collection Transformations and Continuities in the Eleventh Century: The Archaeology of the Norman Conquest. She currently works for the University of Oxford and her research interests include the cultivation of norms of behaviour, food and diet in the medieval period, household administration, and the manuscript culture of early courtesy literature.