The word "medieval" is often used in a negative way when talking about contemporary issues. Why the Middle Ages Matter refreshes our thinking about this historical era, and our own, by looking at some pressing concerns from today’s world, asking how these issues were really handled in the medieval period, and showing why the past matters now. The contributors here cover topics such as torture, marriage, sexuality, imprisonment, refugees, poverty, work, the status of women, disability, race, political leadership and end of life care. They focus on a variety of regions, from North Africa and the Middle East, through Western and Central Europe, to the British Isles.

This collection challenges many negative stereotypes of medieval people, revealing a world from which, for instance, much could be learned about looking after the spiritual needs of the dying, and about integrating prisoners into the wider community through an emphasis on reconciliation between victim and criminal. It represents a new level of engagement with issues of social justice by medievalists and provides a highly engaging way into studying the middle ages. All the essays are written so as to be accessible to students, and each is accompanied by a list of further readings.

chapter |14 pages


ByCelia Chazelle, Simon Doubleday, Felice Lifshitz, Amy G. Remensnyder

chapter 1|14 pages

Crime and punishment: Penalizing without prisons

ByCelia Chazelle

chapter 2|12 pages

Social deviancy: A medieval approach

ByG. Geltner

chapter 3|13 pages

End of life: Listening to the monks of Cluny

ByFrederick S. Paxton

chapter 4|12 pages

Marriage: Medieval couples and the uses of tradition

ByRuth Mazo Karras

chapter 5|11 pages

Women: The Da Vinci Code and the fabrication of tradition

ByFelice Lifshitz

chapter 6|13 pages

Homosexuality: Augustine and the Christian closet: Mathew Kuefler

ByMathew Kuefler

chapter 7|16 pages

Sexual scandal and the clergy: A medieval blueprint for disaster

ByDyan Elliott

chapter 8|15 pages

Labor: Insights from a medieval monastery

ByMartha G. Newman

chapter 9|9 pages

Disability?: Perspectives on bodily difference from the Middle East

ByKristina Richardson

chapter 10|11 pages

Race: What the bookstore hid

ByMaghan Keita

chapter 11|13 pages

Refugees: Views from thirteenth-century France

ByMegan Cassidy-Welch

chapter 12|15 pages

Torture and truth: Torquemada’s ghost

ByAmy G. Remensnyder

chapter 13|14 pages

Class justice: Why we need a Wat Tyler Day

ByPeter Linebaugh