‘The Peasants Revolting Lives’ by Terry Deary


I was gifted Terry Deary’s previous book ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes’ and I so enjoyed it that I knew I get to get this one when it came out and I wasn’t disappointed! I’ve always enjoyed Terry Deary’s style of writing, right from when I was little reading the Horrible Histories. He makes you feel engaged and want to read on.

What I like about this book, and the previous one, is that it is scattered with quotes, both contemporary and modern, related to what he’s discussing in any given chapter. This could feel disjointed, but Deary makes it work. It covers so many areas including education, warfare, sickness, work, entertainment, and courtship. You can really begin to get a sense of what things would have been like and how, when people say they would rather live in a past century, they haven’t really thought about what it would be like.

His focus on the peasants offers a new insight into the history we think we know – that of monarchs, politicians, and the nobility. We can begin to see what life would have been like for the bulk of the population, rather than focusing on a small percentage of the elite. It’s so well-written, but there was a small error I noticed when it was said that James II was the son of Charles II, rather than his brother! Overall, you could tell it was incredibly well-researched and that Deary was really engaged with his subject.

It’s thought-provoking in the sense that it’s a section of the population often overlooked and seeing how things didn’t really improve much through the centuries, just being trodden down in different circumstances, was quite an eye-opener. I would really recommend this, to find out more about a section of society which we don’t really focus on.

Chapters:

  1. Work
  2. Entertainment
  3. Courtship
  4. Sickness
  5. Housing
  6. Religion
  7. Food
  8. Sport
  9. Warfare
  10. Education

Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe?


I was very proud of this essay which I wrote as part of my Masters degree. It got me a first. Please don’t use sections from it in your own work without proper referencing.

The issue of women in history has been neglected until relatively recently. Hence the historiography on the effects of the Reformation on the lives of women is quite up-to-date. Cissie Fairchilds and Peter Wallace have two contrasting opinions which will both be explored in this essay. Fairchilds argues that the Reformation brought ‘some losses but more gains’ for women and ultimately improved women’s status in society.[1] Conversely, Wallace argues that the reformation ‘bound women more tightly to men’s authority’ which diminished their status.[2] These two opinions are irreconcilable, so one must triumph over the other. In this author’s opinion, the Reformation allowed women a measure of freedom, more than had been achieved in the Medieval period, but they were still ultimately subject to patriarchal authority. It was not until much later, into the twentieth century, that women managed to completely break away from man’s authority. The Reformation acted as a catalyst for these later changes. In examining the Reformation in relation to women it is politic to look at several fields of interest: education, marriage, witchcraft, religion, scholarship and monarchy. These key areas will demonstrate the effect of the reformation on the lives of European women in the sixteenth century. Continue reading “Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe?”

The Changing Position of Women


What Evidence is there for a Change in Ideas about Women between the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods?

            Ideas about women in the Medieval period were very different to ideas about women in the Early Modern period with this change largely being due to the religious upheavals that were taking place all over Europe, known as the Reformation. This essay will look at the era of 1100 – 1800 and how ideas about women changed and evolved in this period. The key themes that will be explored are women’s education and writing, looking at writers like Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) and Christine de Pizan (1363 – 1430) to try and understand why ideas about them changed and how much. Other themes are marriage, looking at the influence of the Church in them, and an early developing form of feminism which many of these writers could be considered as being a part of. This essay will argue that ideas about women did change, but it can be debated as to whether or not things actually improved or declined, as marriage laws got harsher rather than better. There is one main problem with this broad debate – the changes definitely were not universal and affected different parts of Europe in different ways with a divide between north and south.

Punishments for witchcraft in 16th-century Germany. Woodcut from Tengler's Laienspiegel, Mainz, 1508.
Punishments for witchcraft in 16th-century Germany. Woodcut from Tengler’s Laienspiegel, Mainz, 1508.

The differences between Medieval and Early Modern marriage look to be minimal at first sight, but they are actually very different. It was not until the eleventh and twelfth centuries that the Church began to take responsibility for marriage which may have been because the Church was gaining more power and becoming more important in European affairs.[1] So, at least in the very early Medieval period, marriage was not sanctioned by the Church, but by the middle of the twelfth century, Church courts settled marriages, the consequences and the validity of such whereas in earlier centuries the Church attempted to influence courts who had the final say on marriages.[2] By the Early Modern period, the Church had control over most areas of everyday life, at least in Catholic countries. Continue reading “The Changing Position of Women”

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