Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Eyewitness: Medieval Life

Eyewitness: Medieval Life

Andrew Langley
Nonfiction Picture Book  Series
For ages 10 and up
Dorling Kindersley, 2011   ISBN: 978-0756673161

   The word “Medieval” comes from the Latin meaning “the Middle Ages,” and it refers to a period that lasted from the fifth to the fifteen century. The history of medieval times has attracted the attention of historians and the public a great deal over the years. Who can help being drawn to the stories of chivalrous knights and their elegant ladies, and who isn’t fascinated by tales that feature castles with their turrets, drawbridges, and flying flags.  

   In reality the medieval times were full of uncertainly, change, brutality, suffering and war. The peasants who were the bulwark of the society had few comforts and lived lives of servitude tied to the land and with no prospect of improving their lot. The knights and lords had to get the most out their peasants so that they could maintain their manors and lands. In turn, they had to serve the king and had to always be ready to go off to war for the king, whether they believed in his cause or not.

   This is of course a very grim picture. There were aspects of medieval life that were lighter; everyone could enjoy the frequent fairs and feast days, there was music to play and listen to, games and theatrics to watch and participate in. Great things happened in the Middle Ages as art, scholarship, and architecture flourished, and as the people began to explore new avenues in thought, religion, and social change.

   In this beautifully produced book the author provides the reader with an enormous amount of information. The heavily annotated photographs of artefacts from the medieval period give one a sense of the times, and reproduced artwork shows readers what life during the Middle Ages was like.