"Simone Roux's new history of medieval Paris, beautifully translated by Jo Ann McNamara . . . goes far beyond cold administrative mechanics or economics, and digs down into the attitudes of workaday life. It is this anecdotal material that gives the book its human edge—too often absent from a period lacking in diaries and private letters."—TLSParis in the Middle Ages was home to royalty, mountebanks, Knights Templar, merchants, prostitutes, and canons. Bursting outward from the encompassing wall, it was Europe's largest, most cosmopolitan city. Simone Roux chronicles the lives of Parisians over the course of a dozen generations as Paris grew from a military stronghold after the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 to a city recovering from the Black Death of the 1390s.
"One feels the city in constant motion, going from funeral to carnival, wading along streets drenched with the blood of animals flayed by butchers, applauding jongleurs and their monkeys, even watching the legal trials of beasts condemned to death."—Le Nouvel Observateur, in a review of the French edition
"A wonderful and useful book for anyone who wants to know the history of the city from the inside."—H-Net
Roux peers into the private lives of people within their homes and chronicles the public world of affairs and entertainments, filling the pages of her book with laborers, shopkeepers, magistrates, thieves, and prelates. She examines the varied populations living within their own realms but sharing the streets of the metropolis, in the Latin Quarter, where the university dominated; in the precincts of Notre Dame, with its large number of clerical inhabitants; the mercantile Right Bank; and in the area surrounding the royal palace of the Louvre, with its attendant palaces for the king's satellites. She breathes life into dusty documents by explicating the lingo of street insults, making sense of the cults of saints—Sebastian, who was riddled with arrows, became the patron saint of tapestry workers—and entering the courtrooms and confessionals to tell how people actually ate, slept, dressed, fought, worked, and worshipped in the later Middle Ages.
Simone Roux is Professor of History Emerita at University of Paris-X, Nantes.
Jo Ann McNamara was Professor of History at Hunter College, City University of New York. She was the author of Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia.