A Cultural History of Work in the Medieval Age

A Cultural History of Work in the Medieval Age, Volume 2

by Valerie L. Garver

Valerie L. Garver is Associate Professor of History at Northern Illinois University, USA. A specialist in Carolingian social and cultural history, she has published on women, childhood, family, and material culture (especially textiles). She is the author of Women and Aristocratic Culture in the Carolingian World (2009). Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2019
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-1-4742-4492-3 (set)

    978-1-4742-4503-6 (hardback)

    978-1-3500-7823-9 (online)
  • Edition:
    First edition
  • Place of Publication:
  • Published Online:
A Cultural History of Work in the Medieval Age
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Work was central to medieval life. Religious and secular authorities generally expected almost everyone to work. Artistic and literary depictions underlined work’s cultural value. The vast majority of medieval people engaged in agriculture because it was the only way they could obtain food. Yet their work led to innovations in technology and production and allowed others to engage in specialized labor, helping to drive the growth of cities. Many workers moved to seek employment and to improve their living conditions. For those who could not work, charity was often available, and many individuals and institutions provided forms of social welfare. Guilds protected their members and created means for the transmission of skills. When they were not at work, medieval Christians were to meet their religious obligations yet many also enjoyed various pastimes. A consideration of medieval work is therefore one of medieval society in all its creativity and complexity.