The Senses in Late Medieval England

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Crucial to an understanding of life in the past is an appreciation of how individuals perceived their world. This book captures the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of the late medieval period to recreate and explain the kinds of lives lived by medieval men and women. Based on a wide range of sources, from saints' lives, collections of miracles and literary works, to domestic financial records and the remains of buildings, the book reveals a physical experience very different from our own. Popular beliefs about the senses were closely intertwined with intellectual ideas about their operation. 'Stinking sin' and the 'odour of sanctity' are vestiges of a world that thought differently, one in which the lustre of a colour might be more important than its hue, and where moral qualities might attach to sound, be it the song of angels or the cachinnation of devils. As well as examining individual senses, the book considers how sensation functioned in practice, looking in detail at the households of bishops of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, as well as those of the queens of late medieval England and the aristocracy at the end of the Middle Ages. Woolgar's deft and engaging text recovers an elusive and fascinating world. 'A fascinating and wide-ranging book which opens up the subject in a new way. Thoroughly readable.' Michael Prestwich C. M. Woolgar is Reader and Head of Special Collections at the University of Southampton Library. He is the author of 'The Great Household in Late Medieval England' (1999), also published by Yale University Press.