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zParis in the Middle AgeszParis in the Middle Ages

Simone Roux and Jo Ann McNamara

Narrated by

Book published by University of Pennsylvania Press

Paris 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.

Centering on the streets of this metropolis, Roux peers into the private lives of people within their homes as well as 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 those streets: the Latin Quarter, where the university dominated; the precincts of Notre Dame, with its large number of clerical inhabitants; the mercantile world of the Right Bank; and 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 patron 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 is Professor Emerita of History at Hunter College, City University of New York.


“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

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