Daily Life in a Medieval Monastery
by Sherri Olson
August 2013, 211pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-33655-3
$70, £54, 61€, A96
eBook Available: 978-0-313-05617-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Monasteries were a fixture of medieval European society.

A study of life inside medieval monasteries that explores monastic spirituality, daily routines, contact with the outside world, and the historical impact of these foundational institutions on the Western world.

How did the Western monastic tradition begin? What was monastic life typically like for a monk or nun? How was the institution of the monastery formative to Western culture from antiquity through the Middle Ages? This book covers the entire span of monastic history in the late-ancient and medieval periods and provides an in-depth look at several monasteries across Europe. Each chapter introduces the reader to the surviving evidence for the houses studied, such as its monastic rules, plans, records of visitation, chronicles, and biographical accounts; and aims to give an “insider” view—not only of monks’ and nuns’ daily activities, but what these dedicated individuals’ values, ambitions, and aspirations might have been.


  • Surveys the history of the monastery, describing its origins, purpose, geographic spread, and impact on the larger society
  • Provides a glimpse of the rich and often idiosyncratic evidence that survives for medieval monasteries
  • Emphasizes the pervasiveness of monasticism in medieval Europe, the versatility of the monastic tradition, and its remarkable survival
  • Brings to life the interior experience of a typical monk or nun, allowing readers to understand what draws some individuals to the monastic life
Sherri Olson, PhD, is associate professor of history and codirector of the medieval studies program at the University of Connecticut. Her published works include A Chronicle of All That Happens: Voices from the Village Court in Medieval England and A Mute Gospel: The People and Culture of the Medieval English Common Fields. Olson holds a doctorate from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.


"Shepherd, who specializes in early medieval archaeology, has made use of recent archaeological finds as well as the usual primary sources. She spends time within the narrative discussing the importance of the findings of these excavations and how the materials found—including pottery, flora and fauna, and DNA—give us a new window into life during this time. This unique feature makes the work distinctive from other reference sources about the time period . . . a useful starting point for high school and undergraduate students working on research within these two areas. Recommended for most high school, academic, and public libraries."—Booklist, November 1, 2013

"This book is highly recommended for the study of medieval monasticism."—ARBA, November 1, 2013

Daily Life

What was life really like for ordinary people in other cultures throughout history? How did they raise their children? What did they do for fun? From sexual mores in ancient Egypt to resistance music in modern Latin America, and from the fashion sense of the Mongols to the importance of film in modern India, the world comes alive in the indispensable hands-on volumes of this award-winning series. A truly interdisciplinary resource, the Daily Life series covers arts; religion; food; literature; language; romance; rites of passage and coming of age; marriage customs; social and government structure; sickness and cures; warfare; sports and games; holidays; festivals; and more. Supported by the most current research, these authoritative volumes provide an in-depth exploration of daily life throughout history.

Each volume provides:
• An exploration of complex eras in history on a level accessible to students and general readers
• Authoritative coverage stemming from the most current scholarship and recent discoveries
• A focus on social rather than political history in key curricular areas, providing an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of daily life
• Interactive, exciting details such as recipes, sheet music, rules for games, song lyrics, and more
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