I am a teacher and I would like to do an exercise with my students concerning the urban life in the Middle Ages. I am looking for original, first-hand sources who describe urban life from the 11th century to the end of the 13th century, in central Europe (Flanders and France).

Does anyone know a source from an author who lived in the middle ages himself, describing what society in the cities was like back then?

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    The broader definition of Middle Ages spans 10 centuries, answers about the 5th century will be very different from answers about the 15th. Could you please narrow this down a bit? Also, some geographical limits would be helpful.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 15:04
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    Barbara Wertheim Tuchman in her excellent book 'A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century' points out how hard it is to get a clear picture of ordinary life in that period. The available sources are contradictory. The period may be a little out but the lack of sources is lamentable. Life in the Stone Age is easier to reconstruct. Consider the difficulties in knowing details of life in England at the time of Shakespeare. Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 16:06
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    We don't do reference requests, see the FAQ. Though I would suggest reading around in the sources at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and the sources those sources cite. Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 22:13
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    I think there's a difference between asking for reference material and primary sources, @SamuelRussell. This is indeed a list-y question, but I don't think we risk ending up with a huge list of everyone's favourite book (which is what the guideline is trying to prevent).
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 23:19
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    I don't think this is a list question, because the number of available first-hand sources are so small that the result can hardly be called a list. The rule against list questions are to prevent multiple answers that does not have a "best answer". Until we actually are in that situation, I don't see a need to close it. Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 5:28

1 Answer 1


Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie more or less founded microhistory with his book Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324. Records of a certain religious inquisition were the author's principal source, and presumably you could satisfy your interest in primary sources by consulting them directly.

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