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Encyclopedia of women in the Middle Ages /

Main Author: Lawler, Jennifer, 1965-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, 2001
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Review by Choice Review

Lawler has written all the entries, mostly biographies, in this encyclopedia, which include some literary figures and topics as they relate to women. Although the book deals with women from Asia, Byzantium, and Europe, the clear emphasis is on English and French queens and noblewomen. There are no entries for the mystics Angela of Foligno or Dorothea of Montau or for the politically astute Lucrezia Tornabuoni or Alessandra Strozzi. The appendix has genealogical charts for medieval royal houses, but not every spouse or child is listed. Although the very brief bibliographies appended to articles are of uneven quality, the errors of fact and interpretation in the articles are much more significant; Peter Abelard, for instance, is credited with beginning the cult of Mary Magdalene and the church is blamed for promoting wife abuse. Not recommended. M. C. Schaus Haverford College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Lawler's contention is that while much has been written about the Middle Ages, if you ask the average person to name women of this time period, the usual answers are Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Beyond these noted individuals, only queens and famous mistresses rate any mention in standard texts. In correcting this underreporting of half of the population, Lawler delved deeply into historical records and archives. As might be expected, hers was not an easy task given the absence of women in the historical records. Lawler profiles women from 500 to 1500 C.E., among them Amalasuntha (d.535), Ostrogothic queen of Italy; Herrad of Landsberg, twelfth century abbess and mystic; Peretta Peronne, fifteenth century surgeon; and Shiko, sixth century empress of Japan. Also included are women from legend and literature, such as Griselda and Guinevere. But coverage goes beyond a compilation of brief biographies to provide information on women's issues and concerns during this time period--Hospitals, Marriage and family, Social class, and Witchcraft and the arcane arts are examples of contextual entries, which range in length from a few lines to six or seven pages. Encyclopedia entries, many of which include suggested readings, occupy just over half the book. The remainder of the work consists of genealogical charts (approx. 60 pages), a 9-page glossary, a 28-page bibliography, and an index. There are no illustrations. There are other resources in which readers might find information about many of the women covered here, including Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World (Greenwood, 2000) and Gale's nearly completed Women in World History (see p.1172). What sets this volume apart is the juxtaposition of biographical material with information on some of the conditions and circumstances that shaped medieval women's lives. Recommended for high-school, public, and academic libraries.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.