Childhood in the Middle Ages: Here is a beautiful subject! Pierre Riché, an eminent medievalist and close to the noted antiquist Henri-Irénée Marrou, tackled this tough task in his book Being a child in the Middle Ages, an anthology of texts devoted to the life of the child from the 5th to the 15th century. Achieving an overall picture of the life of a child, or rather of childhood in medieval times, is not an easy task, as this "little character", often considered as an "adult in reduction. », Is largely forgotten by history.
Despite everything one might think, and despite the prejudices that have persisted for centuries, the medieval child not only existed, but he also aroused genuine consideration among contemporaries. Pierre Riché has forged a reputation as an "expert" on the subject, having defended two theses in his life on " Education and Culture in the Barbarian West - VIIth - VIIIth centuries "And on the" Dhuoda Manual ". It is therefore not entirely by chance that Pierre Riché offers us this anthology on childhood in the Middle Ages, published by Fabert, in the collection "Pédagogues du monde". Let's see what it really is.
The choice of anthology.
This work does not appear in the classic form of a history "manual", since it is an anthology of texts devoted to the medieval child, considered over the entire period - from the 5th to the Fifteenth century. From the “pedagogue” Raimond Lulle to the famous “ Mesnagier of Paris », Passing through the mirrors of the princes, Pierre Riché has brought together in his work the most famous texts and the most characteristic of his subject.
This anthology of more than two hundred pages will largely satisfy its reader: you never fall into the indigestible, since it is possible, if you wish, to target the texts that you want to read, for pleasure, or to study. In this, moreover, in my opinion, lies the whole interest of this work: professors and teaching staff in higher education will be able to use it within the framework of tutorials, for example, as the texts are well selected and characteristic of various phenomena or periods in the life of the medieval child.
A work that is above all useful.
Pierre Riché, already known by all history students for his reference manual on the Carolingians, visibly focused on making his work useful to all. As has been said previously, it will satisfy all types of public: from the self-taught reader to the teacher, including the student, all will know how to use it wisely. Being a child in the Middle Ages.
The “average” reader can therefore, for example, favor reading the introductions to the chapters rather than the texts themselves, which are presented in the form of formidable summaries; in such a way that he can, if he wishes, later take an interest in the documents, which will therefore not be - or rather no longer - unknown to him.
The teacher, for his part, will find in this work an excellent corpus of texts, gathered under themes as diverse as they are interesting and useful: from "the beginnings of a child's life" to "the religious life of children", the author has also treated, pell-mell, the relations between children and parents, child monks, the education of children within the aristocracy but also the common people, even the happiness and miseries he may encounter throughout their existence.
The texts are therefore intended to be both useful to everyone, but also illustrations of the words presented by the author at the beginning of each chapter.
I can therefore only advise all those interested in medieval history to read this work by Pierre Riché. Because it helps to take stock of a great forgotten person in history, namely the child, and because it is proving to be very interesting and beneficial to everyone. Because the Middle Ages, it is not only great kings who fight; let us not forget that before being eminent figures of history, they were also children ...
P. RICHÉ, Being a child in the Middle Ages, an anthology of texts devoted to the life of the child from the 5th to the 15th century, Editions Fabert, Coll. Pedagogues from around the world, Paris, 2010.