with the mean place in which she livesnthat she’s compelled to write about it,nexplicitly and with great care, and thenwriting is compelling as a result. It’s asnsimple as that, and there ought to be anlaw against writing a book any othernway. Readers will smell the mud andndung, drink the spring water Hasselstromndrinks, fight fire with her, sit onnher porch after an endless, scorching,ngrimy day, and eat her cool sandwichesnand salad. There are few subtletiesnhere, as, I suspect, there are few in thenwoman. There’s just too much to bendone.nJane Greer is a contributing editor tonChronicles and editor of Plains PoetrynJournal.nRecovering thenMedieval Familynby Bryce ChristensennMarriage and the Family in thenMiddle Ages by Frances and JosephnGies, New York: Harper &nRow; $22.50.nHatred of the past ill becomes a historian.nYet it is hard not to detect thisndisfiguring animus — paired with annoverweening love of contemporaneityn— in the works of many modern historiansnof family life. In recent decades,nmen such as Philippe Aries, EdwardnShorter, and Lloyd DeMause havenalleged — on the basis of scantynevidence—that in premodern Europe,nmarriage was strictly an economic arrangementndevoid of affection and thatnparents were usually cold, indifferent, orneven cruel to their children. After lookingnat medieval infant mortality rates,nAries reasoned that “people could notnallow themselves to become too attachednto something that was regardednas a probable loss.” Shorter averred thatn”maternal indifference to infants characterizedntraditional society” and thatn”good mothering is an invention ofnmodernization.” DeMause goes evennfurther: “The history of childhood is annightmare from which we have onlynrecently begun to awaken. The farthernback in history one goes, the lower thenlevel of child care and the more likelynchildren are to be killed, abandoned.nbeaten, terrorized, and sexuallynabused.”nFortunately, truth will out. Marriagenand the Family in the Middle Ages isnthe latest in a series of scholarly investigationsnexposing Aries et al. as defendersnof yet another of modernity’s selfcongratulatorynmyths. The Gieses’ volume,nin fact, comes hard on the heelsnof a valuable 1986 study on family lifenin colonial New England by JohnnDemos, in which DeMause’s views onnchild abuse were thoroughly explodedn(Past, Present, and Personal: The Familynand the Life Course in AmericannHistory, Oxford University Press).nFinding it virtually unknown in 17thcenturynMassachusetts, Demos contendsnthat child abuse is a distinctivelynmodern phenomenon, caused by thenrootlessness and alienation of 20thcenturynlife by the decline of “then’providential’ world-view of our forebears.”nMedieval sources similarly contradictnthe Aries school of family historiography.nIn this new volume, a distinguishednpair of medievalists, Francesnand Joseph Gies, explore and discardn”the hypothesis . . . that medievalnfamilies led impoverished emotionalnlives.” The Gieses found that althoughnchildren in early Europe did have tonendure “a harsh environment withnhigh mortality . . . severe discipline,nand early consignment to work,” theirnfamily life was “by no means bereft ofnparental concern and affection, or an’concept of childhood.'” Documentarynevidence for the emotional life ofnmedieval lower classes is rare, butnChurch penitentials, gravestone inscriptions,nand royal correspondence allnprovide abundant confirmation ofnCicero’s declaration that “nature implantsnin man above all a strong andntender love for his children.” A bishopnduring the sixth century, Gregory ofnTours expressed the prevailing attitudenwhen he lamented the effects of annepidemic: “So we lost our little ones,nwho were so dear to us and sweet,nwhom we cherished in our bosoms andndandled in our arms, whom we had fednand nurtured with such loving care.”nThe Gieses conclude that parents duringnthe Middle Ages “felt toward childrennthe same mixture of tenderness,namusement, and wonder that they feelntoday.” In sum, the evidence is clear:n”Children were valued and well treat­nnned” long before anyone supposednotherwise.nNor were medieval marriages thenloveless arrangements that some modernnhistorians have postulated. Economicsndid heavily influence matchmakingnduring the era, but the latestnresearch suggests that “amid dowriesnand dowers, morning gifts andnjointures . . . affection, romance, andneven passion managed to flourish.”n”Send for me,” wrote a typicalnmedieval English lady to her lord, “fornI think it long since I lay in your arms.”nBesides showing that warmth andnlove are not modern additions to familynlife, this painstakingly researched volumentraces the family’s gradual loss ofnearlier functions as the Church, state,nand marketplace assumed greaternprominence. In the early Middle Ages,nthe family and the “supra-family” (thenRoman gens or the Germanic Sippe),nexercised nearly absolute authority overnmembers through regulation of worship,nmarriage, punishment, and inheritance.nEven as late as the 15th century,nthe extended kinship groupnremained vitally important in mercantilenItaly, while family lineage retainedncritical importance in France and England.nDespite the greater importancenof extended kinship during the MiddlenAges, however, it would be a mistake tonconsider the nuclear family—father,nmother, and children—an aberrationnpeculiar to modern life. Although thenpeople of the Middle Ages often regardedna larger family unit as ideal,nhigh mortality rates and economicnpressures combined to insure “thenprevalence of the conjugal familyn(married couple, or parents and children).”nBy the end of the Middle Ages,nthis conjugal family “dominated thensocial landscape at all levels.”nCuriously, while religion is generallyncounted as a defender of the family innthe modern world, its effects upon thenmedieval family were ambiguous. Onnthe other hand, the medieval Churchndid stress the sanctity of marriage whilendeploring the evils of divorce and concubinage.nYet on the other hand, theninsistence upon priestly celibacy oftennled to a doctrinal bias against marriage,nwith one standard commentary usingnthe parable of the sower (see Luke 8)nto set the value of virginity at 100,nwidowhood at 60, and marriage at onlyn30. Further, the Church’s impossiblenJULY 19881 33n