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Le Menagier de Paris: A Parisian Bourgeoisie Household in 1400
Quaestio: UCLA Undergraduate History Journal (2002)
In about the year 1400, an older bourgeoisie man of about sixty living in Paris married a young girl of good family and brought her into his household. At about fifteen, she had no real experience of running a household, and so her husband kindly wrote a manual to instruct her upon her duties as his wife and mistress of the household, dealing with domestic life in the late fourteenth century. This manual is a unique source for the study of domestic life, describing the young wife’s responsibilities in the home, her duties to her husband, and giving the reader a picture of her home and the medieval Parisian world in which she lived. The young wife’s existence was very different from what is seen today, six hundred years later. The material world in which she lived was filled with discomforts that have largely disappeared in western societies. Insects plagued people in their clothes, their bed, and their food. Smells were everywhere; inescapable odors of excrement draining down the middle of the streets, unwashed humanity, and rotten meat. Human labor was absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of an average-sized upper class household such as the young wife’s. Domestic servants, now seen as the purview of the wealthy, were not thought of as a luxury, but a necessity in a world without running water, plumbing, any machines 1to clean, or even carry things. Through the eyes of the author of the book, le Ménagier de Paris-the Goodman of Paris- and his young wife, this paper will explore the home of an upper middle class bourgeoisie, their conditions of life, and the late medieval Paris that they describe to us in staggering detail.