When I studied abroad at Oxford in the spring of 2018, I bought a few reference books to bring home to the States with me. I like buying books as souvenirs and The Middle Ages Unlocked: A Guide to Life in Medieval England, 1050-1300 was one such book. However, due to my busy schedule (and admittedly a lot of procrastination), I only recently read it.
Due to the density of the information, it took me about a month to read (I usually average a week when reading a book). That being said, The Middle Ages Unlocked is full of valuable information for anyone wanting to know more about the Middle Ages. There are seventeen chapters and each chapter focuses on a specific part of daily life. For example, chapter eight focuses on leisure activities while chapter seventeen focuses on how people measured things during the period being covered.
The Middle Ages Unlocked is extremely specific in the time period and places covered. Those things being the years 1050-1300 and medieval England (as well as land owned in France by the English). Of course, the text sometimes mentions other countries and occasionally ventures outside the period, but this is always to give the reader a better idea of the context concerning the topics at hand.
I admire Polack and Kania’s willingness to tell the reader when there simply isn’t enough information available to get a better picture of the topic they are discussing. These acts of letting the reader know that they don’t know or that further research is needed in the field to answer the question is really fantastic. This transparency gives the book credit and inadvertently the reader is assured that the authors aren’t just making things up. And as someone who wants accuracy, this is reassuring.
In conclusion, The Middle Ages Unlocked is a great reference book for those who are beginning their study of the Middle Ages.