You don't know what a vielle is? Or a tilt or a coronel? Or what subjects you would study if you enrolled for the quadrivium? Or why the Beak Doctors were so called? You cannot visualise a street scene in 14th-century Paris, or a village scene in 11th-century England? You don't know what games children played, what ailments they suffered from, what medicines they were given, what education they received?
Despite the subtitle, the book is mainly about Italy, France and England from the 11th century (the Norman Conquest, Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, and the First Crusade) to the mid-15th century (the dawn of the renaissance and the invention of the printing-press). But what it covers, it covers superbly in four comprehensive chapters.
The first, In the Service of God, deals with the growth of the Church and monasticism, the Holy Roman Empire, theologians and pilgrims. During the 11th and 12th centuries, this was the heart, mind and soul of the medieval world, the matrix in which the medieval world took place, but by the 14th it was losing its grip.
The second, Loyal Men and True, explains the feudal world, including the "war games" and the Crusades, for the modern reader, along with the first burgeonings of democracy (the guilds, the growing middle-class) and of feminism: Christine de Pisan, in this extract from a poem, compares women's behaviour with men's:
They murder no one, nor wound, nor harm,
Betray men, nor pursue, nor seize,
Nor houses set on fire, nor disinherit men,
Nor poison, nor steal gold or silver;
They do not cheat men of their lands,
Nor make false contracts, nor destroy Kingdoms,
Nor wage war and kill and plunder.
The third chapter, To the Manor Born, shows us the other side of feudalism, life in the villages and on the great estates, which was how the vast majority of people then lived. In this section we learn about "the art of healing," food and cooking, games and holidays, and marriage and childhood and "the child's world," focusing on the immortal Paston family.
Finally, in Of Towns and Townsmen, we see the rise of the guilds and the building of the great cathedrals all illustrated, as is the whole book, with reproductions of contemporary pictures (many of which I had never seen before, such as the 14th-century illumination of a jeweller's shop, reproduced here) and superb modern photos.
You cannot find everything in these pages. Of course not. But after reading them, you would certainly not be at a complete loss should you suddenly find yourself caught up in a time-slip, and there.