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New Medieval Books: Minstrels and Minstrelsy in Late Medieval England

Minstrels and Minstrelsy in Late Medieval England

By Richard Rastall with Andrew Taylor

The Boydell Press
ISBN: 978 1 83765 039 2

This book examines the careers of professional entertainers between the fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. While some minstrels were lucky enough to find work in royal or aristocratic courts, many others would be plying their trade in towns or roaming the countryside. It also offers details on music and musical instruments during the period.


Who were the minstrels of medieval England? What did they do to earn a living, and what sort of lives did they lead? What music did they play, and what other sorts of entertainment could they offer? Medieval iconography shows that many instrumentalists lived comfortably as liveried servants of royalty and the aristocracy; records of court proceedings show that some of the lower-class independent minstrels had brushes with the law (and this is in fact the only evidence we have for most of them). Clearly, these are the two extremes of a wide range of social situations in which minstrels lived, and the picture in reality must be a much more complex one.


Who is this book for?

Minstrels tend to be a topic that medievalists will know a little bit about but really want to know more about – this book will offer the answers to that. Much of this book is based on evidence from various accounts, usually royal, that detail what people were paying minstrels, so it also offers insights into the entertainment business in late medieval England. Those interested in music in the Middle Ages will also find a lot of information here.

The authors:

Richard Rastall is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Leeds and his expertise is in minstrels and minstrelsy – click here to see his university webpage. Three of the chapters were written by Andrew Taylor, a Professor at the University of Ottawa – he covers literature about minstrels and how they actually performed in front of audiences.


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