Goodreads rating: 4.04
My rating: 4/5
Hartnell treats us to a fascinating and surprisingly in-depth look at life in the Middle Ages from the perspective of the human body. The book is arranged in sections from head to toe, including everything in between. The writing is eloquent but not the point of becoming overly flowery or too dense to get through.
It was fascinating to learn about how Medieval people understood the different aspects and functions of the body. Also tied in are relevant points of context from the time. For example, in the section on the heart we learn about how the heart was studied medically, but also about how the iconic heart shape “<3” was popularized.
Hartnell explains that in a lot of ways, the Middle Ages were more progressive than we give them credit for. At the same time though, he doesn’t shy away from pointing out the blatant racism, homophobia, and misogyny that people regularly experienced. I really appreciated this well rounded view.
Spread throughout the pages are beautiful full-color photographs and illustrations that help add more meaning to the specific examples being discussed.
I often struggle to read nonfiction because I lose interest so easily but Medieval Bodies was fascinating all the way through!