Domestic Settings

by Adrian J. Boas:

A Review

Adrian Boas is a lecturer in medieval archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, and this book is based largely on the research he did for his dissertation but is part of a wider scholarly series “The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500.” This book is comprehensive, detailed and meticulously documented. It contains numerous relevant photos, maps, plans and tables of information such as prices and wages. Far from being dry and boring, the logical organization, unpretentious style and sheer quality of the information is so high that this book is a pleasure to read. I can easily be read cover-to-cover and/or used as a reference for specific information.

The book opens with a discussion of architectural styles in east and west in the 12th century. This lays the foundation for a discussion of crusader architecture and the extent to which it was influenced by one tradition or another ― or represented something innovative. Boas then provides chapters on construction materials and techniques and overall design, before getting into the specifics of living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, gardens, stables, storage and workspaces. Boas also provides chapters on furniture and household furnishings, cooking and eating utensils, water supply, fountains, bath houses and sewage systems. In addition, there are chapters on living conditions/crowding in Frankish cities and on property values.
For a novelist writing books set in the crusader states this book is a goldmine of information. It enables an author to picture the urban and interior settings of any scene or episode. This book corrected many of my own misconceptions such as the idea the poor lived in adobe and thatch-roofed dwellings (even the poor had stone hovels with plaster roofs), and reinforced others, such as the extensive use of glass and marble by the rich.

The only drawback of the book is its price. Indeed, I found it very difficult to obtain at all, but it was worth every penny and all the effort.