The Measure of Multitude: Population in Medieval Thought

Janet L. Nelson reviews the joint winner of the Longman-History Today Book of the Year award.

Janet Nelson | Published in 19 Feb 2002

Peter Biller’s  book impressed the judges of the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award – all of them, right across the chronological range – first and foremost by its capacity to bring together what had until now been kept in separate research-boxes. In other words, what makes the reader sit up and take notice is the extraordinary range of Peter Biller’s vision, across time, space, and social divides. Peter Biller has discovered a subject: medieval thinking about demography.

How come no-one saw it before? The separate research-boxes were the obstacle. For the earlier medieval period, the experts on the penitentials didn’t read the estate-surveys, and the experts on the surveys didn’t read the penitentials.

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