Barbara Hanawalt, in her book The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England, delivers a masterpiece of research to prove that families remained stable in the 14th and 15th centuries in England despite many trials and tribulations: the Black Plague, famine, natural diseases, high mortality rates, heavy taxes, and the decline of serfdom. In addition, she discovered that not only were families stable, but quite flexible and able to adapt to circumstantial changes.
One of the most interesting and insightful aspects of this book is the research methods and sources Hanawalt finds and uses. The professor for this class (Medieval Europe taught by Ms. Hoskins) had us read this book specifically as an example of how to think outside the box and go about researching a topic as obscure and difficult as this one. In this paper I outline both the structure of the book and the research methods Hanawalt uses. Some examples of the fascinating sources she uses are coroner death records, manorial court rolls, wills, contacts, ecclesiastical records, and some literary sources.