The stereotypical image of medieval people as rustic, uncouth and uncivilised has long been propagated in the modern era through the media, especially in television and film depictions of the medieval period. The term ‘medieval’ is frequently employed as a synonym for what we might consider ‘backwards’ or ‘barbarous’; whereas the march of ‘progress’ allows us to look into the past from a position of superiority, judging those from the past as not only different to us but also inferior to us. Urbanus magnus, or The Book of the Civilised Man, challenges this notion. It is a text which sets out the codes of behaviour in the late-twelfth century. There are moments of delightful symmetry with today, reminding us that we are not quite as far removed from each other as we might first think. Consider that even in the twelfth century people were instructed not to put their elbows on the table. 1 Of course, at times the precepts contained within this text can seem rather remote to the standards of our own time, particularly in relation to the body and standards of hygiene which modern readers may raise an eyebrow at. Nevertheless, the text and this translation demonstrates that the medieval period did have standards of behaviour and manners, albeit standards which were often different from our own. Importantly, the unifying element is that the desire to create and codify acceptable behaviour in society is universal throughout the ages.