Middle Ages

The Middle Ages are also called the Medieval Times.

This was a period in European history that lasted 1,000 years, from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. Historians begin figuring the time from the fall of the Roman Empire to the point where the Ottoman Empire rose up.

This was an era of castles, kings, peasants, cathedrals, crusades, and religious monasteries. We know some of the stories that involve such famous people as Joan of Arc, but others also include the Black Plague which killed a huge portion of the population.

Separating the Middle Ages Out

Some call the Middle Ages the Dark Ages, and while the Dark Ages are contained in the Middle Ages, they are usually referring to 500 A.D. to 1,000 A.D.

When the Roman Empire fell, much of the culture and knowledge that they shared was lost. Romans kept superb records and when cultures lost technology, history recording, engineering, and art, with the fall, this became “dark” to communicating because there wasn’t any ruling government keeping track.

Life in the Middle Ages

Life in the Middle Ages depended on whether you were wealthy or poor. Almost all of the people living during this time were farm workers. They typically had a one or two room small home that was on the land of the local lord and they lived a peasant’s life.

Most grew crops such as oats, wheat, and barley, and may have had gardens for fruits and vegetables. Some may also have had some farm animals and these may have also lived in the house with the rest of the family. They paid a kind of tax to the local lord, who lived in a fine larger castle or manor home.

City life was also hard and they were dirty, crowded and often filled with disease. People that lived in a city usually had a craft or trade, but they could also be servants.

Clothes, School, and Food

A majority of the plain clothes that were made of heavy wool were worn by peasants for winter wear. The wealthier people wore much nicer clothing, often from velvet, wool, or silk. Believe it or not, there were laws that were called “sumptuary” that said who could wear what and of what materials.

The purpose of this was to make sure everyone knew the wealthy from the peasants. Almost no one went to school, with the exception of some wealthy children. There were a few schools that were run by the church.

It was a rare opportunity for a young person to become an apprentice for a skilled trade. Most kids worked with their parents to help the family survive. Rich families had a selection of foods, especially a lot of meat thanks to hunting on their lands. However, peasants weren’t so lucky.

They mostly ate stews made of cabbage, dried peas, beans, a few other vegetables and maybe some bones. They saved any of the special eggs, cheese and meats for special holidays and occasions. The only way to keep meat fresh was to salt it or make a kind of jerky out of it.

Facts about the Middle Ages:

  • Many marriages in the wealthy classes were arranged. It was common for 12 year old noble girls to be married to 14 year old noble boys. The purpose was to maintain the riches by merging to wealthy families.
  • Almost all of the water was bad due to people dumping everything in the streams and water sources. It was most common for people to drink ale or wine, which had been heated and filtered.
  • The bread that most people ate during the Middle Ages was ground using millstones. This left the bread very gritty from the millstone residue and was the main reason that people lost their teeth as they were ground away.
  • Only land owners or lords of the manor and their families and friends were allowed to hunt on the land. If a peasant was caught illegally hunting, the punishment was sometimes death.
  • Medicine was not very sophisticated during the Middle Ages. Most physicians didn’t understand how the body worked or anything about the various organs. They would often use leeches to “bleed” people and let out the “bad spirits” that were in the body due to an illness.