The Middle Ages or the Medieval period is also known as the Dark Ages. Over the years, many terms have been used to describe this period. This was the time when Roman rule in Western Europe fell. There was plenty of class distinction prevalent. This was also the time when tiny villages started forming and there was a subsequent change in the way of living. Have you ever wondered how was life during the Middle Ages? What were the problems faced by common folk? Here's an overview of the same.
The Middle Ages was divided into three periods - the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages. Life for the common folk was different from that of the kings and queens. The common folk were dominated by feudalism.
The peasants lived in close groups in villages. They led a self-sufficient life, worked hard to produce things, and were self-dependent. They toiled on land that provided them with food and other basic necessities of life. They used wood to construct their houses. Clothes were simple and ordinary, and usually made at home. At times, these peasants needed to bring home food items such as salt from neighboring villages. While the men worked hard, women assisted them in their tasks. Along with her daily chores such as cooking and cleaning, the wife lent a helping hand to her husband. There were also various forms of entertainment in the Middle Ages. This helped to provide a much-needed break from the monotonous routine of life.
Due to the feudal system, it was the royalty that enjoyed all the power and status. While the poor managed their lives in cramped rooms, the rich had the luxury of living in mansions, castles and palaces. The king granted land to others below his rank such as the Barons or Nobles. The peasants believed that rebelling against the King was equivalent to rebelling against God. It was the Normans who first built houses of wood. By the 12th century, wood was replaced by stone. Soon, all the wealthy people in the Middle Ages constructed homes made of stone. Great Lords had fancy beds and a corner in the room was adorned with chimneys. This was truly a symbol of luxury in the Dark Ages. A knight's house was almost like a miniature castle. Knights followed a life at par with the Nobles and Lords. Knights had to always be prepared for battles and maintain the best of physical fitness. The life of a Nobleman's wife revolved around taking care of the house. She also had to keep a watchful eye over the education of her children. Dancing or stitching were some of the forms of recreation. Rich women also fussed over dresses and costumes. They loved to wear elaborately designed clothing and hats.
The poor folk followed a simple diet. For some, it only comprised grains and water. Vegetables and meat was added if it was available. They also toiled and gathered fruits and nuts in search of food. When the crops were good, they lived a fairly comfortable life. Many spent their time in service of the Church. Weaving, spinning, mending clothes etc. were some of the duties practiced by women from extremely poor families, apart from managing their daily tasks. The rich on the other hand, gorged on a variety of meat. Fish, birds, mutton and pork was a part of their daily diet. Elaborate feasts were held during festive times.
Well, life was not always hard work. People were allowed to take a holiday on auspicious occasions. This was a time when common folk indulged in sports or games. People from the higher class such as knights even participated in tournaments like hunting or sword fighting.
Thus, we see how life in the Middle Ages was dictated by the feudal system. However, this was also the period that witnessed the foundation of modern Western civilization.