July 2016



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Table of Contents:

  • Lay of the Land

  • Business and Occupations

  • Livestock

  • Growing Up

  • Schooling

  • Clothing

  • Food and Drinks

  • Knighthood

  • Castle Life

  • Monasteries and Abbeys

Lay of the Land:
Villages: 20-1,000 people; source of food for kingdom; if supports orchards instead of grainfields, then "hamlet"
Towns: 1,000-8,000 people; equivalent to small cities linng the interstate; typically unwalled unless frequently attacked; physical size would be 1 square mile per 38,850 people
Cities: 8,000-12,000 people; usually contain "centers of scholarly pursuits" (universities) but only 1 fo 27. million people; only a few per kingdom; physical size would be 1 square mile per 38,850 people
Big Cities: 12,000-100,000 people; grows out of intersection of trade and commerce routes from coasts and overland trade

Population would be 2.2x human population; mostly fowl (chickens, geese, ducks), then dairy cows and pigs; sheep if want to include a wool market.

Growing up:
Age of majority for inheritance: 21
In towns and cities, children would become laborers and apprentices (usually starting in teens, began to start later because guilds insisted on them being able to read and write first)
Among nobility, children would serve their liege lords and make advantageous marriages to increase their family's holdings or status (sometimes preplanned)

+ Big cities had schools for children to attend during the day
+ In vilages, some children attended school in a monastery to learn to read and write and do basic math (parents had to pay their lord a fine and after, students would become village/court record keepers or manage a lord's estate)
+ Nobility would send girls to a nunnery for school (reading, writing, prayers, spinning, needlework and other domestic sills)
+ For serious lifelong scholarship, children would go to monasteries (usually younger sons of noble families or very smart sons of townsmen or peasants)
+ Secular education done by monasteries and cathedrals; eventually became universities; students' heads were shaved on the tops, dressed similar to a monk; studied theology, law, ad medicine
+ Apprenticeship: started in teens, lasted 7-10 years; often not with their own fathers; done in villages and in towns and cities (often villagers anyway); both boys and girls; rarely of their on choosing but based on family connections; formally arranged with contracts and sponsors who would pay the master a fee to take on the apprentice; apprentices lived with master's family and were cared for by them, sometimes even married into their families; afterwards, apprentice could go out as a "journeyman" or stay with his master as an employee

Businesses and Occupations:
Numbers in parentheses are per number of people

Clergyman (40) [Priest per 25-30 clergy]
Guardsman/watchman (150)
Shoemakers (150)
Noble household (200)
Furriers (250)
Maidservants (250)
Tailors (250)
Non-licensed doctors (350)
Jewelers (400)
Taverns/Restaurants (400)
Masons (500)
Carpenters (550)
Weavers (600)
Lawyer/advocate (650)
Chandlers (700)
Mercers (700)
Coopers (700)
Bakers (800)
Butchers (1200)
Fishmongers (1200)
Spice Merchants (1400)
Blacksmiths (1500)
Licensed doctors (1700)
Inns (2000)
Sculptors (2000)
Woodcarvers/sellers (2400)
Magic-shops (2800)
Bookbinders (3000)
Booksellers (6300)
Castle (50000)

Usually woolen (wool from sheep spun into thread by women), with undergarments (if any) made of linen
Dyes were common (made of plants, roots, lichen, tree barks, nuts, crushed insects, molluscs, and iron oxide) but brighter colors and bolder/richer colors more expensive so only for the wealthy; fabric needed to be mixed with mordant to prevent fading
Undergarments: shirt or undertunic, stockings or hose, and underpants
    - stockings (hose)
    - tunics
    - tunics or jackets with hose, leggings, and breeches
    - furs lined their clothes
    - jewelry (not lavish; gem cutting not invented until 15th century; ring brooches most popular, diamonds popular in 14th century; knights couldn't wear rings)
    - silk (most luxurious fabric; very costly; churchmen could also afford it; lightweight but strong, resists soil, dyes very well, cool and comfortable in warm weather; imported from Byzantium, India, and Far East)
    - long gowns with sleeveless tunics and wimples over their hair
    - in winter, sheepskin cloaks and woollen hats and mittens
    - cope and cassock
    - closed-over long-sleeved tunic and overtunic
    - should be plain but comfortable (black, white, grey, or brown)
    - linen coifs to keep heads warm
    - leather boots covered with wooden patens to keep dry
    - very important (knocking someone's hat off was a grave insult and could be considered assault)
    - men: wide-brimmed straw hats, close-fitting coifs of linen or hemp tied under the chin like a bonnet, felt caps, hood attached to a small cape (working classes, usually)
    - women: veils and wimples

Food and Drinks:
Dinner served at mid-morning; consisted for 3-4 courses and entertainment; main meal of the day; day's activities would resume after that
Supper served late in the day, sometimes just before bedtime
+ Dairy products popular
+ Fruit not so popular
+ Puddings (sweets and desserts) popular
+ Wine
    - believed to aid digestion, generate good blood and brighten the mood
    - red wine was common
    - spiced (ginger, cardamom, pepper, grains of paradise, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar) or mulled wine popular among affluent and believed to be especially healthy
    - poorest could only get watered down vinegar, upper classes got wine made from the first grape pressings; second and third pressings were of lower quality and lower alcohol content
+ Mead
    - honey wine; made from honey and water and fermented with yeast, variably alcoholic
    - can be still, carbonated, or sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet
    - can be brewed with spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg), fruits, grain mash, or herbs (oregano, hops, lavendar, chamomile)
    - also seen in Africa and Asia
    - mulled mead at Christmas time is flavored with spices and warmed
+ Beer
    - not looked upon favorably but an acceptable alternative to wine
    - consumed with almost every meal
    - made from oats, barley, wheat; harms head and stomach, causes bad breath and ruins teeth
    - brewed in monasteries and individual households
    - made with hops to help with preservation
+ Spirits
    - may be alcoholic or not; used for culinary and medicinal purposes
    - grape syrup + sugar + spices prescribed for variety of ailments
    - rose water used for perfume and cooking and hand washing
    - alcoholic distillates used to make "fire-breathing entremets" (entertainment dish after a course; soaked piece of cotton placed in the mouth of a stuffed, cooked, and redressed animals and lit just before presentation)
    - aqua vitae (water of life) highly praised by physicians
+ Water - drawn from wells and cisterns

7 - boys become pages; went to castles to learn religion, music, dance, hunting, reading, and writing
14 - boys become squires
21 - squires can become knights; transition to adulthood

Castle life:
Started at sunrise; guard would trumpet the day's start (servants would already be up)
Rooms: solars (drawing room), cabinets (for men), boudoirs (for women), garderobes (lavatories); suite of rooms for each individual (including children) and their own household staff; kitchen located in separate building (reduce fire risk) and had pantries, larders (cool area for storing food; before the use of refrigerators), butteries (where yeomen served beer and candles to lower members of the household who were not entitled to wine; had staircase to beer cellar below but not wine cellar), storerooms, undercrofts, and cellars for storing and preserving food
(Undercrofts at Banqueting House, Whitehall and Gravensteen Castle, Ghent)

Fireplace either in the center of the Great Hall or against the wall
Lord - administrative functions; had political, judicial, fiscal, policing and defense powers
Lady of the castle - had ladies-in-waiting and chambermaids; responsible for educating young pages
Steward - main rep for the lord in his absence; knew everything about the castle; had to know accounting and legal matters, personnel management
Chamberlain - in charge of the great chamber/hall
Keeper of the wardrobe
Butler (ensured there was enough drink in the buttery where butts of drink were stored)
Chandler (made candles)
Marshal (in charge of the stables)
Chief gardener
Soldiers - made up the garrison; stationed in gatehouses and guardrooms; consisted of knights, squires, porter (to tend the main door), guards, watchmen, and men-at-arms; some were crossbowmen, archers, lancers, or swordsmen

Monasteries and Abbeys
Initially built of wood, then later rebuilt as stone
Daily life consisted of hard physical work, scholarship, and prayer (details varied with different orders of monks and nuns; some orders divided labor so that some monks did all the physical labor while others focused on learning)
Self-sustaining communities (grew their own food, did their own building, raised sheep and sold wool, etc)
Monks were best educated members of society
Acted as libraries for ancient manuscripts; many monks spent time copying sacred texts in scriptorium
Illuminated manuscripts = illustrated Bibles and prayer books
Hierarchy: Abbot or Abbess ran the abbey, then the prior/prioress, then sub-prior
Specialists for care of the sick, building, farming, masonry, and education


  1. Medieval Demographics Made Easy

  2. Medieval Children

  3. Life in a Medieval Castle: Medieval Drinks

  4. Medieval Clothing

  5. Introduction to Life in a Medieval Castle

  6. Life in a Medieval Monastery

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