Life in the Middle Ages


Table of Contents :


In the Middle Ages most people lived on a manor . It was a village with a castle, a church and some land around it. The king gave land to his most important noblemen and bishops . They promised to give the king soldiers for his armies.

The lowest people of society were the peasants . They didn't have their own land, but they got land from the lords . The lords also gave them protection . In return, the peasants had to fight for them. This was called the feudal system.

Peasants worked on the land and produced the goods that the lord needed. But they did not lead a very nice life. They had to pay a lot of taxes and give the lord much of what they harvested . The peasants did not even "belong“ to themselves. When they did something wrong, they were often punished by their lord or by the church. Some peasants were good craftsmen . They built the things that everybody needed. They made cloth , jewellery and, very often, repaired things that were broken.


Women led a very difficult life in the Middle Ages. They did housework like cooking, baking bread, weaving and spinning . They also hunted for food and fought in battles . They learned to use weapons to defend their homes and castles.

Some medieval women had other jobs . There were women who worked as blacksmiths and merchants . Others worked in the fields or played musical instruments and danced for the king.

Some women were known as witches , who could do magic and heal other people. Many of them were burned. Others became nuns and lived for God.





Poor people didn't get very much to eat. They had to eat dark bread because white bread was only for the king and his family. Only rich people had meat to eat. Mutton and beef were very common and vegetables were also very popular . People liked eating onions , garlic and herbs that they picked from the castle garden. The best way to preserve food was to put salt on it because in those days there were no fridges. There were no plates and forks , so the food was put on flat bread, called trenchers.



In the Middle Ages, people usually made their own clothes by spinning or weaving cloth themselves. Sometimes they bought linen to make the clothes they needed. Wool was very common at that time. It was sheared from sheep and then washed. The rich people made more expensive clothes from linen or silk.

Poor women often wore long dresses made of wool. The colours were very dark - brown or grey . They also wore stockings and leather shoes.

The medieval lady wore clothes made of fine silk, wool or fur. They were more colourful than the clothes of the poorer people. In the winter she often wore a fur coat or a cape. Only a rich woman could afford jewellery. She wore shoes that had wooden bottoms with leather on top of them.

Men often wore tunics and trousers and later on stockings that went up their whole legs. Purple was a popular colour for men in the Middle Ages. Fur and velvet were also used a lot on the sides of coats.



Medieval houses and homes


Most medieval homes were cold, damp and dark. Sometimes it was brighter outside the house than in it. The windows were small, because homeowners didn't want people to look into it.

Many poor families ate, slept and spent their time together in only one or two rooms. The houses had thatched roofs that could easily be destroyed.

The homes of rich people were fancier than those of the peasants. They had paved floors and tapestries sometimes hung on walls. They made the house warmer. Only the rich people had glass in their windows.

In most houses there were no chimneys. The kitchen had a stone hearth, where women cooked and kept the rooms warm. The kitchen of manor houses and castles had big fireplaces where meat and even large oxen could be roasted. Sometimes these kitchens were in different buildings because people were afraid of a fire.



Most poor people did not have money to buy medicine, so they got ill quickly and didn't live very long. They had to help themselves .

Only the rich people got good medical treatment . Doctors cured people with the help of plants and herbs . Others laid stones on a person's body. The man who cut your hair was often the one who operated on you if you were ill .


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  •   afford = to have enough money to buy something
  •   battle = a fight between two armies—a part of a bigger war
  •   beef = meat of a cow
  •   bishop = the highest priest in the church of a country
  •   blacksmith = someone who makes or repairs things made out of iron
  •   cape = a long coat without sleeves; it hangs from your shoulders
  •   chimney = a pipe that comes out of the house; smoke from a fire passes through it
  •   cloth =material used for making clothes
  •   common = liked by a lot of people
  •   craftsman = someone who can make things with his hands
  •   cure = to make healthy
  •   damp = wet
  •   defend = protect
  •   destroy = damage so that you cannot use it
  •   fancy = more expensive and fashionable
  •   fork =a tool you use for picking up and eating food ; on one end it has 3 or 4 points
  •   fur = thick soft hair that covers the body of an animal
  •   garlic =a plant like an onion; used to give food a strong taste
  •   harvest = to bring in crops from the field
  •   heal = to make healthy
  •   hearth = fireplace, oven
  •   herbs = small plants that are used to make food taste better—people also use them to make medicine
  •   jewellery = small objects made out of gold or silver which you can wear around your neck or hands
  •   lay—laid = put
  •   lead—led =have
  •   linen = cloth made from the flax plant; you use it to make high quality clothes
  •   lord = a very powerful person in the Middle Ages, who owned a lot of land
  •   manor house =a big old house with a lot of land around it—it mostly belonged to lords
  •   medieval = everything that is about the Middle Ages
  •   merchant = a person who buys and sells things
  •   mutton = the meat of a lamb
  •   noblemen = people who were members of the highest class in the Middle Ages
  •   nun = a religious woman who lives with others in a convent
  •   onion =a round white vegetable with a brown, red or white skin; onions have a strong taste and make you cry when you cut them
  •   ox- oxen = a bull whose sex organs have been removed; often used for working on farms
  •   paved = a hard surface
  •   peasant = a poor farmer who rents land from a lord
  •   plate = a flat dish that you eat out of
  •   preserve = to make something last for a longer time
  •   promise = to say that you want to do something
  •   protection =when something is guarded or defended
  •   punish = to make someone suffer because they have done something wrong
  •   roast = to cook over a fire
  •   roof = the cover of a building
  •   shear = to cut wool off sheep
  •   silk = thread made by a silkworm
  •   society =people in general
  •   soldier = a person who fights for a country or a king
  •   spin =to make cotton or wool into thread by twisting it
  •   stocking = piece of clothing that covers a man’s or a woman’s leg
  •   tapestry = a large piece of heavy cloth that looks like a picture
  •   tax = money that the government collects from everyone
  •   thatched = made of dry grass or leaves
  •   treatment =something that is down to help or cure someone
  •   tunic = a long piece of clothing usually without sleeves
  •   velvet = expensive cloth that has a soft surface on one side
  •   village = a very small town
  •   weapon = something that you use to fight with or attack someone , like a gun
  •   weave = to make cloth, carpet or other things by crossing threads
  •   witch = a woman who is said to have magic powers and does bad things