Author Topic: Life in the Middle Ages  (Read 15817 times)

Offline Sheriff Roland

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Life in the Middle Ages
« on: June 06, 2009, 08:46:40 pm »
I've started reading a book called A Brief History of Life in the Middle Ages.

Maybe it's because of my fascination with Merlin.In the 70's, Mary Stewart wrote a couple of Merlin books - The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills - followed by 3 other 'arthurian' era novels. Recently I also aquired a much appreciated made-for-TV 4 hour mini-series called 'Merlin's Aprentice'

Anyways, back to the Middle Age.

This book was written by an English historian Martyn Whittock and, though I suspect very few folks will share my fascination, I will nonetheless post various interesting facts (as best we can recreate them, 1 000 years later).
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Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2009, 08:56:28 pm »
First, apparently Merlin was not a part of the Middle Age.  :(

The books on Merlin set the stories in the 'Dark Ages' around the 6th century. In the first few chapters of my current read, the Middle Ages proper only got started in the 11th century but since very little had changes socially in the previous 2 centuries, a lot of information dates back to the 800's.

OK, factoid #1: Around the turn of the Millenium, the population of England in estimated to have been roughly 2,5 million. 500 years later, towards the end of the Middle Ages, the population of England was essentially unchanged - estimated to be 2,5 million.
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2009, 11:01:33 pm »
You just keep postin' them factoids, Sheriff, and I'll try to keep readin'. The Middle Ages interests me. Not as much as the Renaissance, but, after all the Renaissance wouldn't have been the Renaissance without the Middle Ages before it.  ;D
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2009, 11:52:30 pm »
factoid #2

life expectancy.

35 for men, 25 for women.

In today's world, Sierra Leone reached this low life expectancy level after it's civil war in 2002 (26 for women) and Burkina Faso reached 35.3 (2002) for men.

The Middle Ages' low life expectancy is thought to have been basically as a result of lack of knowledge of disease prevention and treatment.

A physician's reference book from the period included a chapter on remedies for disease caused by elves, specifying the kinds of elves, the diseases they were believed to cause along with their remedies.
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Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 09:10:54 am »
Alright.

I've done reading the book. I'm not likely to 'just' present factoids. More likely I'll be attempting to give a Reader's Digest extended book report type presentation of the facts from the book and my views on the writing.

First, though the author Martyn Whittock is regarded as an expert on the subject (he IS head of History in his secondary school and Director of the Humanities Faculty), not to mention the author of  numerous history textbooks ... he's also a 'Methodist Lay Preacher and an Anglican Lay Minister' (can you really be both?), which to this Catholic (me) implies that he too is a product of his times (and prejudices - especially with regards to the Catholic Church).

The book was fairly easy to read and I most enjoyed gaining many new insights on this period that remains mostly unknown by a great majority of today's common folk.

I'm rereading it hoping to share more accurately some of the fascinating elements of the social history of the English people in the 'Middle Ages'. (yea - the book pretty much limits itself to the Middle Age in Britain)
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 09:21:21 am »
First, though the author Martyn Whittock is  a 'Methodist Lay Preacher and an Anglican Lay Minister' (can you really be both?)?

OT, but probably. Churches are so desparate to hold onto members these days that it's shockingly easy to fulfill the minimum requirements to "keep your name on the books." I was received into membership of my neighborhood Episcopal parish 11 years ago this March. I've never come "off the books" of the Lutheran church I was raised in, in my home town--because to stay "on the books" all I have to do is make one financial contribution a year and receive Communion once a year, requirements I easily fulfill when I go to visit my dad.

But anyway, regarding the life expectancy factoid, does the author say anything about the role of nutrition--or lack thereof--in life expectancy?
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 09:25:40 am »
The Middle Age - when does it start? When does it end?

Some folks (in charge of the British Museum's Anglo-Saxon collection) have considered treasures from c. 625 (AD) to be 'Early Medieval'. Most frame the Middle Ages by political watersheds - the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the start of the Tudor Dynasty in 1485.

But since the social realities did not much change with those watersheds, the 'Social' Middle Ages would best be framed by 900 (the West-Saxon re-conquest of land held by invading Vikings) and 1553 ('the rigorous Protestant Reformation of Edward VI's reign (and the destruction of the Catholic 'ritual year'))
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Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 09:33:13 am »
... regarding the life expectancy factoid, does the author say anything about the role of nutrition--or lack thereof--in life expectancy?

Yes it does ... And I will try and bring those up when I get to those parts of the book in my re-reading. Mostly the problem with life expectancy (as I recall) is a lack of scientific knowledge about nutrition and especially medicine.

Also, even though there was a mini warming trend in the middle of the Middle Ages (which allowed for more crops and an increase in population), it was followed by a significant cooling off period (mini ice age) which caused, along with the many 'plages', a serious shortage of all food - leading to starvation. A high infantile death rate also kept the life expectancy relatively low.
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Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 09:36:58 am »
I find this topic extremely interesting too. The book that turned me on to the Middle Ages was Leonard Schlain's The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess, which has two chapters entitled Illiteracy/Celibacy (500-1000) and Mystic/Scholastic (1000-1300), so I come at it from somewhat of a different angle.

Do you believe that Merlin had supernatural powers? Was he a historic person?

Offline Sheriff Roland

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Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2009, 09:47:52 am »
Do you believe that Merlin had supernatural powers? Was he a historic person?

No I don't. Like Robin Hood (which they do talk about later in the book), he's likely nothing more than a legend that grew from simple 'acts' that impressed the common folk.

At least that's my belief, based on the information in this book about the 'origins' of the Robin Hood/Frier Tuck/Little John/Lady Marion legend. The book does not talk of Merlin and only peripherally refers to the Arthurian era.
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