Author Topic: Life in the Middle Ages  (Read 15818 times)

Offline Sheriff Roland

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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).
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Sheriff Roland

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Jeff Wrangler

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 29,522
  • "He somebody you cowboy'd with?"
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

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Sheriff Roland

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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)
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Jeff Wrangler

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 29,522
  • "He somebody you cowboy'd with?"
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

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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'))
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Sheriff Roland

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Front-Ranger

  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 27,825
  • Brokeback got us good.
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

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
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.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Sheriff Roland

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2009, 10:38:20 am »
In concluding the Introduction to the book, here's a rather lengthy (sorry) series of quotes I consider quite relevant in summing up what this book is about:

As with all periods of the past the rich, powerful and famous leave more evidence behind than the poor and powerless. ... The semi-free villager of the late eleventh century left no more to his or her heirs than the struggling peasant farmer of a modern less-economically-developed-country today. And the handful of cooking utensils and agricultural tools which formed such a vital legacy to the next generation are often not even mentioned in the surviving documentation. With less to leave, these people had less to be remembered by and were more easily forgotten. Yet to those inheriting these few valuables they represented the careful accumulation of a lifetime. When such evidence does survive it is as vital as the more abundant and varied evidence ... of the wealthier neighbours.
....

Social history must put us firmly in touch with the lives of people in the past and the issues they faced.

....

The common issues of our shared humanity across the ages are at least as striking as the great differences in outlook and experiences.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Jeff Wrangler

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 29,522
  • "He somebody you cowboy'd with?"
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2009, 11:18:11 am »
The Middle Age - when does it start? When does it end?

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'))

I think his point about change in social realities is good and well taken, but I'm obliged to point out that Edward VI died in 1553 and was succeeded by his half sister, "Bloody" Mary Tudor, who took England back to the papal allegiance and Roman Catholic forms of worship. (The business with Lady Jane Grey briefly intruded, but let's not go there.) Mary then reigned for five years until she was succeeded by the other half sister in the family, Elizabeth I.
"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

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2009, 11:56:25 am »
Yes Edward's reign, followed by a short-lived atempt at returning England to Papal Ways by Mary Tudor was then followed by Elizabeth's long reign.

The point is, the social changes that Edward VI, the child king and his guardians were a more significant social turning point - or watershed - than Henry VIII's (his father's) creating the Church of England (which continued to be quite Catholic in practice), because of the considerable reformations that the short-lived Edward's reign (from age 9 to 15) brought about.

Mary's efforts had very little lasting effect (other than the putting-to-death of a whole bunch of people) and Elizabeth merely solidified - or embraced the reformation changes that had been instituted during Edward's reign.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline Jeff Wrangler

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 29,522
  • "He somebody you cowboy'd with?"
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2009, 01:54:32 pm »
Yes Edward's reign, followed by a short-lived atempt at returning England to Papal Ways by Mary Tudor was then followed by Elizabeth's long reign.

The point is, the social changes that Edward VI, the child king and his guardians were a more significant social turning point - or watershed - than Henry VIII's (his father's) creating the Church of England (which continued to be quite Catholic in practice), because of the considerable reformations that the short-lived Edward's reign (from age 9 to 15) brought about.

Mary's efforts had very little lasting effect (other than the putting-to-death of a whole bunch of people) and Elizabeth merely solidified - or embraced the reformation changes that had been instituted during Edward's reign.

Sure enough. I'm just being really picky and pedantic. If it were me, and I was going to pick a date, I would have picked 1547, the year Edward succeeded his father Henry VIII, as the "turning point," rather than the year Edward died. But then, I didn't write the book.  ;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

  • BetterMost Supporter
  • Moderator
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 8,492
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2011, 05:58:16 am »
Been a while ... two years ... but I've started rereading the book again and highlighting elements and factoids again.

My sister's fascination with reincarnation drew me to this little bit ...

Everytime reincarnation is claimed, it rarely implies a commoner ... which represented some 90% of the people (in England).

... the abolition of slavely in England in 1102 by the Status of Westminster, was largely due to the fact that the bottom end (read: poorest of the poor) of the English rural population was being so effectively exploited (read: enslaved) there was little need for this institution.

Unfree people are referred to as 'villeins'

In the period 1066-1200, villeins could be sold by their lords and families split up.

...

As late as 1460 - when villenage was long in decline - (an individual) found himself accused by an enemy of being descended from villeins. This was a common way to extort money.

What is clear is that , in 1290, ... about 60 per cent of the rural population on arable land was still technically unfree.

...

... and some of those who have usually been considered free were more restricted than has often been assumed.
2015 - Toronto: Pan Am Games
2015 - Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg: Woman's World Cup of Soccer

Offline delalluvia

  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *******
  • Posts: 8,289
  • "Truth is an iron bride"
Re: Life in the Middle Ages
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2011, 01:57:37 pm »
Been a while ... two years ... but I've started rereading the book again and highlighting elements and factoids again.

My sister's fascination with reincarnation drew me to this little bit ...

Everytime reincarnation is claimed, it rarely implies a commoner ... which represented some 90% of the people (in England).

Heh, true for many, but there are also quite a few - in India, say and even on this board, when they speak about possibly being reincarnated - never claim to be anyone famous.
   
I have been noticing a trend though.  If people from Western cultures believe they were reincarnated, they almost always were from a previous Western culture.  I'm one of the few who believes I 'might/maybe/possibly/perhaps' have some affinity for a past life, where my past life was in an eastern culture.

You never read about someone in Iowa believing that their previous life was as a peasant in Tibet or some tribesperson in Patagonia.

Quote
... the abolition of slavely in England in 1102 by the Status of Westminster, was largely due to the fact that the bottom end (read: poorest of the poor) of the English rural population was being so effectively exploited (read: enslaved) there was little need for this institution.

Unfree people are referred to as 'villeins'

In the period 1066-1200, villeins could be sold by their lords and families split up.

...

As late as 1460 - when villenage was long in decline - (an individual) found himself accused by an enemy of being descended from villeins. This was a common way to extort money.

What is clear is that , in 1290, ... about 60 per cent of the rural population on arable land was still technically unfree.

...

...and some of those who have usually been considered free were more restricted than has often been assumed.


Ah, serfdom.  Basically a type of permanent servitude.  But the Black Death sure changed that around, didn't it?