1 When you think of the Middle Ages you think of Kings and castles, knights in shining armor saving the princess, and savage warfare to coincide with horrible diseases and plagues taking lives. For the most part that was true, but we are forgetting about the majority of the population, otherwise known as “the commons”. These people can easily be compared to you and I living in these times. The peasants were not a part of the noble class or associated with the clergy, but just lived plain and simple lives and tried to get by with what they had. In those times they did not have a lot. Since all of us would be considered peasants in those times, I am going to take us back to that era and compare the life of a peasant to our lives now.
From the day they are born all the way to their death. I will go over the different types of commoners, go over how they grew up, what they ate, and even what they did for fun back in those days. Childbirth in Medieval times were much of the same as they are now. I say this in the biological way only of course. Birth was not in the hands of a physician, but entirely up to a midwife.
The only reason there would be a doctor there is if there was a pathological complication. The setting for childbirth was different as well. All of the childbirths would take place at the home, as compared to 2hospitals in todays times. Hospitals were predominantly used for long-term care for the poor. Another huge difference in childbirth was the risk to the mother. The closest estimate of childbirth deaths was about 14 deaths for every 1,000 childbirths. This is very high in modern standards. In 1988, Nigeria was reported to have a rate of 8 deaths in every 1,000 births, which was unusually high even for a Third World country.(Singman,McLean p40) The first formal event that an infant had to go through was the ceremony of baptism.
This is true for Christians in todays times as well. This was the single most important of the rituals administered by the Church. Without baptism the child could not enter into heaven. In those times Baptism was so important that everyone was encouraged to learn the basic words of the ritual. In Middle English the words were, “I crystene thee in the nome of the Fader, and the Son and the Holy Gost.
Amen. The Christening would usually take place a week within the birth of the child. It all depended on how healthy the child was. In todays times, everyone is invited to the Baptismal celebration of their newborn. Back then the godparents were summoned and the rest of the family would proceed to the church without the mother being present. The reason for that was because it was custom for her not to enter the church prior to her own ceremony of”purification”, which is supposed to cleanse her from the 3spiritual stain of childbirth. Today we are given two godparents. They were given two godparents of the same sex and one of the opposite.
The godparents role in the childs life was a very important one. They were to play the role as the religious instructors towards the child. (Singman,McLean p41) For the most part Baptism marked the child as part of the church as well as society. Church and society were considered to be equal. After this ceremony the child would receive the most important symbol of its public identity: a name.
Just like today people had a wide variety of names to choose from. Most of the names, however, were ones of saints or those that had a French origin. The girls had very few saints names to choose from so they choose anything excluding the names of Mary or Martha. Just like in any society during any period, the shape of an infants life depended on its social background. The mothers had no option of weather to get baby formula so all medieval mothers breast fed for the first two or three years. There was an interesting technique that was practiced in medieval times. It was called “swaddling”.
This was done because of the tenderness of the limbs, the child may easily and quickly twist and bend and take abnormal shapes. To prevent this the childs limbs would be bound with strips of cloth and other suitable bonds. This also kept the infant 4warm as well as out of trouble. During the first few years of life the child was almost always under female care.(Singman,Mclean 43) Childhood in the Middle Ages was a time of great danger, due to the ever present risk of illness or disease. It definitely was not like today when you have all these vaccinations you can give to a child to prevent disease and the cleanliness for todays standards.
Infants are at a much lower risk to develop illnesses, at least opposed to those times. Another issue in infants was accidental death. These occurred with more of a risk to poorer families because household duties would leave the infant unattended on many occasions. Just like today when you leave an infant left alone dangerous things can occur. some statistics that I have to throw at you are in the latter half of the fourteenth century, nearly 300 of 1,000 children died in their first year of life. This compared to a Third World countries rate of 125 in 1,000.
(exceptionally high in todays standards). These figures could have been worse or better when you put in the factor of the Black Plague. Early childhood consisted of a combination of learning and play. This was no different then today. Kids today go to Kindergarten to learn, but they also receive recess and most of the learning activities are based around having fun so they get the idea that learning is fun. The Middle Ages provided only one form of education, and that was their 5religious instructions.
This was the primary responsibility of the godparents to teach the child by the age of five the basic elements of Christian belief. Just like today, the children would have to learn good manners such as, not to pick their nose, scratch or rub themselves, or swear. The most important thing that a child learned was its mothers language. It was also important for the child to know the significance of keeping their hands and faces clean and to cut their nails. In the commoners class, a child of four or five might be put to do some small household chores such as acquiring water or watching a younger sibling.
Sure they might have done some work, but the majority of a childs life was devoted to play and exploration of the world around him or her. The medieval idea of childhood development says that infancy ends at the age of seven. Now the child can be more integrated into society. A child, by the age of seven has learned the basic elements of religious belief and thus receives the sacrament of Confirmation. This ceremony is administered by the bishop to mark the childs full entry into the Christian community.
In todays times kids do not receive Confirmation until around the age of twelve or thirteen. My theory of why they rushed this sacrament upon the kids is because of the shortened life expectancy of the people in that era. As the kids grew older they would start 6to get their place in society and begin to practice certain traits that their parents would teach them. Girls would learn different tasks then the boys. Girls of commoner status would have to learn such chores as cooking, spinning, sewing, laundry, healing, and other, needful domestic skills.
The sons of commoners would be set off to learn how to fish, herd, and care for larger livestock. Over the years they would continue practicing their line of work and one day would grow up to do that specialty for the rest of their lives. During the adolescence years the children are now becoming integrated in the world of adults. At the tender age of fourteen a child was subject to a national poll tax that was initiated in the late fourteenth century. At fourteen nowadays, the best you can get a child to do is to clean his room every now and then.
I could not imagine having to pay a tax at that age. A peasant girl would be doing exactly what her mother was doing. She would be performing things such as, carding wool, spinning thread, cooking, cleaning the home, tending the garden and dairy, and looking after the younger children. That meant that there was little time for “Barbies” or experimenting with make-up. The boys had to grow into their jobs because their bodies were not ready to do the heavy field work. When they 7did mature, however, they did exactly what their elders did in the fields.
For the most part of a peasants teen life they remained subordinate to the economy of adults. Most economic classes were able to go from subordinate to independent at the age of twenty one, which was the legal age of inheritance. Peasants remained semi-dependent until he inherited a holding, until which he continued to work for his familys holding. For laborers or servants, coming of age would not be very beneficial for the at all. They would probably be forced to semi-dependent for the rest of their lives.
Women on the other hand were treated as though they were adolescence until they were married. The most important step to independence for both the man and the woman was marriage. …