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My Medieval England Top 5

February 2, 2013

I claim to be a medievalist but I have noticed a distinct lack of medieval material on my blog, so I will tell you what I love about the medieval period in a top 5 list. If you hadn’t noticed I’m a bit of a fan of lists!

5. Dresses

I love the clothing that was worn from the 7th to the 16th century, and beyond, but this is about the medieval period. The dresses women wore, particularly women with wealthy husbands, were impressive, hopefully they would be kept warm in the winter with their long sleeves and hem lines, but were probably hot in the summer. The colours were matched for women’s tunic and supertunic and the sleeves were long and open, allowing for lots of swishing around, helpful when dancing. Men, for a certain period of time also wore something resembling a dress, they were impractical but fashionable. Over time, their hemline shortened, to something a bit more practical, and something resembling trousers came into fashion. Shoes also changed considerably, during the fourteenth century, the fashion was to have shoes that came forward beyond the toe, the longer the better, but one has to wonder how stairs were managed.

4. Warfare

I’m not in any way saying that young men dying on the battlefield is a good thing of the Middle Ages, but the way they fought is very interesting. Warfare developed during this time, culminating in the use of guns (a bit later on). There was a lot of war in the medieval period, not only this, but there was a lot of violence. This is not my area of expertise, so I won’t talk for too long about it, but I find it interesting how war was so different then to how it is now. People in the Middle Ages fought for their lords, the owner of the land they lived on, they fought under his flag, whomever he was loyal to, the peasants followed his lead. I can imagine the battlefield was a nasty bloody place to be, with no use of guns, much of the fight will have been up close and personal. The 100 years war was the big one in the fourteenth century, almost a century of battles with France for the honour of the crown. But, we also hear about the Normans in 1066, the Battle of Hastings and many more, too many to mention here. But, war was such an important part of the Middle Ages that it had to be mentioned here.

3. Religion

Religion was incredibly important throughout the medieval period, most people were religious, if not truly, then outwardly, they would at least attend mass. What I find interesting is how religion was the explanation for most things. Natural disasters and illness were explained with the use of religion, God was punishing them, either that or there were witches about. Religion played a large part in politics as well as in daily life, for some more than others. There were monks and nuns who devoted themselves to God, they lived in a monastery or nunnery and obeyed the rules laid down for them. This utter devotion to God does interest me a lot, but I also understand it. In a world where science and medicine are not developed enough to explain certain things, religion steps in. A lot of people died young in the Middle Ages, many people did not make it through childhood and of course there was war, illness and plague to deal with, that is if you were not a criminal, for if you were, you may well have been hung. Death came early for many people and so to escape hell, religion was a good alternative.

2. The Black Death

The Black Death in 1348 also fascinates me, again, not because of the death, this list does seem to be slightly morbid, but because of the changes that happened in England after it. The Black Death wiped out almost half of the population of England, so it was a massive event in the Middle Ages. The plague never really did go away until the second Plague in 1665 and even then it is still around today (don’t worry, we have antibiotics that can treat it now). But, the social changes that occurred after the Black Death led to another big even in the fourteenth century, the Peasant’s Revolt, but I will come to that in a bit. After the death of almost half the population, there are going to be some issues, not least the number of people available to work out in the fields. With fewer people, less food was harvested, leading to obvious problems. Those who did survive, and were working on the land, didn’t have to be loyal to one lord, as was the situation prior to 1348, so the land owning lords and abbots had to attract people to encourage them to work on their land. This meant improved working conditions for these labourers, those who survived anyway.

1. The Peasants Revolt

My top event during the Middle Ages is the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. As I mentioned, the Black Death of 1348 led to this event, during this century, workers of the land were getting more and more aggravated with their working conditions and how they were treated by their lords and abbots (who also owned land). This culminated in a revolt in the summer of 1381, where peasant’s turned against their lords. This was led by Wat Tyler, who was of course later killed. Many people followed his lead, turning against their lords and abbots. Many monasteries and land was ravaged and some Monks even killed. I love this event, not because of the ravaging of land and the murders, but because it showed the lords that they could not treat the peasant’s in the same way, it gave power to the peasant’s who previously had none. The revolt showed the Lords what the peasant’s were capable of, and did bring about some changes.

So, those were my 5 favourite things about medieval England, there is so much more I want to write about, maybe another time.


From → Medieval History

  1. Very nice! The Medieval Period fascinates me as well. It must have been so difficult to live during that time. But then again, imagine how alive they felt? In our time, our personal spaces and they way we live is often so artificial…everything was so real back then. I enjoyed your top five. I always wanted to go back and just look at what the middle ages were like…without being seen by anyone. I’d probably get killed! And yes, England is the epitome of the era.

    • Thanks, if only time travel existed! I would love to go back, but I can imagine it being a fairly scary place to be if you weren’t used to it.

  2. I suggest “The Dark Traveller” by Cindy Wright.This book is really good and it is about the Black Death!It is well written and it has illustrations that can help enhance the reader’s experience. You will be shock to know how many pseudo-cures had been created to fight the Bubonic Plague. Some are sure to make one shudder.
    DO NOT MISS OUT this GOOD READ! Trust me,this book is really worth your money.

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