History is one of the most valued subjects in modern times. It teaches a lot about where humanity came from, how we evolved to what we are today, and what has remained the same since then. One of the most romanticized periods in history is the medieval period. It’s a period of strife but also a time of innovation, where human ingenuity is tested to its limits.

Understanding The Ways of Life During The Medieval Period

The medieval period is estimated to have lasted around a thousand years, starting from 476 A.D. This time is also commonly known as the Dark Ages, as it was a time of strife and little scientific advancement. During this time, people relied on religion and sometimes even occultism to understand the world, and those who went against these principles were punished by either the monarchy (the most common form of government) or by the citizens themselves. But this doesn’t mean that people didn’t live relatively peaceful lives.

A decent amount of the populace during the medieval times lived longer than those who came before them. As much as there were wars during this period, diplomacy was also at an all-time high, with many reigning monarchs usually choosing peace unless they were against a rival. So here’s a short look into people’s ways of life back then and how it compares to today.


If there is one thing that the medieval times were famous for aside from its conquest and glory, it was handicrafts. People learned and mastered the basic principles of creating tools back then, and they were even able to create micro drills used for the creation of these handicrafts. These drills were robust and reliable, with some of the drills today still following designs all the way back a thousand years ago.

Handicrafts were made during this time, some of the most common being swords and armor. As fiefs rely primarily on the projection of power, their soldiers are only as good as the equipment given to them. The lack of reliable weapons and armor meant a weaker army and government. Banditry was still part of people’s ways of life back then, and even peasants would invest in a sword or two to protect their household from common bandits.

Lastly, textiles were another common handicraft made during this period. Weavers were sought out by rich monarchs, as textiles, especially the ones made from silk from the eastern trade, were highly coveted by folks back then. Textiles could only be afforded by the richest during this time, and peasants usually had to live with barely any textiles in their homes.

Horseback Travel

Horses play a fundamental role in people’s ways of life back then. They were the secondary form of transportation, with the primary one being walking. Unlike what Hollywood would portray, not many could afford a horse during the medieval period. Those who buy a horse from a merchant must use a decent chunk of their finances, which can affect their family’s survival during winter. Horses are also prone to getting sick, and people don’t have auto insurance like we have now. So when a horse dies of sickness, that’s goodbye to the investment you made and goodbye to a trusty companion that brought you to different places in the realm.

Horseback travel wasn’t all that common in the medieval era. People tend to walk from place to place, not too far, unless they have to relocate. Those who can afford horseback travel usually only use them to go short distances. With this being said, horses tend to be prized assets by those who can afford them, and they can even be a sign of decadence because of the cost put into them.

Life in the King’s Court

People’s ways of life in the king’s court are much different from those of commoners. The king’s court is what we know as the Senate today. It’s a place for advisors to advise the king about various policies that must be implemented. It can also be a place for trial, especially for criminals who have committed heinous crimes against the kingdom’s populace.

Lawyers did exist back then, believe it or not, but they weren’t as formal as they are now. They were usually also connected with the church. A lawyer in the king’s court knows both common and religious laws that existed back then, and this aids with not just policy making but also when it comes to dealing with criminals. Priests can also be lawyers, considered a conflict of interest today but not back then.

Feudal Dynasties

The medieval era was a time of feudal dynasties, some of which were connected way back to the Roman period. These dynasties often quarreled with each other, creating lifelong rivalries that could lead to meaningless bloodshed for many years. It was part of people’s ways of life, and they couldn’t do anything about it. Assassinations can also happen with other dynasties, and it’s quite common for monarchs to write their will and do their estate planning as early as the moment they sit on the throne.

Being able to tell people what their children would have is important, especially if they have multiple children. This also ensures that illegitimate children can’t lay claim to the throne without sufficient evidence that they were part of the will. Illegitimate children often needed to be crafty with how they claimed the throne. The most common among these was William the Conqueror, who influenced much of modern-day England when he sat on the throne. Barely any illegitimate children could do what he did, and that’s the power behind the last wills during medieval times.


Midwives were another common profession that was integrated into people’s ways of life. There weren’t any fancy hospitals back then that could deliver multiple babies at a time. People had to rely on midwives to deliver infants, and even the most powerful monarchs had to rely on them to have their heirs delivered safely.

When it comes to pregnancy, surrogacy also existed back then, but not the way we do today. Traditional surrogacy can be traced back to the Bible and is usually done by monarchs who have partners who cannot bear a child. Midwives who deliver a child from a surrogate mother often have to stay silent about the nature of the conception if they value their life. More often than not, if the surrogate mother was found out, the child could be considered an illegitimate child of the monarch and may not lay claim to the throne. So cost surrogacy was more expensive back then than it is now, as it can cause lives to change drastically depending on who knew about it.

Chamber Pots

Alleviating yourself from the stresses of the stomach was quite problematic back then. During the early medieval period, most people could afford restrooms in their backyards. They would dig a hole and do their business there. This was unhygienic, and diseases would spread a lot faster because of this.

Eventually, people built chamber pots to ensure their wastes wouldn’t spread anywhere. But these had to be regularly emptied by the local janitorial service. Monarchs tend to have a private janitor who does it for them, but everyone else had to either contend with them emptying these chambers themselves or pay someone to do it for them. Of course, this wasn’t the most hygienic option either, as oftentimes, these pots were emptied in the local river or by the sea.


Being a serf means integrating your ways of life into your lord’s. This means being able to use the tools your lord has, and if they have a field, you need to learn how to use it. Tractors didn’t exist back then, and so did local tractor sales. Back then, the serfs of lords needed to learn how to toil their land by hand. Those who were proficient with tools often found themselves in the favor of their lord.

Some serfs even had the chance to manage other serfs. These were the managers back then who were the eyes and ears of their lord. They were not just used to ensure that other serfs were efficient with their jobs. They were also used to spy on commoners to ensure that they didn’t steal from the lord or even start an uprising. They usually had high favor with their lords and often dined with them. However, those who overuse their power are often executed, especially if they plan to claim the lord’s title through nefarious means.

Siege Warfare

Regarding war, soldiers’ ways of life revolve around siege warfare. This kind of warfare took an excruciating amount of time, with some reaching for many years. One famous siege was the Siege of Constantinople, which lasted four years. Some experts argue that it lasted for as long as seven years!

Siege warfare was grueling because it was all about starving the other combatants. It was about cutting logistical lines to the city and holding those lines for as long as possible. Of course, since everyone knew about siege warfare, it was only a matter of time before reigning monarchs would stockpile food that could last them for many months. Kingdoms highly valued by conquerors often stockpiled food that could last them for a year.

It was only at the near end of the medieval period that people started to develop firearms. This development changed not only soldiers’ ways of life but also the common people’s. Firearms were unreliable back then but they certainly can do damage from far away. Moreover, because of this development, canons were also introduced, drastically reducing the time to siege a kingdom. However, the smartest generals knew how to get around this, and by the end of the medieval period, sieges once again lasted for as long as a year or so.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment was a part of the way of life back then because it was the most common form of punishment that was also effective. Most forms of corporal punishment back then came in the form of public humiliation, such as flogging, caning, and even branding. The main reason was to scare the populace, as shame was a greater punishment than execution. But, of course, those who have done heinous crimes or are considered to be a danger to the public often face the blade.

Criminals often had to contend with a criminal attorney back then, and the attorneys they hire don’t have a certificate of some sort. Sometimes, they would rely on their family members to argue with the king’s court, making them pseudo-criminal attorneys. Almost anyone can represent a criminal in court, and corporal punishment often relies on the relationship between the criminal and the people in court. You can often get away with anything if you’ve learned to befriend them. But if they covet the life you have or if you’ve done anything to antagonize them, then they will surely be punished.

The Royal Forest

Lastly, it’s essential to discuss the royal forest. Oftentimes, monarchs tend to have a massive patch of land surrounding their castles. This huge patch of land is often called the ‘Royal Forest,’ and essentially, it’s the castle’s backyard. This forest is often maintained through tree cutting as overgrown trees are a fire hazard. Tree cutting was done by the people living near the royal forest, who were permitted to take these trees. However, not everyone had this privilege; commoners and peasants were forbidden from cutting down trees in the royal forest as it was considered a crime punishable by death.

This rule may seem strict, but it served an important purpose – maintaining the forest and preventing rampant deforestation. In a time when environmental conservation was not yet a concern, monarchs recognized the importance of preserving their forests for hunting and resources. They could control and monitor its use by limiting tree cutting to only those living near or within the royal forest.

There you have it! A look into the ways of life during the medieval era. Some of these things can still be seen today, albeit more modern. You might even see some of their influences in our lives today. Sure, it might not be the best moment in history, but many people were fascinated by the medieval era. Its influences can often be seen in many parts of Europe and some of the well-known policies in some governments today date back to these times. Now that you have this knowledge, it’s up to you how you plan to use it.

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