Top 10 Suprising things about Medieval People

Step back in time to the medieval era, and you’ll discover a world filled with surprising quirks and customs.

Medieval Life

From their fascinating beliefs to unique daily practices, medieval people’s lives were far from ordinary. Let’s explore the top ten surprising things about these intriguing individuals.

Medieval people’s lives were a tapestry woven with surprising threads, where chivalry and superstition, fortresses and festivals, intermingled to form a rich and captivating narrative of their existence.”

Marc Bloch, French historian

1. Love for Games and Recreation

Medieval people enjoyed various games and recreational activities. Popular pastimes included chess, dice games, ball games, dancing, and music. These activities provided entertainment and an escape from the hardships of daily life.

2. Widespread Literacy

Contrary to popular belief, literacy rates were higher in medieval times than often assumed. While literacy varied by social class and region, many individuals, including some from the lower classes, possessed basic reading and writing skills.

3. Importance of Pilgrimages

Pilgrimages were an integral part of medieval life, as individuals embarked on journeys to sacred sites to seek spiritual enlightenment, healing, or forgiveness. Pilgrimages fostered a sense of community, and pilgrims often shared their experiences and stories upon returning home.

4. Role of Women in Business

Women in medieval times played active roles in various trades and businesses. They worked as merchants, artisans, brewers, midwives, and more, contributing to the economic life of their communities.

5. Social Mobility

Social mobility was not completely stagnant in medieval society. Although class distinctions were prevalent, individuals could rise in social status through marriage, success in trade or craft, or exceptional service to the nobility.

6. Use of Herbal Remedies

Herbal medicine played a significant role in medieval healthcare. People relied on the knowledge of herbalists and apothecaries who used plants, herbs, and natural remedies to treat various ailments.

7. Early Forms of Democracy

Medieval towns and cities had systems of local governance, often involving guilds and merchant councils. These institutions allowed citizens to participate in decision-making processes, representing early forms of democratic practices.

8. Multicultural Influences

Medieval Europe experienced a rich exchange of ideas and cultures through trade, Crusades, and interactions with other civilizations such as the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world. This resulted in the adoption of new technologies, spices, foods, and cultural practices.

9. Extensive Use of Cosmetics

Medieval people, including both men and women, used cosmetics to enhance their appearance. Face powders, rouge, and even lead-based whitening agents were commonly used to achieve desired beauty standards of the time.

10. Festivals and Celebrations

Medieval society was marked by a calendar filled with numerous religious and secular festivals. These events brought communities together, fostering a sense of unity, celebration, and shared traditions.

“In the medieval world, beyond the castles and armor, one finds a kaleidoscope of customs and beliefs that defy expectation, offering us a glimpse into the fascinating complexities of human history.”

Barbara Tuchman, American historian

These surprising aspects of medieval people challenge misconceptions and provide a more nuanced understanding of their lives.

They highlight the diversity, ingenuity, and resilience of medieval individuals, showcasing their interests, abilities, and contributions to their communities.

Top 10 Suprising things about Medieval People | Great Books

“A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” by Barbara W. Tuchman
This masterpiece explores the tumultuous 14th century, drawing vivid parallels between that era and the modern world. Tuchman’s engaging narrative delves into the lives of prominent historical figures, providing an intimate look at the complexities of medieval society and its struggles.

“The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century” by Ian Mortimer
For those seeking an immersive experience into medieval life, Mortimer’s book acts as a captivating guide. Presenting the 14th century as if readers were time-travelers, it offers detailed insights into everything from the sights and sounds to the smells and customs of the era.

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land” by Thomas Asbridge
Thomas Asbridge presents a comprehensive and authoritative account of the Crusades, shedding light on this pivotal period of history. He skillfully navigates through the politics, battles, and cultural encounters, unraveling the complex motivations that drove these religious wars.

“The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England” edited by Nigel Saul
A collection of essays by renowned historians, this book offers a panoramic view of medieval England. From the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses, each chapter provides a well-researched and illuminating examination of the events, societies, and developments of the era.

“The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century” by Paul Collins
Paul Collins presents a compelling narrative of the transformational 10th century, tracing the emergence of modern Europe from the ashes of the Roman Empire. This book unravels the pivotal events and dynamic figures that shaped the course of history during this crucial era.

These five books offer diverse perspectives on medieval history, making them essential reads for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of this captivating and influential period.