Village Life

Main Points

  • Villages had two main types of buildings; peasant houses and community buildings.
  • Gardens and farms were a major part of villages.
  • Peasant women did not have a choice when they were married or to whom.

Section 1: Resident Buildings and Community Lots

Village Life In one village there's a population of 150-250 people. A village was made up of peasant houses and community buildings. Some of these community buildings were the church and the manor houses. A resident house was either a 1 room cottage for one whole family to live in or a really big house split up into different sections and in each section a different family lives. The houses were not solidly constructed and easily bulgarized. They were rebuilt every 30-40 years. Around the villages there were many meadows and long strips of lands that were easy to plant and plow in. In England each family had a backyard and if they owned animals they would have a pen and a shed in their backyard. Each backyard was about half an acre. This is also where they grew there vegetables (some people had fruit trees).
They slept in straw filled matress', sat on stools or benches, had little furniture and had a central hearth burning fire all day long. Wooden chests stored their clothing and they had no indoor plumbing. Usually they dug latrines outside their houses. One or two wells served a whole village for water. The women and the children fetched the water. Peasants washed rarely. Houses had dirt floors. More weathly people usually had a wall, fence or moat surrounding their house. The court met in%Proxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 a room where the bailiff and his family lived. Some of the most important features of the house were; a great hall, it was huge and long and high ceilinged.

Girls in the Middle Ages...
Girls in Present Day...
Got married at 12.
Get married at at least 18.
Didn't have a choice who they ended up with.
Can marry anyone they want.
Couldn't have a job or a real future.
Can be just as successful as men.
Were treated with little respect.
Are treated equally to men.
Had no say in political campaigns.
Run for president and can vote.

Section 2:Manors

European villages were independent from manors. Many of the surviving records about Midieval peasant life come from the English manors. Most of the peasants on a manor were tenants who rented them land from the lord. They felt very strongly the land belonged to them. When a man died, his land holding was inherrited by one of his sons, usually the oldest. Sometimes the land was divided by all sons. If a man had no sons then the daughter could possibly inherrit it, but not often. The important thing is that the land was kept in the family. Allods, a freeholding land that no lord owns, were common. In some parts of Europe, peasants owned allods.

Section 3: Peasants

Peasants were the working class of the middle ages. They often times didn't have enough money to buy new clothes so they would repatch clothes over the years. Most peasant girls would get married and if they didn't they would move in with their married brother and help out with his family and home. Girls could legally be married at the age of 12. But they were usually married between the ages of 15-20. The men were usually in their mid to late twenties.

Section 4: Family Life

In the middle ages nobles often didn't have very strong family ties. A lot of the time men were at war, and women didn't even nurse their own babies. Children from rich families were raised mainly by servants. Peasant families, on the other hand, tended to be quite close. Children in peasant families spent a lot of time with their parents. Each member of the family had a special role to play in keeping the family alive. In a peasant household, there were parents, children and a few other relatives. Wealthier households also had a few servants. Most peasant families generally had an average of five children. Families with less money only had two or three kids. Most households had a cat to get rid of rodents and sometimes dogs to guard the home and livestock. The animals were treated kindly but they were more farm animals instead of pets. Babies were born at home and it was very dangerous because they didn't have many medical techniques. It was also dangerous because in the middle ages in Europe people didn't know about germs so they didn't take action to prevent infection. During childbirth the women was supported or comforted by two or three women that were their friends or relatives and if lucky a midwife.

Books related to this topic

Matilda Bone
The Midwife's Apprentice


Armento, Beverly. Jacqueline Cordova, J. Jorge Klor de Alva, Gary Nash, Franklin Ng, Christopher Salter, Louise Wilson, Karen Wixson. Across the Centuries. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
Eastwood, Kay. Medieval Society. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2004.
Hinds, Kathryn. Life in the Middle Ages, the Countryside. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2001.

Historical Fiction Novels

Blood Red Horse
The Midwife's Apprentice