But in practice, and in law, people got married by declaring clearly that they wanted to marry each other. There had to be consent, and ideally there should be witnesses in case either party later had a change of mind. But you could marry very simply. We tend to think of literacy as one thing, but in fact it combines various different skills, of which the physical act of writing is only one. For much of the Middle Ages, working as a scribe — writing — was seen as a kind of labour, and was not something that tremendously clever, important people like theologians and intellectuals would bother doing themselves.
Instead, they would use the medieval equivalent of voice recognition software: a scribe who would write down what the author dictated. The Middle Ages famously features great examples of extreme religiosity: mystics, saints, the flagellants, mass pilgrimage, and the like. But it would be wrong to assume that people were always very focused on God and religion, and definitely wrong to think that medieval people were incapable of sceptical reflection.
There is solid evidence of some ordinary people who looked askance at particular beliefs — at the miracles performed by saints, or the nature of the Eucharist, or what was said to happen after death. Others thought that there was no reason to think that it was God who made plants and crops grow, but just the innate properties of working and feeding the soil.
There is also ample evidence of people just not bothering very much with religion — most of all not going to church on a Sunday. One Spanish priest, in the very early 14th century, reported to his bishop that hardly anyone came to church on Sundays, but rather larked about in the streets playing. Other records give the sense that at least a sizeable minority enjoyed themselves elsewhere on Sunday mornings.
Most people probably know this already, along with the fact that Viking helmets did not have horns. Both are bits of Victorian myth-making about the period, along with the idea that the lord had the right to sleep one night with any newly-wedded woman. What makes studying medieval history fascinating is that you have to grapple with both the puzzle of extracting information from difficult and often fragmented surviving records, and the challenge of constantly checking your own thinking for assumptions and inherited stereotypes. He is also the author of What is Medieval History?
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Book now. More on: Medieval Week. The feudal system was essentially based on the relationship of reciprocal aid between lord and vassal but as that system became more complex over time, so this relationship weakened. Lords came to own multiple estates and vassals could be tenants of various parcels of land so that loyalties became confused and even conflicting with people choosing to honour the relationship that suited their own needs best. Another blow to the system came from sudden population declines caused by wars and plagues, particularly the Black Death which peaked between CE , and by peasant revolts most famously in England in CE.
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Such crises caused a chronic shortage of labour and the abandonment of estates because there was no one to work them. The growth of large towns and cities also saw labour leave the countryside to find a better future and the new jobs available there. By the 13th century CE, the increase in commerce and the greater use of coinage changed the way the feudal system worked.
Conversely, a monarch could now distribute money instead of land in his system of rewards. A rich merchant class developed with no ties of loyalty to anyone except their sovereign, their suppliers and their customers. Even serfs could sometimes buy their freedom and escape the circumstances into which they were born.
All of these factors conspired to weaken the feudal system based on land ownership and service even if feudalism would continue beyond the medieval period in some forms and in some places. Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers.
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Cartwright, Mark. Last modified November 22, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 22 Nov This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. We publish the digital edition of Timeless Travels , the unique magazine for lovers of history, culture, and travel. Remove Ads Advertisement. Chambers Dictionary of World History. Chambers Harrap, Blockmans, W.
Introduction to Medieval Europe — Routledge, Davies, N. Oxford University Press, Gies, F. Life in a Medieval Village. Harper Perennial, Gies, J. Life in a Medieval Castle. Keen, M.
Medieval Life – Feudalism and the Feudal System
The Penguin History of Medieval Europe. Penguin Books, McDowall, D. An Illustrated History of Britain.
Pearson Education Ltd, Singman, J. The Middle Ages. Sterling, About the Author Mark Cartwright.
Medieval Monasticism as Preserver of Western Civilization
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Related Content Filters: All. Domesday Book was a comprehensive survey and record of all the Manorialism, also known as the Manorial System, may be defined Medieval serfs aka villeins were unfree labourers who worked Christmas was one of the highlights of the medieval calendar, not Great Chalfield Manor, rebuilt CE.
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