Throughout time, history has taken some strange turns. A single ruler establishing some new form of government can transform entire civilizations, or a single event can lead to the creation of a great new people. Whatever the case, history can repeat itself in time. One possible exemption of this could be Britain’s time period of the Middle Ages. Bearing a distinct and unique culture relative to the time period, some of the values and the customs held during this time have yet to be repeated in history. It is perhaps the most unique period of all time for the British Isles.
Before the period of the middle ages, the British Isles mostly lay dormant in local disputes and settlements of small tribes. Up until the late 900’s, the Anglos and the Saxons laid their claim to the land of Britain. However, this all soon changed. An ambitions individual with hero-like characteristics set foot and conquered the Anglo-Saxons and started Britain on its journey to modernism. Thus, the tide was set in motion for a new government and a civilized race. A monarchy was established, and the Middle ages began in roughly 975 AD (Vinogradoff, p 18).
In the Medieval Period, life was either very great or very bad, according to your class. Only 2 classes existed during this time: the nobles, such as kings and knights who lived inside the castle, or the peasants, such as working-class people who lived in often unspeakable conditions. The peasants treated the nobles with the utmost respect, for if they didn’t, then the nobles could have them beheaded. (Sanders, p 34). The nobles were almost always the ones who owned land, and the peasants worked on this land in exchange for a small portion of it, in a sense, rented out in exchange for the labor. Peasants often worked 16-hour days as long as they could see into the nighttime and got very bad nourishment. The noble was not interested in the health of the peasants working on his land, as there was a significant supply of others who were very willing to take his or her place.
Women had a very difficult position in society during the Middle Ages. The feudal age was known for its superstitions, and women were often convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Some of the more lucky women held professions of there own, such as blacksmiths, carpenters, and apothecaries. Most, however, stayed home and defended the house against intruders, both animal and human. Most actually died before the age of 25 due to malnutrition. (Sanders, p 36).
In the Middle Ages, housing was inadequate, sometimes even nonexistent for the lower class. “Peasants lived in a world of filth. It is a miracle that they had pulled through to work another day on the noble’s land.” (Vinogradoff, p 25). Peasants who were lucky to have nobles that had buildings on their land often slept with the livestock, and the floor was littered with filth and rubbish. Nobles did little for improving the peasants living conditions, and they often did cruel and inhumane things to them if they refused to work one day due to illness. (Vinogradoff, p 40).
The noble way of lifestyle is not as rich and extravagant as newer royalty families lived. However, they did have many things that the peasant class did not. The floors were often much cleaner than the livestock-filled rooms in which the peasants lived, and they were tiled too, producing a primitive decorating style for each ruler. Tapestries made from great fabric types were hung throughout the stone walls of the castles in which the upper class lived. The kitchen was often the center room, with the fireplace serving for its uses as a cooking place and a heating place. Bedrooms started appearing in nobles castles around 1050AD, which significantly increased the lifespan of an adult noble due to the fact that they received more rest than they had before and the bones in their spine were correctly aligned and would not break as easily. (Lemonick, Dorfman, para. 4).
A great increase in the followers of different religious beliefs had been born in the Middle Ages. Kings and others often said that if they were king, then they would rid the town of evil and drive the entire kingdom to happiness with God, which was false propaganda. As for the religious people themselves, they existed in very large numbers.
“Monasteries in the Middle Ages were based on the rules set down by St. Benedict in the sixth century. The monks became known as Benedictines and took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to their leaders. They were required to perform manual labor and were forbidden to own property, leave the monastery, or become entangled in the concerns of society. Daily tasks were often carried out in silence. Monks and their female counterparts, nuns, who lived in convents, provided for the less-fortunate members of the community. Monasteries and nunneries were safe havens for pilgrims and other travelers. ” (Vinogradoff, p 71).
Monks visited the chapel at least 8 times a day, and fasted when necessary. They often told the people that what they had originally believed to be true was false because a new ruler had taken the throne. Kings often instructed monks to change the teachings of the church to coincide with their method of rule. Monks gave in; they had everything to lose because the king could banish them from the community.
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps the things that we remember most about any time period are its significant forms of entertainment and art. The Middle Ages are definitely remembered for its unique art and entertainment forms, some of which are still in use today.
Towards the end of the middle ages, people sought the need to be constantly busy. When they were not busy, they had to find something to occupy their time or they would go insane. Thus, modern entertainment had been defined. Juggling became a popular form of entertainment, as it was unpredictable and seemingly deadly objects could produce awe and inspiration to the audience. Drama also played a big role during this time period, and plays were acted out only by males and only for the noble class. (McCarthy, para. 3).
Perhaps the greatest and most unique time period of all time for the British Isles was the Middle Ages. The feudal system and the role of the monarchy led this seemingly boring piece of time on the path towards greatness in meaning and value. Social skills developed during this time to force humans to cooperate and work together to produce a lifestyle that was beneficial to everyone and not just a leader. Lessons have been learned from this time period, such that it is not perfect. Disputes inside a community cannot be solved easily because they often affect the whole community and there will only be one side. Perhaps there are more lessons to be learned from this time. One can only hope that the future of modern warfare could be secretly embedded in the time of the middle ages. History has a tendency to repeat itself; maybe the time has come for the middle ages.