Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Medieval peasants weren't the downtrodden souls they're sometimes made out to be

Or, at least they weren't in England, according to this article!  It seems like the peasants liked to dress as nicely as anyone else when they could, and apparently they were often able to put together the money to buy nice accessories, too.  These accessories may not have been as "fancy" as the dress and accessories of lords and ladies, but they weren't the plain, dull stuff some people picture them in.  Naturally, the "higher orders" thought the peasants should "stay in their place", and churchmen especially, decried "fancy" clothing for the peasant class.  And, equally naturally, the peasants didn't agree, and went on buying "fancy" stuff anyway, whenever they could, and wore such things when the occasion demanded.  Which might have also been more often than you might suppose, since there were lots of feast days, harvests, etc., where people tried to dress in their best.

Anne G


Joansz said...

One of the many surprises I found in studying this period (late 15th-century) was just how strong the middle class was in England, that literacy rates were high, and how well they dressed.

Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies talks a lot about the growing middle class. For example, merchants had their own tubs and bathed regularly and some even traveled with their tubs when on long journeys. Some few even had Garerobes in their homes. However, without a convenient ditch nearby, the effluent was often piped into a neighbor's yard--eew!

Anne Gilbert said...


This is quite interesting. I think literacy rates(among all classes)began to climb from about 1350 onwards, once there were nonmonaistic positions that required people be at least able to read. Of course, once there was such a thing as the printing press(after 1450), literacy got even higher for obvious reasons. Printing and books seem to have occupied much the same position, by that time, as computers and allied wares do today. At least that's the way it seems to me.

Joansz said...

Oh yes, the printing press revolutionized the world. Prior to the Gutenberg only the wealthy could afford much in the way of books. The Gutenberg made it practical to print manuscripts on paper. Prior to that, paper wouldn't stand up to the hand copying, so vellum had to be used for lengthier documents. This is when it was feasible to mass produce bibles that were written in the language of the people (instead of Latin), which eventually led to lessening the church's vise grip controlling the populace. Despite the wanton destruction of the churches during the restoration, I think Henry VIII's break from the pope and the catholic church was truly revolutionary--even if that wasn't his intention.

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Anne Gilbert said...


If you want to contact me offlist about this, you can always send a question to

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Anne G