Throughout the course of the past month or so, we have been reading this book called
The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer. This book is filled with facts and knowledge ranging from the food, to traveling, spending and currency, clothing, crime, and many other
cultural aspects about English society in the fourteenth century. As a class, we are only through chapter ten, but another really interesting fact I have noticed about the way it is written is this book covers all three levels of the hierarchy of England.
The poor, middle class, and aristocracy are each given their fair share of a chance to explain what life was really like for them in that era.
Any who, enough about critiquing and explaining the book. This blog post will essentially be a bunch of random facts I came about while reading that I have found either fascinating or simply boggle my mind for different reasons.
One thing that truly boggles my mind is how much what a person owned and was worth dictated what they could or could not dress themselves in.
The Time Traveler’s Guide has this chart on pages 104 and 105 where it explicitly states who could and could not wear what kind of materials, items, and colors. Those who had £1,000 worth of land on a yearly basis, or immediate family who owned so much,
did not have any limitations on what they could and could not wear while those who did not even have 40s worth of items to their names were only allowed to wear rope (linen) belts, blankets, and russets. Cloth for some reason was just not an option for them.
I understand having to be able to differentiate between socio-economic statuses on the spot and having some sort of hierarchy, but for me, the fact the villeins, cowherds, and the other poorest of the poor had to be so restricted by law (the Sumptuary Laws
of 1363) with what they could put on their bodies.
Another thing that baffled me relates to one particular item: money. Going into this course, I already knew that those who lived in the country literally lived off the land. They got their food sources from the ground they worked and their
meat from the animals decided to slaughter and salt. I also already knew that those who lived in the cities had to buy everything they ate in order to survive. However, what I did not know was exactly the pricing of food and exactly how those prices could
have impacted those who worked but yet were way behind in bills. For instance, on page 177, it talks about how workers would need to labor for nine days in order to afford one pound of citronade (which was priced at 3s). How could something that was probably
extremely beneficial for someone’s health back in that day cost so much? How could people make so little in a day’s work and still be expected to support their families?
Maybe it’s just the fact I was born and raised in the 20th and 21st centuries, but these ideals and concepts truly do astonish me.