If you think you have it rough getting up at 7:00 AM to start your work day, count your blessings! Be glad that you were not a peasant during Medieval Times, whose work day could start as early as 3:00 AM, or at least at dawn (between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM). After a breakfast of pottage (stew or soup), a peasant would spend the duration of the day laboring in the field. Forget about indoor heating and air conditioning! A peasant’s common tasks included reaping, sowing, plowing, binding and thatching, haymaking, threshing, and hedging. For these tasks, tools were not always provided, and thus, peasants were required to be resourceful and make their own tools out of wood, leather, and cattle horns. A peasant’s work day ended at dusk, which meant longer hours in the summer. This was not your average 8 hour work day and overtime or vacation pay was definitely out of the question! Due to these rigorous demands, peasants developed great endurance and though their lives were not easy, as the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Just as a genie in a lamp belongs to his master, so was the case with peasants. According to law, peasants were considered property and belonged to the lord of their manor, known as a serf or villien. The only benefit to the peasant was the privilege of being able to farm their own plot of land in trade for working for the lord of the manor. The lord was demanding and set a high level of productivity for the peasant to meet. Due to the steep expectation, it was a struggle for peasants to produce enough food for themself and their families, in addition to producing food for the lord of the manor and his family. Also, peasants were basically imprisoned, which meant they weren’t allowed to leave the manor without permission. The only loophole to gain freedom was for a peasant to save enough money to buy a plot of land (which was nearly impossible) from their lord or to marry a free person.
Reversible Peasant Bodice:
As for peasant living quarters, they were far from luxurious. Peasants lived in cruck houses, which were made of a wooden frame plastered with straw for insulation of the walls and a mixture of mud and manure for binding the structure and giving it strength. Talk about your fixer uppers! Roofs on these houses were thatched and windows were created by poking holes in the walls, while doors were merely curtains. Due to the lack of proper insulation, cruck houses were very cold in the winter and extremely hot in the summer. The only advantage to these structures were cheap and easy repairs. The cruck houses were small with little to no furniture and peasant families would sleep in the same room. Depending on how many children peasants had, it could be quite crowded. But perhaps the many bodies helped to create warmth and closeness!
As you can see, it was not pleasant to be a peasant. On the contrary, it was a brutal and harsh life! But you can be thankful that you don’t have to be a peasant to enjoy the simple, yet delightful styles. See our peasant attire at: http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/