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Social Life and Customs in the 1400’s

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It was a dark time for people living during the 1400’s also known as the 15th century. Renaissance art was blossoming and people wanting to learn about it and how all of it came to be was very interesting for the people of that time. There was also civil wars and battles happening off and on such as The War of the Roses as well as when Joan of Arc had led the French against English. This was also a time when people were trying to get back to the way things used to be before The Black Death happened. Many lost loved ones and couldn’t keep land or even maintain the land because of the plague and the battles that were happening. I could go on and on about all the events that took place during the 1400’s, but I would like to share with you the social life and customs of the people during the 1400’s. I will start with the life for men and women, different classes of people, church life for the people, activities during that era, the start of humanism and the two people that led the way, Desiderius Eramus and Niccolo Machiavelli. Let me begin with the women and men of the 1400’s and what their lives were like.

Males above the serf class were expected to become knights. They served as the medieval army, protecting their lords, and the king’s interests. Women had pretty much no power since they did not serve as soldiers. A woman’s place in medieval society was determined by her significant male’s standing – either her husband’s, father’s, or brother’s. A man might go off to fight for years in a war and leave his wife in charge of things while he was away, but the moment he returned she was expected to let him have all the power. When a woman lost her male protector, she often lost her identity and became a person people rejected. Choices for women were extremely limited. A female serf virtually had no choice, since serfs actually belonged to the land on which they lived and worked. The women often worked in the fields just as hard as the men, unless they were busy giving birth or caring for the children. Women above the class of serfs had few opportunities, pretty much limited to being a maid or servant in the home of a lord or becoming a nun. Women in during this era lived hard lives, even those that were born to wealthy families.

Childbirth was painful, with no medication available to relieve the agony of labor and delivery. Many women died during childbirth or shortly after. Some bled to death, some suffered serious infections, and others died because their baby could not be delivered because it was too large or just turned the wrong way. Avoiding pregnancy was really not an option. There was very little birth control, and women were expected to have children to help work the farms or to serve as beneficiaries to their wealthy husbands. Now let’s take a look at the different classes of people during the 1400’s. http://www.historycentral.com/dates/1400ad.html Let’s start at the bottom. A peasant is uneducated they have little to no money. What money they may have had is used to pay taxes on the land they lived on to grow crops. Of the crops, eighty percent went to the owner of the land and twenty percent goes to the family just to keep alive and to work. A serf is a laborer, one step above a slave, who worked the land for an owner. A serf would be bought and sold along with land and then food given to stay alive. The serfs in these hard times were better off this way than on their own.

The only other path to bear one’s self was to join an army of which even they had no guarantee of safety. By the mid-1400s, smaller farmers who had rented the land slowly became a new class of people called Yeomen and profited greatly. Before the Yeomen, the ranking system went as follows King/Queen, Prince/Princess, Duke/Duchess, Earl/Count/Countess, Baron/Baroness, Knights, Squires/Gentlemen, and Peasants/Serfs. The only way to work your way up was to already have been a Noble. The Yeomen not only were farmers, but merchants in all types of goods, such as food, wool, clothing, and wine, anything that would buck at a market. The Nobles or Lords were the upper and middle class. These were the people who owned the land and were the rulers. It was their responsibility to insure that the peasants and churchmen were protected so that they could live in peace and act as judges to handle domestic disputes. The serfs, peasants, and Yeomen kept the economy going with hard work. Church would now begin to play a huge role during this time. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/615557/United-Kingdom/44830/England-in-the-15th-century During the 1400’s the participation of everyday peoplewithin the church changed dramatically.

Where the clergy and sacraments were the primary focus of  medieval Catholicism, members of the congregation gradually merged Catholicism into their daily lives outside of the church itself. Congregations began to direct their own religious practices, usually focused around individual and private devotion. A sign of this increased popular devotion was the Books of Hours. The Books of Hours are devotional writings, containing sets of prayers structured around the religious calendar. With the church becoming such a huge piece of daily life it was as if it was something for the people to hold on to after the devastation of The Black Death. Many had felt that it was a punishment from God. People started to devote themselves to worshipping and making massive churches with nothing but the best architects at those times. Church was not the only thing they invested so much time doing, they also had some time to do other activities as well such as games and sports.


During the times where it was so challenging to even know if you would have food the next day, if another plague was to come, or any other obstacles that would come along they found pleasure in games and sports. When playing the games they tended to be vigorous and passionate, and ball games were among the most to be played. Camp-ball was the basic game and, this could involve either kicking or throwing the ball. Kicking camp was the ancestor of modern English football, and the term ‘football’ first appeared in the fifteenth century. Men and women of all ages engaged in ball games, as well as other sports, both as players and people who watched. There were other games as well such as dice, board games, and cards.

The official sport of that time was Archery. The weapon used in this sport was called a longbow. The best of arrows were made of ash. With this sport the popular form of competition was to shoot from a distance of as much as 200 yards. The object of this competition was to split the peg with the arrow. Another archery competition was called the roving. This is where groups of people would wonder through the countryside and shoot at random targets. Other sporting activities include hunting, hawking, and fishing. During the 1400’s Humanism started to become well known and individuals emerged leading the way.

http://www.r3.org/life/articles/delights.html, http://www.encyclopedia.com Humanism is an educational and philosophical

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