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Peasants' Jobs in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages, typically defined as that period between the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century A.D. and the Renaissance in the 15th Century, was a period in which society was regimented and divided along lines of privilege. The peasants, those who were the least privileged, occupied a number of jobs that were nevertheless essential to the functioning of the state and the culture.

Castle Jobs

Although the lord owned the castle and controlled a great deal of the wealth, he also relied upon peasants to perform a number of tasks for him within the castle. Women occupied many roles within the castle and were often employed as cooks, bakers and cleaning women, in addition to waiting on the lord and his family. Other jobs in the castle included that of stable hand, who was responsible for the care of the horses and other outdoor tasks.

Craftsmen

Although many peasants were bound to the land (in the form of serfdom) others congregated in villages and towns, where they occupied a number of positions and jobs that were essential to the functioning of the town and its daily life. These included such professions as bakers, candle-makers and blacksmiths. These craftsmen and artisans were often trained by someone older and established in the craft, thus participating in the guild structure. The goods were sold to farmers and others who needed them and the money was then used to buy food and other goods, thus keeping the cycle of production and consumption going.

Laborer and Farmer

Many peasants in the Middle Ages had jobs as farmers, either on their own land or on that owned by the lord. The job of farmer or laborer was very hard and labor-intensive and required a great deal of the peasant's time. Types of work included reaping (cutting the crops), sowing (planting), plowing (tilling the soil so that seeds could be planted) and hedging (creating boundaries for the land). The peasants typically paid the lord for the right to use the land, usually in the form of the crop; they could then consume or sell what was left after the rent was taken out.

Military

Many peasants also occupied jobs that were crucial to the functioning of the medieval war machine. Since war was a constant presence in medieval life, peasants who occupied jobs such as blacksmith (who repaired weapons and other metal objects), armorer (who made the armor) and fletcher (who made arrows) came to occupy an important position in medieval society.



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