Why You’d Never Survive Life During The Middle Ages


If you believe what Hollywood tells you, then
life during the Middle Ages might seem romantic and glamorous – chock-full of noble knights
on noble steeds, beautiful ladies with pointy hats, chivalry, honor, and, if you’re lucky,
a dragon or two. Sadly, the truth is that life in the Middle
Ages was about as grim as it gets, and death lurked around pretty much every corner. Here’s why you’d never stand a chance. Grief is awful no matter what form it takes,
but the passing of a child can be an unspeakably tragic turn of events. Luckily, we in the west are far less likely
to experience this. In America, infant mortality is only around
.006 percent, and that rate drops once kids leave infancy. Mortality for children between the ages of
1 and 4 is around .0002 percent, and for kids aged 5 to 14 it’s around .0001 percent. Now compare that to childhood mortality in
the Middle Ages. According to Representing Childhood, exact
figures are impossible to come by, but estimates place the medieval infant mortality at around
25%. That means one out of every four babies born
during that time period wouldn’t make it past their first year of life. The odds went up a bit for children who made
it to toddlerhood – kids between the ages of 1 and 4 had a mortality rate of around
12.5%. If they made it to 5 then things looked better,
as the mortality rate for kids between the ages of 5 and 9 was only about 6%. Still, that was still far worse than even
the highest mortality rate for infants in modern America. The sad truth is that being born in the Middle
Ages didn’t guarantee you a life – not by a long shot. Luckily for us, bubonic plague isn’t such
a problem nowadays. It does still exist – in fact, 20,000 people
came down with it between 2000 and 2009, including 56 in the United States – but it certainly
doesn’t exist on the scale that it did in the Middle Ages. In fact, were you to travel back in time to
1340s Europe, when the outbreak known as the Black Death was ongoing, your chances of survival
would be somewhere between 7 in 10 and 2 in 5. “I’m not dead!” “What?” “Nothing, here’s your nine pence.” “I’m not dead!” “He says he’s not dead.” “Yes, he is.” “I’m not!” Estimates suggest that the Black Death killed
as much as 60% of the entire population of Europe – meaning that three out of every five
people you met were going to be dead by the end of the pandemic, which peaked over the
course of just four years. But the craziest part of all this is what
happened after the outbreak died down. Since around half the known world had died
off, the balance of power in Europe underwent a radical shift. Suddenly, peasants could ask for pay rises
and demand improvements in working conditions – and, in many ways, life actually got better
for them. And all it took was the deaths of hundreds
of millions of people. Everyone in medieval Europe was a good Catholic,
except for those who weren’t – and they either had to make pretend or die for their beliefs. And that’s because the religious freedoms
enjoyed today were most definitely not a thing. During the 11th and 12th centuries, for example,
people started thinking critically about the Catholic Church, and one of the things that
some of those people disliked most about the Church was its vast wealth and power. Unfortunately, these were dangerous times
— and the Church was so wealthy and powerful that it could snuff out pretty much anyone
who criticized it. In the name of God, obviously. No one is really sure how many people were
burned during that time period, but what is known is that it was sometimes done in groups
of 200 or more. And this didn’t end for a long time, either
– Queen Mary of England burned 300 Protestants over the course of the 1550s. Women had it especially hard during the Middle
Ages. They were generally regarded as morally weak,
and weren’t allowed to do things that modern women take for granted – such as getting a
job, deciding who to marry, or generally having opinions about things. There were some powerful women, granted, but
they were pretty uncommon. The worst part about being a woman, though,
was that you were expected to procreate or else become a nun. And you wouldn’t have been too mad to have
taken that second option, considering the intense dangers of childbirth, which would
kill like one out of every three women. In comparison, today’s maternal mortality
rate is one out of every 5,814. In fact, childbirth in the Middle Ages and
the Tudor period was so dangerous that women were encouraged to write out a last will and
testament well in advance of giving birth – which kinda puts a damper on the whole thing. Popular culture based around the medieval
period tends to focus around the higher echelons of society – kings, queens, nobles and other
aristocrats, for example. But those people only made up a small fraction
of society. Peasants, on the other hand, comprised around
90% of the population – meaning the chances were good you’d be slinging mud with the rest
of them. “Bloody peasant!” “Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that, did you hear that, eh?” The problem with becoming a peasant, unfortunately,
is that the life of a peasant pretty much sucked. Peasants wore the same rough, itchy wool outfit
every day, ate bread, porridge, and vegetables, and if they were lucky got a little bit of
meat every now and again. On top of that, whenever the weather sucked,
they died. Peasants would starve when the weather was
too wet and they would starve when the weather was too dry – because when the crops failed,
so did they. The average life expectancy for a peasant
in medieval Europe was between 25 and 30 years old. If you wanted to travel in the Middle Ages,
the local monastery usually offered a clean, safe place to sleep, but what if there was
no local monastery? Well, in that case, you might be able to stop
at an inn. Conditions in most inns weren’t exactly perfect,
but they were usually a safe enough place to spend the night. Depending on where you were going, however,
you weren’t always going to have the option of staying in an inn. And that might mean sleeping out in the open,
which was a really, really terrible idea. There were always unsavoury characters lurking
on the roads after dark, and wild animals were a serious problem, too. People embarking on pilgrimages during the
Middle Ages often traveled in groups for safety, and wealthy people would sometimes just pay
someone to go on pilgrimage for them. That may seem kinda like it defeats the point,
sure, but it’s gotta be better than risking it out on the road. Many of history’s wars have been fought for
pretty silly reasons, and the Middle Ages were no different. Many of them, of course, were fought to decide
which aristocrat or royal was going to end up sitting on the throne. But even though these were faraway disputes
contested between people you’d probably never even seen before, you’d still be the one dying
for them. It wasn’t all bad, though. In many cases, if you weren’t killed within
the first 40 days, you could go back home to your family. That’s because it was bad business to draft
all the peasants into service at the same time. With no one around to take care of the farms,
the kingdom would lose money – and then it wouldn’t be able to afford the war in the
first place. Noblemen died in war, too, of course – before
1550, roughly 30% of them could expect to perish in some battle or another. But as for the peasants, well, no one really
knows, because peasant deaths were considered so inconsequential that no one ever actually
counted them. It didn’t help that defeat in battle often
meant the systematic slaughter of the losing side, which would have been mostly made up
of commoners. Not a good time to be a peasant or a soldier,
that’s for sure, and most of the time, being one meant being the other. In the U.K. today, there are no capital crimes
at all, because they abolished the death penalty back in 1965. But long before that, medieval England was
really big on executing people. During the Middle Ages, there were 50 capital
crimes on the books, which included not just treason and various forms of murder but lesser
things like poaching, robbery, and forgery. Weirdly, however, this is one of those rare
instances where you’d actually be better off in the Middle Ages than you would be a little
later on in history. Sure, there are no capital crimes in the U.K.
today, but by the 1600s the number of crimes you could be officially executed for rose
to around 200, and included things like petty theft, “damaging Westminster bridge,” and
cutting down a sapling. Although, it’s worth pointing out that the
so-called “Bloody Code” of that time period actually resulted in fewer executions, probably
because juries were reluctant to sentence people to death for such minor offenses. Still – you wouldn’t want to risk it, would
you? Most medieval people may have been illiterate,
but that doesn’t mean they were stupid. Everything you’ve heard about how people in
the Middle Ages covered the taste of rotten meat with heavy spices isn’t actually true
– spices were expensive, and anyone who could afford them could also afford to throw out
any meat that had gone bad. In fact, for the most part, people knew how
to preserve food. They salted, smoked, dried, and pickled it
– and there doesn’t seem to have ever been a rash of people dying because they were eating
bad meat. There were other dangers lurking in the food,
though. If you were rich, you probably owned a nice
set of fancy glazed dishes, which were full of lead and other heavy metals like mercury. But when you filled your plates and bowls
up with salty or acidic foods, the glaze would start to break down and those metals would
leach into your food. So members of the upper class were slowly
poisoning themselves as they dined on their luxury dishware. “Huh.” Meanwhile, bakers sometimes made bread from
rye infected with a fungus called Claviceps purpurea, and that could cause an outbreak
of an illness that modern medicine knows as ergotism. The infection caused hallucinations, convulsions,
a burning sensation in the limbs, and sometimes even blackened body parts that would eventually
just fall off. Every meal was a gamble. Getting sick during the Middle Ages was even
more of a nightmare than it is today. There were no antibiotics, no chemotherapy,
and physicians didn’t wash their hands in between patients. The things doctors did know were mostly wrong
and almost always totally useless from a medical perspective. A sick person could be diagnosed with the
help of an astrological chart, for example, and treatment might include bloodletting,
purging, or trepanning, which was the practice of drilling a hole in the skull to relieve
pressure in the brain. Unsurprisingly, these treatments not only
rarely worked but sometimes even hastened a patient’s death. Still, the practice of bloodletting persisted
for a long time. In fact, there’s still debate on whether George
Washington was killed by strep throat or by the aggressive bloodletting doctors used to
treat the condition. If you somehow managed to escape all those
other dangers, you’d still be left with one very harsh truth: the medieval period was
very, very violent. In fact, according to History Extra, murder
in medieval England was around 10 times more common than it is today. And there’s a reason the men had it so much
worse than the women. Life expectancy for women in the Middle Ages
was actually considerably better than it was for men, despite the fact that they frequently
ran the risk of dying in childbirth. On average, a woman could expect to live about
9.4 years longer than her male counterparts, and that was mostly because of the constant
violence that existed between men. Roughly 46% of all deaths in men ages 15 and
above were caused by violence, so a man living in medieval England had a roughly 1 in 2 chance
of meeting a bloody end. All in all, those really aren’t great odds. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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100 Replies to “Why You’d Never Survive Life During The Middle Ages”

  1. The misconceptions about peasants in this are unreal.

    Peasants were just as healthy, if not healthier than the nobles of the time. They were clean. They fixed their clothes, and were good at it.

    Their work may have been hard, but they weren't living in absolute squalor as most people think.

  2. Simple, they didn’t have coffee yet. Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia in the early 15th century and domesticated by Yemeni merchants and farmers in the late 15th century. Even then, coffee didn’t make it to Europe from the Muslim world until the early 17th century. I have a crippling caffeine addiction, &, without at least 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day, I’m as good as dead. So, I definitely couldn’t survive in Medieval Europe.

  3. there was noble men because they say they were ….and it.s only because you would die if you didn’t accept it….eventually peasant said no more of this crap and cut their head off ….i expect all the so called noble will vanish one day….and only the strong survive …and they had to kill each other england is a very small place …

  4. Newsflash: you're not going to survive life in the 21st century either. Unless you're a toddler, then you might just barely make it to the 22nd.

  5. it also helps that doctors now actually wash their hands and people bathe more often now 😛 and well we don't toss our shit and piss out our windows for rats to eat on and carry things that will kill you dead..

  6. OK, if the Black Death killed 60% of Europe's population, and that is about twice what most estimates say, that would have only been fifty million people, not hundreds of millions.

  7. Boy whites have done some fucked up shit………………

    Blacks did also but whites destroyed others history which makes them the worse.

  8. So women in the middle ages were treated kinda like muslim women today? They were treated as untrustworthy, morally deficient, second class citizens only good for pumping out babies and preferably male babies too, who knew?? Tens of thousands of years of humans living together and how could our ancestors come to that conclusion?? Hmm

    For that reason alone I could join this muslim thing if I didn't have to give up bacon butties and vodka. Oh, and the whole mutilated dick thing too. On second thoughts, fuck that shit, I'll just continue beating my wife into submission without the backing of a political system dressed up as religion (muslim and Christianity both included in that).

  9. Well over half the populace couldn't even survive without electricity, I don't see why it would be any different with the middle ages.

  10. What a lame thought experiment. Who cares. We don’t live in the Middle Ages and if we did grow up in the middle ages we’d live as long as people lived in the Middle Ages. What a waste of time.

  11. Because electronic bullying destroys the common mullet of our time. Me though? easily, but my friends and I coming up were all about hitting the woods for survival outings, starting from the early teens. Now combat? nobody knows that, same as today, same as the future.

  12. Sweet dream middle agers. Im just checking out at 10 pm. With a ass leeping pill and tomorrow a great breakfast and watch. Tv and then to bed again.

  13. You say all it took was the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The entire population of Europe in the Middle Ages did not amount to even 100 million people.

  14. We still put a hole in the skull to monitor pressures but now we remove a whole part of the skull! Advanced? We won’t know for 500 yrs!

  15. Herbalism worked. Valerian, chamomile, dandelion, thistle, all have valuable properties for medicinal use in teas and as compresses.

  16. So…turns out I have about as much chance of surviving the Middle Ages as I do surviving a zombie apocalypse. There's goes all my nerd fantasies.

  17. Anyone with a brain should know it was horrific to live back then. It's actually amazing the human race survived to get as far as we did.

  18. As usual no mention of the mass murder of Blks throughout Europe. The Blk Death was not only about the disease. Over 400 Blk Madonnas throughout Europe and old paintings of Blk priests, Saints and no real answers as to why. Well mass murder isn't something whites want to look back on but they did it.

  19. Is a lower childhood mortality rate associated with increased food allergies? Don’t you hate where every paragraph ends with a joke?

  20. Mortality rate for infants made the human race stronger because the weakest died. People back then were stronger, fitter, and thinner.

  21. This video is filled with misinformation. Never has any population had so high violent death rates that they came anywhere close to 48%. Nor 1%. To give you an example:

    in world war 2, only 0.7% procent of the total world population had died. In the middle ages that would be far, far less. 110 in 100.000 would be a more accurate depiction. People were appalled by violence, just like we are now.

    If you actually want to know some true information about this subject, read: https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/life-violence-murder-crime-middle-ages/.

  22. Typical lazy millennial thinking.
    Oh, if there is a penalty of death for smaller crimes, and the result was less executions, then it had to have been lenient juries…
    No, it is because when strict laws are enforced, people commit less crimes under the threat of a stiff penalty.
    That's one aspect of what organised religion is for: to give moral conduct to the multitudes.
    See that millennials?
    Rules, codes of conduct, respect for religion, and NO participation trophies!
    Oh, and you not surprisingly failed to mention that chivalry, honour, and individual freedoms were given to the world by the men of the West. Btw, how many infidels were slaughtered by the practitioners of Islam during that time period?
    How many did Khan kill?
    How many were enslaved in Asia and Islam?
    Europe doesn't sound so bad now.
    Stop bashing your heritage!

  23. It’s very rarely pointed out that this pertains to Europe and Western Europe in particular. Life in the rest of the world while not perfect (utopia means “nowhere “) it was not as dark and ignorant as Western Europe, this was considerably due to the dominance of Western Christianity .

  24. I like how the music is all dark and dire. It's true, there was much greater risk of death and destruction back then. However, we can't really imagine what it was like back then because everyone was constantly aware that they could die at any time. Now, we figure that as long as we play it safe, we should live a long, "good" life. Problem is though, playing it safe can just lead to a long, boring, shitty life. Who knows what people would be like if they understood from a young age that they, and everyone they know, could die at any time. It's not a "better" life, however, that pressure can force people to open up in ways that they never would otherwise, thus producing people, and possibly meaning in life, that modern people do not have. And there was literally no room whatsoever for people to be pussies. Nowadays, all you gotta do to survive is just do your easy shitty modern job and stfu and you'll be fine.

    3:30 How did women have it especially hard? Everyone had it hard. Funny you make a point to say that women had it especially hard, yet in the very same video, you go on to say how disposable men were because violence against men was so common, it was pretty much normal.

    3:35 Dude, men weren't allowed to do things that modern men take for granted as well. Funny how people say women weren't allowed to "work". Do you think having a "job" back then meant the same thing that it does now? It didn't. Jobs back then were fucking garbage. I wouldn't want to work back then either, and the pay was practically nothing. People go on about how hard it was to be a woman back then because they weren't allowed to "work" and were expected to have kids. Men were expected to have kids as well, and men were expected to provide for their families through back breaking labor for pittance pay. Just bothers me how people always say how hard women had it in the past. Both sexes had it hard in the past. Honestly, it would be hard being either sex in the past. If women, supposedly weren't allowed to "work", then that means that men literally built all of civilization. Are you seriously going to tell me that such a thing was just easy and came without any casualties? LOL! OMG, construction work is back breaking and with many casualties, and they did not have workers rights like we have today. THe way people make it sound, women were slaves, and men were just lounging around. Truth is, both sexes had their problems in the past, and men did not necessarily have it better. Men did not necessarily have more control over their lives either. How much freedom do you think middle aged peasants had? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They worked for shit and pretty much had little control over what happened in their day to day lives. Perhaps some men had more freedoms, but every "freedom" that men had came with massive loads of responsibility. Did SOME men have it better than women? Probably. I'd bet some women had it better than their male counterparts.

    I would even grant that maybe one sex did, in fact, have it easier than the other. However…. it wasn't a blowout, like people today make it sound. Both sexes had it hard, and if one was a bit easier, it wasn't by much. So stop pretending women have just been getting shat on forever.

  25. This mayhem was really not that long ago, a few hundred years. Human existence was for the most part thru all it's history was full of violence and death. We here in the West have enjoyed a calm period of peace. The industrial revolution and commerce helped immensely at focusing our energies to making wealth. Unfortunately the perceived need to grow the economy globally for all will eventually  be the demise of this relatively peaceful time. The planet simply will not be able to provide the resources for the ever growing population and stark shortages of food and oil will probably come rather abruptly. The Globes population will suffer a massive correction eventually as people turn on one another for what is left, and those who survive will go back to  subsistence, much like the historical norm.

  26. Assuming I survived infancy, I'd have grown up a cripple. My legs grew in crooked and I needed a brace through my first year of life. Medieval medicine wouldn't have known how to fix that. Fortunately I had an early talent for reading, so I had a good chance of escaping misery in the clergy. Probably wouldn't have ended up as a priest as I'd have been unable to walk, but I could have done any job requiring reading and writing, and I'd have been physically safe enough in a monastery or chancery.

    And then I'd have died in my late 30s from gallbladder disease.

  27. You wanna why infant mortality in the U.S. is really low, it is because there are really many child birth per annum hence lower number of infants. And the reason for this is the celebration of "abortion: my body,my choice" in the western countries especially U.S. 😂😂😂

  28. @9:22, he describes trepanning right alongside purging and blood-letting, like it's just as absurd. Trepanning has been used all over the world for thousands of years to release blood pooling in the head, following blunt-force trauma. Today it's called a craniotomy and used for subdural hematomas (same thing, modern words).

    Of course, they also used it to release evil spirits in the mentally ill….

  29. I always try to tell people how bad things were compared to now. They always say how bad our diets are now. I can go to any supermarket and buy almost any fruit or veggie in the middle of winter. Fresh meat,milk anything. Back then they ate potatoes all winter and spoiled food. People like to think of the past in romantic terms. The best way to tell if a species is doing is by it's population,well I'd say we are doing pretty good.

  30. Most of us writing here wouldn‘t be alive, if not for modern medicine. That also means, „weak“ and defective genes get to be passed down to new generations.

  31. At any time you could be burnt out at any time, everything you had was gone, and you'd be in the woods digging for roots in the woods.

  32. He said doctors where always wrong and never got anything right back then, He said it like it has changed lol. Nope its still the same and almost nothing has changed even after all that information they stole from barbers and they are still always wrong and hacking people up. Thats why their nick name is The American Murder Association i don't know the nick name in other country's but hey. If they can't figure something out they still like to cut things off and inject you with a bunch of who knows what to see what happens.

  33. I would be fine during the Middle Ages. Just give me a small house with electricity, my Electric Guitar and WiFi and a Fridge Stocked with food I could cook on my gas stove. What's the big deal?

  34. so in the balkans they survived past black death and other diseases, invasions of mongols, tatars, cumans, pecenegs and turks, wars with each other, wars with magyars, polish, austriacs, some badass in middle age time

  35. That church has held a evil dead hold on the world for far too long. God is not likely involved inside that church ever. Yet instead stood strong to hold those whom were victims to their agenda.

  36. "Women nowadays take for granted" oop almost vomited, you mean women fail to appreciate what we have today granted by the men? No bitch, we aren't taking for granted we are equal always have been. Bitch I don't have to appreciate the work I have today because women who couldn't in the past. Thats like telling a black man to not take for granted not being a slave because slaves exists.

  37. while our ancestors survived the most difficult situations, we have a bunch or retarded millenials that whine and bitch about everything including their own parents.

  38. Peasants did not get paid- they had to pay, or rather, give part or their crops and animals to the person they belonged (knight or other nobleman).

  39. Many European slaves captured by Arab slave traders and sold into the North African region opted to remain there if and when they earned their liberty.

  40. The only thing that survived out of the Middle Ages is religious fanaticism, which is quite alive and well in modern America.

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