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When you think of the Middle Ages you think of Kings
and castles, knights in shining armor saving the princess,
and savage warfare to coincide with horrible diseases and
plagues taking lives. For the most part that was true, but
we are forgetting about the majority of the population,
otherwise known as "the commons". These people can easily be
compared to you and I living in these times. The peasants
were not a part of the noble class or associated with the
clergy, but just lived plain and simple lives and tried to
get by with what they had. In those times they did not have
a lot. Since all of us would be considered peasants in those
times, I am going to take us back to that era and compare
the life of a peasant to our lives now. From the day they
are born all the way to their death. I will go over the
different types of commoners, go over how they grew up, what
they ate, and even what they did for fun back in those days.

Childbirth in Medieval times were much of the same as
they are now. I say this in the biological way only of
course. Birth was not in the hands of a physician, but
entirely up to a midwife. The only reason there would be a
doctor there is if there was a pathological complication.

The setting for childbirth was different as well. All of the
childbirth’s would take place at the home, as compared to

2hospitals in today’s times. Hospitals were predominantly
used for long-term care for the poor. Another huge
difference in childbirth was the risk to the mother. The
closest estimate of childbirth deaths was about 14 deaths
for every 1,000 childbirth’s. This is very high in modern
standards. In 1988, Nigeria was reported to have a rate of 8
deaths in every 1,000 births, which was unusually high even
for a Third World country.(Singman,McLean p40)

The first formal event that an infant had to go through
was the ceremony of baptism. This is true for Christians in
today’s times as well. This was the single most important of
the rituals administered by the Church. Without baptism the
child could not enter into heaven. In those times Baptism
was so important that everyone was encouraged to learn the
basic words of the ritual. In Middle English the words were,

"I crystene thee in the nome of the Fader, and the Son and
the Holy Gost. Amen. The Christening would usually take
place a week within the birth of the child. It all depended
on how healthy the child was. In today’s times, everyone is
invited to the Baptismal celebration of their newborn. Back
then the godparents were summoned and the rest of the family
would proceed to the church without the mother being
present. The reason for that was because it was custom for
her not to enter the church prior to her own ceremony of"purification", which is supposed to cleanse her from the

3spiritual stain of childbirth. Today we are given two
godparents. They were given two godparents of the same sex
and one of the opposite. The godparent’s role in the child’s
life was a very important one. They were to play the role as
the religious instructors towards the child. (Singman,McLean
p41)

For the most part Baptism marked the child as part of
the church as well as society. Church and society were
considered to be equal. After this ceremony the child would
receive the most important symbol of its public identity: a
name. Just like today people had a wide variety of names to
choose from. Most of the names, however, were ones of saints
or those that had a French origin. The girls had very few
saints names to choose from so they choose anything
excluding the names of Mary or Martha.

Just like in any society during any period, the shape
of an infants life depended on its social background. The
mothers had no option of weather to get baby formula so all
medieval mothers breast fed for the first two or three
years. There was an interesting technique that was practiced
in medieval times. It was called "swaddling". This was done
because of the tenderness of the limbs, the child may easily
and quickly twist and bend and take abnormal shapes. To
prevent this the child’s limbs would be bound with strips of
cloth and other suitable bonds. This also kept the infant

4warm as well as out of trouble. During the first few years
of life the child was almost always under female
care.(Singman,Mclean