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5 things you did not know about medieval towns

1. there is no medieval town

Many will assume that „middle ages“-village or medieval town is a reasonable concept. It is not. The middle ages stretch roughly from 500-1500 AD. Also the planet is big. I will only talk about Germany, because that is what I researched.

if you’d rather stop being a eurocentric fool, like I still very much am, maybe start by watching this greatly entertaining introduction to the middle ages (at least including Arabic world too)

It was not until 1100AD before the development of Three-field system allowed for permanent farming settlements to become widespread: before that people often lived in a town for a few years until the ground was depleted and abandoned their town to move on. These „modern“ techniques let the ground be repopulated with nutrients, thus makeing permanent farming possible.

2. you couldn’t leave

feudalism ment serfdom and that ment being bound to the land your parents have been appointed to by the landlord. While there were free people, most people in medieval germany lived as farmers in serfdom.

3. no one did leave

small late medieval farm

most townsfolk never left their town. And farmers made up 90% of the population.

4. life was hard a different way

A peasant worked less then a modern man . (or so a monk complaint about lazy pasents) There were long stretches of piece and if you survived childhood you lived well into your 40s. Food was good (fresh,all organic and local). There was a stretch of very mild climate in the middle ages , leading to good harvests. But also one misharvest and you might starve. Store you food wrong and you will starve in winter. Especially surviving in winter was not easy for the common volk.

5 being a women was a different kind of shitty

Men and women both had to work out of necessity. Modern day (or 1950s) gender roles where not around. Opression of women still was very real, but different from modern days.

closing words

This article aims to be useful in the context of tabletop rpg. Realism is a futile endevour, we lost a lot of knowledge about the middle ages. Also truth might not be fun to play. Heroes want to go on adventures, not be bound to land.

thanks to all the kind folks over at reddit who pointed out mistakes, that I will continue to fix.


2 Kommentare zu „5 things you did not know about medieval towns

    1. there are have been towns in that timeframe. but there isn’t one kind of settlement during the whole timespan. Just like there is not „french music“ but a lot of different kinds of music made by french people


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