Why You’d Never Survive Life During The Middle Ages
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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
stuff are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

100 Comments

  • Crystal Davis

    We know very little about the Middle Ages because history has been rewritten by the conquerors. History is a lie agreed upon there for what’s being said on this video is vanity.

  • sejdaren Ilmarinen

    bla bla bla bla….why does this idiot pretend to know shit? The number of childdeath cant be mesured but still they present numbers. Black death only existed in a short time period. Sure people died and it could be brutal and so on….but being born didnt mean you automaticly died from it before old age.

  • lord Weed

    In my family ancestry we had knights,also I have no allergies, (except latex)strong constitution. Graced with endurance, so my chances are pretty damn great!!!!! And I keep my mouth shut even while drinking when I rarely do.

  • Shade Green

    jokes on you…in a philosophical way i did survive the middle ages. i am a descendent of an unbroken line of humans, many of which survived the middle ages. at least they survived long enough to procreate, and their children survived long enough to procreate, so forth and so on, right down to my child

  • kindbudkudos

    thus proving that life is not real and we dont exist. its all fakery there never was a "middle age" and there is no you

    aint no planet x comin cuz aint no space cause aint not no globe earth

  • Fred Smurf

    Yea people love violence and elites love peasant servants. You can see this in the socialist and communist movements in the US and around the world where elite banker money counterfeiters drool over themselves donating millions to the latest socialist political candidate. The goal of these creeps is a Venezuela or North Korea dystopia where a small elite live like kings and the peasants work for a bag of rice a week and regularly kill people just for the entertainment value. Not much of a change from medieval times.

  • J Scott Upton

    So was "religion" responsible for killing people? Or was it BAD PEOPLE with POWER? Atheists killed 100's of millions in the 20th Century. Or bad people.

  • fuck you youtube

    The sentences of women not being allowed to have a job and so on are only half true. After the black death many women took up businesses, a lot also after crusades. Powerful women could chose who they wanted to Mary. There are a few accounts of women abducting men and making them their husband's.

  • Aquinasish

    Why You'd Never Survive Life During The Middle Ages…because no one cares about your preferred pronouns and your safe space.

  • MadMax382

    These horrors were in Europe, home of rats, frequent cannibalism and the Catholic Church. Medievalism ended with the Renaissance, in Spain and Italy at first, the nearest thing in Europe to Africa. The Middle Ages began at the fall of the pagan Roman Empire. European aristocrats had no conception of courtly behaviour and civility before the Crusades. Do you see a clear pattern emerging here? Diseased raping sailors from Europe managed eventually to wipe out ingigenous populations with their germs in many parts of the world, after trying to enslave them. From Africa they shipped slaves out to work their plantations elsewhere. Africa was the birthplace of man and civilization. The Romans learned from the Greeks, who learned from the Egyptians. European history starts with Greece. You see what I'm saying?

  • Julia Naylor

    Probably you would safer in the country than the town. Actually if you're a descent of these people you would probably be less likely to die from the plague if you went back in time, you would be likely to be somewhat immune to it due to be the descendant of survivers.
    Actually you went back in time, you would have to be careful about what you said, because you would be too educated and too liberal.
    Besides just knowing basic modern science would get you burnt as a witch or warlock nevermind you heratical beliefs from their point of view.

  • RaYzOr rAyZoR

    so if the time period was called "The Middle Ages", (and we all know what the "middle" of something mean), does this mean they already had prior knowledge of when the "End Of Ages" was gonna be unleashed ?

  • Iron Cross

    There’s a discrepancy in your video. If they needed the peasants to work the land, why were they systematically killed if they were on the losing side of a war? What are qualifications to be an authority on medieval history? I’m curious.

  • Jayna's Design

    Um, no. We have one of the highest infant mortality rates of the first world countries. Healthy children didn't suddenly drop dead of SIDS, they died at birth or after illness.

  • Guðbjörg Gísladóttir

    well…no one did survive life in the middle ages nor more than we do now-a-days… no one has ever survived life! Everybody dies.

  • aspen ivy

    Bigotry projected backwards. Question of the king Louis XIV. vomiting is not deadly only paying for it done correctly. And you show a picture of women giving birth the wrong way. Also it is guys who are morally weak. Just more how is a a goddess attribute. it is only now with male-to-female transgenders if they're seeking forbidden knowledge. Patriarchy has always been the deviant villain.

  • aspen ivy

    Despite the numbers you gave I violence against women to say when a doctor created dangerous birth are practically every third if not half the birth on television. Natural birth has always been orgasmic. it only became a problem when King Louis XIV and the guy who invented the forceps telling the lie down so you can take a look. Stop spreading misogynistic lie

  • Francesca Pucciano

    "middle ages" covered a time about 1000 years. Living durin VI century or in 1200 made a very big difference. So we could spread those conditions forward 1900

  • D Ttra

    Well my ancestors must have survived all of those horrible ordeals in the Middle Ages, at least long enough to create the next generation. I am the evidence of that.

  • RAMIR VILLANUEVA

    nice but how come there is stil a lot of wars where did the people came from after all the deaths why still looks os many soldiers

  • Ron Burgandy

    So many people today who think violence is at an all-time high mainly because they think the world is "god-less" need to see this video. I've been telling people for years we live in the safest times ever…

  • bradwatson7324

    I wonder whether your life expectancy during the Middle Ages would improve if you lived away from other people? People are the worst!

  • meg nemo

    I already know why I wouldnt have survived they would have burned me for being an intj female there's a reason there's only 0.8 percent of us now lol.

  • Ostap Bender

    Strong toxic masculinity flow through my veins! So I and my family are good to survive this PC BS and 100+ genders if they survived wild animals, conquerors, assassins, thief's, venereal diseases spread by loose women (majority of them where whores) at that day and age! It is great that puritanism today is coming from the left!

  • Gabriella Shimone

    Not all of that is entirely true. Granted, life for a peasant or even a craftsman was a great deal more strenuous and labour intensive however, peasants and craftsman often ate more healthy meals, often on simple pottery or wood which contained additional trace nutrients. For the most part, they worked hard and ate largely healthy meals- which included meat, just not cow or "exotic" animals and were often leaner meats than cow. Rabbit, squirrel, pigeon, wood grouse, fish, and the occasional old goat or sheep were definitely on their menus. Vegetables and herbs, the herbs often adding to their health, could be grown or foraged. Granted, a lot of them were root vegetables however, those contain a lot of vitamins and minerals essential to good health. Nowadays, especially in the US, the cost to eat food as actually healthy as medieval peasants ate is more expensive than foods that are more "manufactured". Also, more so for peasants and craftsmen (of which fishers and herdsmen are part) generally lived as long as 50-60 years and some as long as 70 or 80… if they survived past the age of five. Infant mortality and death related to child birth were far more common, yes, and there was no academic medical practice that was in any respect helpful or useful, which you did mention. Poorer folk often relied on folk medicine and hedge witches who were, in truth, merely practitioners of the old ways- herbal/natural medicines and salves that had been proven effective for centuries (read Eaters of the Dead which references Nordic folk medicines that have been proven to this day to be effective). There are a lot of misconceptions about the medieval era yet it wasn't quite as awful as you paint- except for the plague part. That was ruefully dreadful.

  • Redsky Mountaintop

    Then Martin Luther revealed the Bible to the masses and the civilized world started taking root. Roman Catholicism was the worship of pagan gods slapped with some Biblical names to make it sound authentic. They kept the masses poor and in bondage.

  • Oliver Welch

    my ancestors who lived in the middle ages survived the plague so that means i have an immune system that can fight of the black death so i cant get it thanks to them 🙂

  • Gökotta

    It's not true that women had no power. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The public sector is a product of the private. People like to complain about women's place back then, but then look at what men suffered through. Apparantly, life was hard. For everyone!

  • Brandi Guarino

    When ever I think of living in antiquity I think of 2 words and I know I’d NEVER make it…..Bladder Infection! Can you imagine? Women were dirty and had stressful births, no wonder women looked unhappy!

  • TangoX

    Well, you know, Millennials today have it really, really, rough too! Just think, every other Millennial suffers from a very virulent form of TDS. And there is no known cure for it.

  • Gerywyn Jones

    Better than micro plastics in your air,food and drink and better than carsinegines everywhere and radioactive fallout, better than eating ones own species in a matrix. (More fear of the devils in power than the will of God)

  • David Watkins

    What England needs now is a "faith based" political system, something worth working for, something worth believing in. That's all.

  • Michelle Misir

    Elizabeth I burned just as many Catholics as Bloody Mary burned protestants you may want to be more balanced in your next presentation

  • Frank deluca

    Why you and only you would not survive. What kind of man are you?? the kind i can not stand. A woman thru and thru so keep on douchin away and here is your like.

  • Bert Clayton

    The world is heavily populated today. So do we get another plague?
    Just curious if there was deliberate efforts bringing black plague in?
    If animals were a threat, surely they had means of protecting themselves.

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