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Peasant families during medieval times lived horrendous lives. People who were born as peasants lived their entire lives as peasants with no opportunity to advance from this lowest rung of the socio-economic levels at the time.
Peasants had two types of work – they were either farmers or craftsmen. The farmers worked for the Lord of the Manor, who in turn worked for the Lord. During these times, the Lords owned large parcels of land, the equivalent of a county, by today’s measurements. Peasant farmers earned their keep by farming and harvesting their crops. They paid taxes to the Lord of the Manor in order to be able to live on his land. This tax was paid in crops. If there was any crop remaining, the farmers would use this as food for their family or to purchase supplies.
Peasant craftsmen were taught the trade by their parents. They made a living by creating things such as furniture and other necessities.
Both the farmers and the craftsmen lived in disease and bug infested huts made of straw, with thatched roofs and dirt floors. Often, manure was used to construct these huts. The “cottages” as they were referred to in those days had a main room and second room for sleeping. The main room contained the peasants’ meager belongings such as stools, chairs and often a wooden box to store their possessions. The second room housed beds made of straw, (which frequently had lice and fleas), where the entire family slept. If a peasant family owned any animals such as cows, pigs or chickens, they brought the animals inside their cottages overnight to avoid the animals dying from harsh weather conditions, wandering off, or being stolen. The family’s water supply was used for cooking, cleaning and to deposit waste. The water was a source of many diseases, illness, and ultimately death.
During medieval times, marriages were arranged and men were free to marry women, treat them as possessions and divorce them. Contrarily, women could not divorce their husbands. Women’s roles in the family were to raise the children and have a garden beside the cottage to grow food for the family. Children were asked to work inside the house until they were old enough to work in the fields with the rest of the family. Often, the entire family would work the field and leave infants unattended in the cottage. Many infants died from accidents as a result of being left alone.