Mr. Ben Thompson
What would it be like to be a serf?
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to find out!
Europe in the year 1000 A.D.
The Setting:
• Despite this political,
linguistic and cultural
diversity, there were some
elements which gave unity to
the European continent:
• Religion and the written
culture. The religion practiced
throughout the continent was
• Trade, led to the exchange of
something more important
than goods: ideas.
Difficult Living Conditions
The living conditions of the
European population around the
year 1000 were very tough. Life
expectancy was short and those
who surpassed the age of 40 were
regarded as old people.
Mortality was very high. Wars
were numerous, diseases were
frequent and there were no
efficient remedies to fight them.
The population lived on the
products they cultivated and any
disaster -such as droughts and
floods- caused great famine.
More than half of the newborn
children died before their first
year and many women died in
Unsafe Medieval Times
During the 9th and 10th centuries, the European continent was the target of
new waves of invaders.
The Normans or Vikings originated in Scandinavia and settled in the British
Isles and Atlantic coasts.
The Magyars from the steppes created a kingdom in Hungary.
The Slavs, from the Russian plains, settled in eastern Europe and the
The Slavs
The Magyars
The Vikings
Medieval Society
Medieval society was organized
into three groups: nobles, knights
and peasants.
Nobles were people who were born
into wealthy families and/or
owned large sums of land.
Clergymen, included in the ranks
of nobility, were monks and
priests. They prayed to guarantee
the spiritual salvation of the
Knights were the owners of
weapons, and their mission was to
protect the rest of the population
in the event of an attack.
Peasants and other workers were
in charge of producing food and
necessary objects.
Serfs were the lowest of the low.
They were slaves.
Not all the knights had the same
wealth and power. There were
small, modest knights and rich,
powerful knights.
Knights were linked through
vassalage. This consisted mainly
of a ceremony in which both the
lord and the vassal took part.
The vassal paid homage to the
lord, that is to say, pledged
fidelity; the vassal was required
for life to help and support the
lord, especially in military
The lord committed himself to
protect the vassal and house him
in his dwellings or give him a
castle or territory. This donation
was called a fief, the term which
feudalism derives from.
Find out more about knights!
Peasants & Serfs
Peasants were dependant on a
lord (knight or clergyman), who
administered justice, charged
fines and collected taxes. The
peasants had to pay for the use of
the mill, presses, forges and kilns
which were the lord’s property.
However, all peasants were not
Most of the peasants were serfs,
that is to say, they depended on a
lord or monastery and could not
leave the lands where they had
been born. They worked the lands
of the lord without remuneration,
and they had to give the lord part
of their own harvest or a rent.
Other peasants were free. They
owned the lands they worked on
and did not have to pay for them.
A Medieval Village
Christianity During the Middle Ages
In Europe during the Middle Ages
the only recognized religion was
Christianity, in the form of the
Catholic religion. The lives of the
Medieval people of the Middle
Ages were dominated by the
church. From birth to death,
whether you were a peasant, a
serf, a noble a lord or a King - life
was dominated by the church.
Various religious institutions
became both important, rich and
powerful. The lives of many
Medieval people were dedicated to
the Catholic church and religion.
These are all detailed in the
following links all of which relate
to Middle Ages Religion.
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Now click here to take the quiz!
Feudalism Quiz
1. What is the term for the piece of land that
is awarded to a knight for his brave service
to a noble?
2. What is the term for a peasant who is
bound to his land?
3. Who is at the top of the feudal totem pole?
4. Who was the leader of the medieval
5. Name one group of people that invaded
medieval Europe.
Click here for the answers.
Quiz Answers
Vikings, Magyars, or Slavs
What would it be like to be a serf?