Why Life During The Dark Ages Sucked

Why Life During The Dark Ages Sucked

October 15, 2019 100 By Ewald Bahringer


This episode is brought to you by Skillshare. The first 1,000 people to sign up using the
link in the description will get their first 2 months free. The surviving Western Roman Empire is widely
recognized as having fallen on 4th September, 476 AD when Flavius Odoacer deposed Romulus
Augustulus and declared himself ruler of all Italy. However, Rome had been largely in collapse
for at least a century prior, and by the time of the last Roman emperor in the west, Rome
existed more by name than fact. The collapse of Rome left a power vacuum across
Europe, launching the continent into centuries of continuous warfare and cultural stagnation
known as the Dark Ages. Hello and welcome to The Infographics Show. Today we’re taking a look at what a day in
the life of the Dark Ages was like in ancient England. England or Britannia as it was known back
then had been only partially conquered by the Romans, who limited their advance at the
famed Hadron’s Wall. The Romans never fully subjugated the local
tribes, so with the fall of Rome, Britannia became a lawless free-for-all land of opposing
warlords and self-declared kings. For these early rulers, their kingdoms and
right to rule extended only so far as their soldiers could reach, and the hapless peasants
caught in the middle would often find themselves forced to pay taxes and tribute to separate
rulers who claimed their lands as their own. Governments didn’t exist at this time, and
government services didn’t consist of much more than armed soldiers coming by your door
to demand taxes. With the collapse of Rome, the entire European
continent experienced an economic crash, and major industries such as pottery making and
construction all but disappeared overnight. Without a strong centralized government to
print coins and enforce monetary policy, civilization across Europe returned back to bartering,
and taxes were collected in the form of trade goods, food, or even physical service in a
lord’s army. Feudalism eventually began to take root in
its most primitive form, with local lords granting parcels of land to favored soldiers
– typically cavalrymen as these elite soldiers of the era were much valued for their horses
since trained war horses became much rarer. When a local lord died, there were often no
clear lines of succession, prompting all-out war between the king’s surviving family and
other feuding nobles. Religion continued to spread across Europe,
Judaism and Islam competed with paganistic beliefs, but the young and still growing Christian
faith quickly garnered support across the continent. The example of Jesus standing up to authoritarian
Jewish elders in the New Testament resonated particularly well with peasants currently
under the heel of brutal lords. However, the clergy was not truly organized
yet, and the authority of the church, which was still based primarily in Italy, was not
fully recognized as far north as Britain. Different brands of Christianity appeared,
leading to interfaith conflict and further dividing of the population. The clergy was starting to emerge as a separate
social class, but they remained mostly independent from each other or any centralized control
structure. These early Christians helped to preserve
a great amount of ancient texts and knowledge that may have been lost forever to rampaging
barbarians, securing Roman books and manuscripts within their growing monasteries. Life for the average peasant was difficult,
dangerous, and tough. With the collapse of industry, most people
worked as sustenance farmers, growing enough to feed themselves and trade just enough excess
for needed goods such as metal tools. Wheat, barley, oats, and rye were staple crops
of the time, and they were supplemented by beans and peas. Apples, plums, berries, and various nuts were
eaten when in season, though the primary diet of a Dark Ages peasant was various cereal
crops ground into flour and made into bread. Locally caught fish and sometimes even deer
or wild boar were an occasional treat, but animal proteins were rare, with sheep raised
for their wool and milk and beef being too pricey for most people. People also consumed large quantities of very
weak ale as most drinking water was unsafe. Though popularized by myths, mead was actually
a very rare drink enjoyed mostly only by the elite. Skilled craftsmen such as blacksmiths were
extremely rare and highly valued, and the merchant or craftsmen guilds of the Middle
Ages did not yet exist. Education was all but nonexistent, with typically
only the clergy having the ability to read. Most nobles were illiterate. Farmers not only worked the land, but they
would also often be called up into military service during non-harvest times, with most
lords using conscripted armies rather than full-time professional soldiers. Medicine in the Dark Ages consisted mostly
of herbal remedies known as “wortcunning” in England. Practices such as leeching to remove “bad
blood” from an individual and superstitious use of “magical” remedies prospered, and
sadly most ailments became fatal. Yet some of the foundations of real medicine
were being rediscovered after the extinction of the Roman healing arts, with medical treatments
for things such as styes involving onion, garlic, wine, and various other ingredients
containing very effective antibiotic and antibacterial properties. Rudimentary surgeries were also taking place. An 11th century skull discovered in the Wharram
Percy medieval village showed that a heavy blow to the head had been treated by cutting
away part of the bone in the skull to relieve pressure on the brain. With the discovery of anesthesia over a millenia
away, we don’t care to consider just how painful such a procedure may have been. Across Europe, the fall of Rome had seen people
return to a mostly isolated lifestyle, with most people living in small communities or
farmsteads. Yet major cities and establishments did survive,
and settlements such as those near modern York even exploded in population. These primitive cities were fairly squalid
by modern comparisons, with none of that famed Roman plumbing or luxuries such as public
baths and waterworks. Refuse in the form of trash, dung, and rotting
timber were discarded directly onto the streets, and deposits built up at a rate of roughly
an inch a year. In these horrible conditions, parasites and
diseases proliferated, and the average life expectancy was a shocking 31 years. Violence, disease, and poor nutrition all
created a very high infant mortality rate, but if a child was one of the lucky few who
made it to 20 years, he or she could typically expect to live into his or her 40s. Life in the Dark Ages was often short, brutal,
and fraught with hardships. The fall of Rome created a power and cultural
identity vacuum within a continent that had for centuries identified itself solely as
Roman. And with Rome gone, vengeful barbarians rampaged
across the bones of the empire and effectively stamped out the last remnants of Roman society,
including its economy, law and order, and scientific knowledge. Yet the Dark Ages didn’t completely stop the
development of human civilization as is so often believed. Outside of Europe, life continued on relatively
unchanged, with mighty Eastern kingdoms rising and falling and the influence of the Islamic
Caliphs expanding across Africa and the Middle East. But for the average peasant of Dark Age Britannia
life remained a struggle for survival. Families had to fight to produce enough food
to feed themselves while often being brutalized by competing warlords or self-appointed lords. Life in the dark ages for a poor peasant was
tough- too bad they didn’t have Skillshare available to help them learn valuable life
and business schools to make a better living. Luckily though, you do, and with over 20,000
classes from Business Management to Art Design, there’s a class just for you. Skillshare is a perfect place to learn new
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Skillshare.com/ infographics34 or by clicking the link in the description will receive 2
months of skillshare absolutely free. Join skillshare and start learning today! What would you do if you were a peasant in
Dark Age Britain? What era of time would you like to have lived
in? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out our other video
called The Most Infamous Serial Killer – Why Was He Never Found?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, if you
enjoyed this video, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more great content! See you next time!