Medieval Jobs

There is a whole lot of interest in what people did in the Middle Ages. What kinds of jobs did they have? What kind of work did they do? Some of this interest comes from the proliferation of Role Playing video games. In a lot of these games you can be a potter, blacksmith, Armorer, Miller and much more. It is quite fascinating and there actually were a whole lot of interesting jobs in the Middle Ages. I am going to give you a list of the more popular and well known ones. Then I am going to cover some that you might not know - and they are no less interesting. I also have a list of further reading at the bottom of this page.

Life on the English ManorThe Four Orders of Society During the Middle Ages

Of course, when you say "Middle Ages" it covers a thousand years and things changed over these centuries but generally there were four different orders during the Middle Ages:

  1. Clergy
  2. Nobles and Kings
  3. Merchant Guildsmen
  4. Craftsmen and Laborers

 

This article, for the most part covers the fourth category of Craftsmen and laborers.

Some of the well known Medieval Jobs

  • Miller
  • StoneMason
  • BlackSmith
  • Armorer
  • Falconer
  • Tailor
  • Carpenter
  • Plowman
  • Butcher
  • GoldSmith
  • MetalSmith
  • Groom
  • Squire
  • Page
  • SilverSmith
  • Grocer
  • Draper
  • Furrier
  • FishMonger
  • Baker
  • Weaver

 

Lesser known but no less interesing Medieval Jobs

  • Cooper - This is the profession of Barrel Maker
  • Cartwright - Cart Maker
  • Hayward or HedgeWarder - HIs duty was to inspect the fences and hedges around the meadows or gardens. And, A blast from teh Haywards horn signals the beginning of mowing or reaping.
  • Bailiff - Was hired by the lord to be his general overseer
  • Reeve - Was elected by the Peasants to be their representative
  • Brewer - Would make various alcoholic beverages, He would hang a green branch over his door which would signify that the brew was ready. I read an interesting anecdote about a brewer who made a bad batch of brew and was punished for it. They made him drink some of his brew and they poured the rest over his head. This is an official case. I wonder if the bailiff was involved in that.

Guilds

Guilds were a very important part of Medieval life and medieval jobs. They were bands of men and women that joined together for profit and mutual protection. Each guild revolved around a particular craft or the trade of a particular type of item. The Guilds established standards, set prices, and determined skills. A good example of this would be a merchant guild that dealt in wool.

Getting a job in a particular craft meant joining a guild and following the rules for craftsmanship and pricing. A young person could be given a job as an apprentice with a master craftsman. This wasn't a paid job however. It was often the case that the young persons family actually paid the master craftsman to take on the apprentice. After a period of time as an apprentice the young person could possibly be promoted to the position of journeyman. As a journeyman, he would now become an assistant to the master and get paid. He would learn the craft more fully. And eventually, if he had acquired the necessary skills, and had the money to pay his guild dues he could in turn become a master craftsman. This application to become a master craftsman often had some kind of a test where the journeyman would make something that showed he had fully mastered all aspects of the craft. This object was called a "Masterwork".

- There were basically two different types of guilds: The Merchant Guilds and the Crafts Guilds

Merchant Guilds: These were typically guilds of traders who were involved in the various aspects of trading items (commerce). They would typically purchase rights to trade from the king and would establish monopolies. they would set tolls and taxes on outsiders. Wool was one of the most vibrant types of merchant and a Merchant Wool Guild of a city or town would make rules that prevented outsiders from trading in wool. Some of the tasks of a merchant guild of this type would be to set the standards for weight of wool and the standards for price.

Craft Guilds: This type of guild is more well known in modern times and it is what we think of when we think of guilds. Craftsmen banded together to set prices and standards for their craft. They could be stone masons, blacksmiths, cooper or any of a wide variety of crafts where things were made.

RESOURCES

The lives of Two Medieval Women - I take a look at two women from the period of time after the black plague and before the Renaissance where life and society, and the roles of men and women began to change and form into the precursors of modern life.


Some very interesting books:

 

Daily Life in the Middle Ages

Daily Life in the Middle Ages

 

 

 

 

Medieval Life

DK Eyewitness Books: MEDIEVAL LIFE

Custom Search