The medieval London had only a few thousand residents. The city was surrounded by thick defensive walls. As the population grew, people settled down outside the walls, because lands in the city became expensive. However, when there was an attack, people retreated back inside the city to seek protection. Inside the city, Church, houses of the wealthiest citizens, and open square stood in the central of the city because of small space and expensive lands, two or three storey houses were established along the narrow streets. Those houses blocked out most of daylight.
The city environment was no sanitation. The city often smelled stench from animal and human wastes. People had to walk carefully along the streets because debris or rubbish was thrown out from the window. Air pollution was also the problem because woods were used everywhere in the city; moreover, cheap grades of coal were used by brewers, dyers, and people who could not afford to purchase woods.
It was dangerous in the city. Most building was built in wooden and candles were used to light in the night. When there was fire, it was difficult to control. The security was also the problem. Thieves and pickpockets scattered on the streets and even there were night patrols, it was hard because the streets were over crowded. Plague was a big threat to Londoner. Because of less sanitary, London had faced about 16 outbreaks and the most serious one was called the Great Plague in 1665.
The city provided many attractive activities. There were wrestling contests and visiting jugglers. Comedies and clowns attracted the children attention while guilds created plays based on the Bible stories.
Life in middle-age London is quite different. The rich could afford to buy the rich fashion clothes which made of leather or silk; whereas, the poor only wear the patches or repaired clothes. In addition, there was no law or form of supporting people who were no ability to work, so there were many baggers, only the church and religious convent placing their support.
Industry and Guilds
The revival of trade allowed London to become important centre of manufacturing goods and wide range of products. People had the right to create a guild or business association in the city. Particularly, guild consisted of merchants and artisans that governed the city. The first guilds were called the merchant guilds. The members of merchant guilds were the dealer in spice, wool, silk, or money (bank). They dominated prices and wages in the city and maintained the quality of products. As time passed, the artisans began to separate from merchant guilds and formed their guilds called craft guild.
Similar to merchant guilds, craft guilds set up the standard quality of the products. Specifically, they directed almost every part of the production process. Guilds of shoemaker, weavers, and blacksmiths managed the work hours and set prices and wages. Thus, craft guilds contributed to local church for repairing, provided money to needy members, and paid for party at the feast day. According to Beers (1993), Craft guilds set their goods in a just price, because according to the church, it was considered sinful to make money at the expense of other people (p. 184).
By late 1200s, craft guilds became restricting the membership. Only the person who could overcome and completed the arduous training would become a member. A boy between the ages of 7-10 could joint as apprentice. An apprentice learned to trade and craft skill from their master craftsman who also a guild member. The apprentices were not paid but they received room, clothes, and fed from their master (Beers, 1993, p. 184).
Women and Children
The women of medieval London managed to run their own businesses and do the household chores while some others often involved in trade activities. The richâ€™s daughters were married at young age to make family connection, but poorer women wait until the age of 20s because they had to save adequate money to set up a house with their husband.
Most children in medieval London didnâ€™t survive to their adulthood because they were vulnerable to the disease. In the free time, they played pewter toys and ice skates. In winter, they were knitted clothes to keep them warm. The families with more money could pay for their children to attend grammar school and study with parish clerk, while most poor children didnâ€™t have a chance to attend school.
In the 1100s, the church and the religious houses were the main culture inside London. People attended the church for whole week. Priest played their role in church by singing or saying in Latin. Many Londoners are the member of religious guild because when they became the member of the church, church would provide them in both social and financial helps.
In the 1100s and 1200s, a new style of literature emerged in Europe. Vernacular, the everyday language of people, was written by scholars in Latin. Today the vernacular languages are called Germanic languages. One of the popular forms of the vernacular literature was the chanson de geste which was the narrative poem portrayed the ideals of chivalry. Another English poet Geoffrey Chaucer also influenced vernacular literature. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer wrote about everyday life of town people (Beers, 1993, p. 187).
Centre of Learning
The universities were established by scholars for the associations of students and teachers. Before long, it was under the Church control. However, universities officials were members of the clergy and therefore answerable to the Church. University students learned the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, grammar, logic, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. They took examination to become a bachelor. They also trained for high position in the Church or in government.
Science and Technology
In the early middle ages, the scientific knowledge was largely forgotten. In science, the Church gave lecture to students about the universe. It was generally based on a few surviving classical works, yet it had many errors. Despite the lack in science and experiment, scholars made a crucial advance. They used Hindu-Arabic numerals to invent a new development in mathematics.
Great advances were the creation of technology. Windmill and waterwheel increased the food production, and later, follow by the invention of clock, glasses, and glass for windows. In late medieval, scientist began to make draw conclusion of the experiment that had long been used by alchemists, who combine philosophy and magical beliefs. Alchemistsâ€™ workshops were similar to today laboratories that consisted of container to store the liquid and smoking furnaces.
Physician were trained at universities for training and made some advances in medicine, which combined traditional remedies, superstition, and Christian beliefs. Many people believed that illness was the form of evil spirits or devil. Surgery was sometimes performed to release evil spirits.