Group Name – The Black Death

Your topic is the role of the city and town in Medieval English life.

Discuss the development of the English city and the migration from the rural, pastoral life. What role did trade, commerce, the growth of cart and trade guilds play in the growth of these cities? How large were English cities? What was life like for the average city-dweller. How did houses, shops, streets look? Why your name?

Towns and Cities in Medieval Europe

How cities developed:
Only a few very small towns existed in Medieval Europe. A majority of the people were peasants, but
they were attracted to religious centers which would later develop into larger cities and towns. Some
of the largest cities were Lincoln, Canterbury, Chichester, York, Bath, and Hereford. Traders and
pilgrims were especially attracted to these cities, because they could make money from the people
that lived there.

Why the name?
After the Black Death town populations soared. The Black Death was a flea-born disease carr-
ied by rats on ships coming from the Far East. Signs of the disease were black tumors which
appeared in the armpits and groin of infected people. The Black Death caused more people to move to
cities and towns where you could travel by streets instead of by water.

Roles of Trade, Commerce, and Guilds
Towns and cities relied on trade. Merchant guilds controlled government and battled for power against
craft guilds. Merchant guilds had control of prices, quality, weights, measure, and business practices.
If you were kicked out of a guild it was nearly impossible to make a living. A seperate division from
merchant guilds were craft guilds. These controlled quality, working hours, and conditions of members.
Masters, journeymen, and apprentices were the three levels of craftsmen.

What did cities look like?
Cities could have anywhere from 10,000 to 300,000 citizens. Cities were surrounded by walls. Inside the walls were narrow winding streets that were poorly kept and often lined with garbage. Horse drawn carts held good that people wanted to trade. Small shops and houses were made of wood and thatched roofs also lined the streets. Houses had several stories to house more people. Fire was a main concern for these buildings. If you did not own your own shop you either worked in exchange for food and shelter or you begged. Towns started out organized, but as more people moved to towns things got cramped and streets were filled with sewage and garbage. Conditions continued to worsen as more people came to towns and cities to escape being serfs on manors.

Life of a City Dweller:
  • Daily life started between 4 and 6 A.M. and ended between 7 and 9 P.M.
  • The children were raised very obediently and parents were strict
  • Children were prepped for their adult life at a young age
  • Girls helped with the household and were educated in the home
  • Marriages were arranged by the parents for the interest of business connections
  • Young boys strength was stressed and they learned how to swim and ride horses, as well as study abroad

Medieval England
Medieval England Daily Life

This is an example of a medieval village in France.
This is an example of a medieval village in France.

Narrow cobblestone streets lined with tall buildings were very common.
Narrow cobblestone streets lined with tall buildings were very common.

These walls would surround towns and cities.
These walls would surround towns and cities.