This image, dated c1150, depicts officers receiving and weighing coins from taxpayers at the exchequer in Westminster, London. As today, medieval people were concerned about money and status. In the cities, people had all kinds of jobs: merchants, salesmen, carpenters, butchers, weavers, foodsellers, architects, painters, jugglers. And in the countryside it was not at all the case that everyone was an impoverished ‘serf’ (that is, ‘unfree’ and tied to the land). Many peasants were free men – and women – and owned their own land.


(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images).


This illustration from the codex of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, c1280, depicts two minstrels. It was found in the collection of the Monasterio de El Escorial. In the medieval period, minstrels earned a living playing music or reading poetry.

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This image from Tacuinum Sanitatis, a medieval health handbook, dated before 1400, depicts a peasant with her daughter gathering crops. Famine was a real danger for medieval men and women: faced with dwindling food supplies due to bad weather and poor harvests, people starved or barely survived on meagre rations like bark, berries and inferior corn and wheat damaged by mildew.

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In this image dated c1400, a servant is seen tasting wine before serving it at the table. He is watched by priests, bishops and a king. Contemporary sources suggest medieval people enjoyed a wide variety of cuisine, and were adventurous in their tastes: pasta, pasties and sweet and sour dishes were commonplace courtly dishes.

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This is a c1275 Franco-Flemish depiction of a couple taking baths in adjoining tubs. Contrary to popular belief, even in the medieval period hygiene was considered a sign that you were civilised. Most major towns boasted public baths, as did many private houses. Bathtubs were made using similar techniques to those used to craft wine barrels.

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In this image dated 1491, a physician is seen removing a stone from a patient's bladder. Just as we do today, people in the medieval period worried about their health and what they might do to ward off sickness, or alleviate symptoms if they did fall ill.

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This 1491 woodcut from Jacob Meydenbach's Hortus Sanitatis (Garden of Health) depicts an apothecary using a pestle and mortar to extract tyriac from snake flesh while the snakes are eating birds and their eggs. In the medieval period, tyriac was used to treat poisonous bites. Other unusual medieval remedies included snails, owls and liquorice.

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This c1250 image depicts a medieval knight surprising a lady in her bath.

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This c1340 illustration from the Romance of Alexander in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, depicts clothes infected by the Black Death being burnt. The Black Death was thought to have been an outbreak of the bubonic plague, which killed up to half the population of Europe.

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This 1390-1400 illustration from Tacuinum Sanitatis - an illuminated medical manual found in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris - depicts a woman waving a stick at a dog drinking the whey from some freshly made cheese. Meat, cheese and cereal crops dominated the medieval diet.


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