A question about medieval society

The Hound

Explorer
All the books I've read on medieval European society tell how peasants lived in villiages near their lord's manor or castle, tilled his land, and gave so much of their produce to the Lord. Thus the countryside was presumably dotted with many small villiages and keeps/manors/small castles surrounded by agricultural plots. I realize that there was quite a lot of variation, but does anyone know how large a typical peasant villiage was, and how much land was owned by a typical lord for whom the peasants worked? Information/sources on England would be of the most interest. I'm trying to give a realistic flavor to a world.
 

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The Lost Muse

First Post
Check out "A Magical Medieval Society" by Expeditious Retreat Press for a very realistic (for a game) look at Medieval European society. It's kinda text-booky, but seems a perfect fit for what you're looking for.
 

Nyaricus

First Post
A European Manor has a manor house and a small village surrounding it, with a church, blacksmith, and mill at least. Each villagers house had a small plot of land to grow typical european foods (cabbages were one, I think) and there were great fields in the surrounding area which were all divided up very specifally. This was called the open-field system, and was divided us thusly:

Spring Planting
Fall Planting
Fallow Land

Spring Planting was for oats or barley, and that which could be harvested that year, Fall Planting was for crops which were harvested in the summer and planted in the fall - mainly, wheat or rye. Fallow Land was that land which was left undisturbed for the year, so as to recupriate from the never-ending agricultural cycle on these manors. These would be switched around at regular intervals (around every 3 years for normal land, but poor land might be switched every year). The fields were subdivided into long, narrow strips of land seperated by thin ridges of grass, created by plows. This was thus because moving around abig heavy plow was difficult, and so you wanted to go for as long and as straight as the land would allow, so one wouldn't have to continually turn around a team of 4-8 oxen and the heavy plowhead. These were fixed by generations of plowing. Each peasent owned a number of these strips.

There was also two subsets of the land, called the "Lords Demesne" (what you are talking about)and "Glebe Land", which were signifigant parts of the land. Basically, the Lords Demesne was for the lord of the land and his house, and the glebe land was for the parish priest and any of his acolytes. Basically, it was more than enough to allow a lord to live comfortably - and the Lord Demesne could either be an actual segment of field of large size, or interspersed in the other parts of the field.

I do not know the offical designation of how many inhabitants constituites a village, but according to Houghton Mifflin dictionary, a village is a "a small group fo dwellings in a rural area, usually ranking in size betweena hamlet and a town. A Hamlet is a small village and a town is a more centralized village - so more commodities, a Town Centre, Town Hall, etc. Around 1-200 inhabitants might do it, although the DMG has that thing for how amny people make up a vilage.

Anyways, this is all very steriotypical of a Western European Manor, England included. Hope that helped :)

EDIT: added a pic from a textbook of mine of a 'typical manor' - from A survey fo Western Civilization. And yeah, crappy quality, I took it with my webcam :p Any clarifications can be had, if needed.
 

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I'd encourage you to consult your local history teacher, history professor, or librarian, if you want to really learn about medieval England.

To get you started, a book called "Medieval Britain" by Lloyd and Jennifer Laing.

There's a comprehensive bilbiography in the back of Expeditions Retreat's Magical Medieval Society, and Harn Manor is also a good take on the subject of villages.

For historical fiction, I'd recommend Ellis Peter's Cadfael mysteries, some of which have been made into TV movies. A few titles of those: "The Leper of St. Giles", "Monks Hood", and "The Summer of the Danes".
 



Hussar

Legend
Something that tends to get lost in many of the campaign settings that I look at (and admittedly, I am not an expert), is that there is a decided sparcity of small towns. Sure, you have major centers, but, from that major center to the border of that land (be it a barony, duchy, kingdom or whatever) you will likely have a small hamlet or thorp, maybe only four or five houses, every 10 or 15 miles or so. Probably closer.

Looking at most fantasy maps, it looks like there are a couple of cities and then miles and miles of nothing.
 

Huw

First Post
Hussar said:
Something that tends to get lost in many of the campaign settings that I look at (and admittedly, I am not an expert), is that there is a decided sparcity of small towns. Sure, you have major centers, but, from that major center to the border of that land (be it a barony, duchy, kingdom or whatever) you will likely have a small hamlet or thorp, maybe only four or five houses, every 10 or 15 miles or so. Probably closer.

I live in South England, and even now there are some really tiny places. The TOWNS are 10 to 15 miles apart, and between each one are several smaller places. Between my home town (pop. 110,000) and the nearest city (pop. 40,000), which are 10 miles apart, there are several farms, 5 villages and a golf course. Basically, they're walking distance to each other.
 

Huw

First Post
Hussar said:
Something that tends to get lost in many of the campaign settings that I look at (and admittedly, I am not an expert), is that there is a decided sparcity of small towns. Sure, you have major centers, but, from that major center to the border of that land (be it a barony, duchy, kingdom or whatever) you will likely have a small hamlet or thorp, maybe only four or five houses, every 10 or 15 miles or so. Probably closer.

I live in South England, and even now there are some really tiny places. The TOWNS are 10 to 15 miles apart, and between each one are several smaller places. Between my home town (pop. 110,000) and the nearest city (pop. 40,000), which are 10 miles apart, there are several farms, 5 villages and a golf course. Basically, they're walking distance to each other.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Joseph & Frances Gies,
Life in a Medieval Castle, Life in Medieval City, Life in Medieval Village, A Medieval Family, Cathedral Forge and Water Wheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, Daily Life in the Medieval Times, Women in the Middle Ages, Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages, By the Sweat of Thy Brow: Work in the Western World*,
 

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