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Questions tagged [middle-ages]

The Middle Ages is a periodisation of European history, encompassing the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century.

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103 votes
9 answers
25k views

Why did archery not make a comeback when armor was phased out in the 18th century?

Even if we account for the argument that it is much more tedious to train a man to use a bow than a musket, why then did the arbalest not make a comeback? Its effective range - reportedly at 300m, is ...
Evil Washing Machine's user avatar
103 votes
7 answers
196k views

Why was Poland spared from the Black Death?

The featured image of the Wikipedia page for the Black Death is a gif showing the spread of the bubonic plague throughout Europe. There are a few places where the plague never spread to, including the ...
TenthJustice's user avatar
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84 votes
5 answers
20k views

Did medieval stores have names?

Re-posting this question of mine from the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange: I know it's common for shops and stores to be named in D&D and other fantasy settings, but how common was that practice in ...
Adamant8765's user avatar
81 votes
2 answers
19k views

How much smaller were medieval farm animals in England than today?

According the Medieval Life and Times website, Farm animals were small, for scientific breeding had not yet begun. A full-grown ox reached a size scarcely larger than a calf of to-day, and the ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
78 votes
1 answer
20k views

What drugs were used in England during the High Middle Ages?

It's well known that alcohol was brewed and drunk throughout the Middle ages in England, but I wonder what is known from archaeological evidence and contemporary sources about what other drugs were ...
Jack Aidley's user avatar
71 votes
4 answers
18k views

Why Were Madagascar and New Zealand Discovered So Late?

Considering how exploration over long distances into the unknown has been a part of human nature right at the beginning, it's surprising that some fairly large places have been discovered relatively ...
JohnWDailey's user avatar
69 votes
3 answers
18k views

Did slaves have slaves?

Was there anywhere in history where the enslaved were able to enslave others? Was there a slave hierarchy? I read the slavery wikipedia entry, it mentions that in various cultures people retained ...
Amethyst Wizard's user avatar
63 votes
16 answers
22k views

What were the reasons for the Renaissance / scientific revolution in Europe?

One of the common reasons given for the Renaissance and the subsequent scientific revolution is the rediscovery of classical works by scholars in Europe and the social change that the study of those ...
Opt's user avatar
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63 votes
12 answers
17k views

Is it true that slavery was endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa previous to the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

Stefan Molyneux claims in The Truth About The Crusades that: Islam dominated slave trade between the 7th and the 15th century, while the Christians entered the market of human flesh much later - ...
Luís Henrique's user avatar
60 votes
6 answers
18k views

Was England called England in the days of King Arthur?

King Arthur is a legendary king who is said to have ruled Britain in the early days of post-Roman Britain. Now Thomas Malory's famous novel "La Morte D'Arthur" puts the following inscription on the ...
Keshav Srinivasan's user avatar
55 votes
4 answers
12k views

Was hay invented only in the Middle Ages in Europe?

I stumbled upon the following remark from Freeman Dyson: The most important invention of the last two thousand years was hay. In the classical world of Greece and Rome and in all earlier times, ...
asmaier's user avatar
  • 611
49 votes
7 answers
14k views

Why did Europe not see Roman-era numbers of men participating in battles until the 17th century?

Typical decisive battles in Roman times involve 4+ legions - around 20,000 men + auxiliaries giving a total of about 30,000 men, on the Roman side only. Battles in even the late middle ages and early ...
Evil Washing Machine's user avatar
48 votes
2 answers
9k views

Did cows in Medieval times have calves in spring or all year round?

I'm a Dairy Educator and want to learn about milking and cows in Medieval Times. I suspect that cows had calves only in spring, like most livestock. Am I correct? Would Medieval people drink the ...
Sherry's user avatar
  • 481
48 votes
3 answers
6k views

What was the typical peasant's diet like in Europe during the High Middle Ages?

I know that wheat, barley, rye, onions, lettuce-like plants and turnips were common but how common were other things like meat or cheese? I've heard the "plowman's lunch" was a concoction of the dairy ...
user avatar
43 votes
12 answers
16k views

Were Medieval Britons aware of the existence of the Roman Empire?

I would like to know if the medieval people in Britain, by around 800 AD, knew that there was an empire that ruled Britain several hundreds of years before. Otherwise, were there any myths, legends, ...
Ricky Youssef's user avatar
43 votes
2 answers
8k views

When did the Roman Empire fall according to contemporaries?

The Roman Empire divided itself into two parts, the Eastern Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople and the Western Roman Empire headquartered in Rome. The city of Rome itself fell in the year ...
Keshav Srinivasan's user avatar
43 votes
3 answers
5k views

Is there any proof that Robin Hood existed?

Is there any written proof/documentation that Robin Hood ever existed? Did he ever get arrested and got his name written in the prison books or something like that?
Daniel's user avatar
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42 votes
4 answers
11k views

Has an heir ever made the country believe the current ruler died in order to take over the throne?

Before the invention of the semaphore and the telegraph, a message couldn't travel faster than the speed of a horse (or maybe a messenger pigeon or something along those lines - still pretty slow). ...
Maurycy's user avatar
  • 523
42 votes
6 answers
15k views

What is the pre-schism Christian church called today?

I've come upon numerous instances where a pre-11th century person or artifact is associated with either the Orthodox or Catholic church. The most recent example is in Francis Fukuyama's "The ...
user3209815's user avatar
41 votes
2 answers
9k views

‘Avoid sleeping on your back’ & ‘breathe in toilet smells’ were seen as precautions against the Black Death. Why did doctors think these would work?

Browsing a school book, Medieval Britain by Brenda Williams, I came across three precautions recommended by doctors to help people avoid going down with the plague. These were: cover windows avoid ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
41 votes
9 answers
25k views

Where did Medieval Europe's gold come from?

Medieval Europe processed copious amounts of gold into religious artifacts, jewelry and of course gold coins, as evidenced by the large number of those that survive to this day. Given that today, no ...
user avatar
40 votes
3 answers
22k views

Did medieval peasants work 150 days a year?

The following meme arrived in my inbox. Peasants in the medieval era worked just 150 days a year on average. The church believed it was crucial to keep them content by making frequent required ...
DJClayworth's user avatar
  • 1,450
40 votes
3 answers
5k views

What was the status of Arab Christians during the crusades?

Did Arab Christians take an active role in the crusades in the Holy Land or at any point on their trip to the Holy Land. Or were they victims of the crusaders? Did the crusaders typically ...
YUASK's user avatar
  • 1,399
40 votes
9 answers
76k views

How severe were the casualties in ancient/medieval battles?

I've heard that in most battles prior to the introduction of gunpowder weapons, the casualties were usually very low (around 5% even in long battles) prior to the moment when someone's formation was ...
Pavel's user avatar
  • 1,108
40 votes
1 answer
4k views

What were the acceptance criteria in universities of medieval Europe?

Did they have entrance tests? Were certain groups officially banned from entering? How much did one have to pay? Did they have scholarships for talented studends? How these criteria differed between ...
Vanessa's user avatar
  • 2,636
39 votes
3 answers
10k views

What did people in 13th century England know about Greek mythology?

I understand this may depend on various factors, but I am interested to find out whether many/some/any people in 13th century England would have knowledge of the stories out of Greek mythology. ...
celkie's user avatar
  • 565
38 votes
4 answers
14k views

How would a king's servants prove that they are on a task given by the king?

How would servants of kings, lords or so on, prove that they are on some task given by their lord if someone were to question them? I imagine a letter written by a ruler would be enough for those who ...
Jomppexx's user avatar
  • 483
38 votes
4 answers
15k views

How literate were common people in Medieval Europe?

I stumbled upon a youtube video some time ago about literacy in Medieval Europe. The guy argues that probably at least one person per household was able to read - contrary to common belief. His ...
Ron's user avatar
  • 577
38 votes
4 answers
19k views

How did Medieval armies survive the use of mail armor in the deserts of the Middle East?

Something that has long puzzled me is the use of full mail hauberks and the like in the Crusades. How did Crusaders and their various enemies avoid cooking inside their armor? I know many of them ...
user avatar
37 votes
11 answers
16k views

Did archers synchronize fire? Why?

I noticed that in medieval movies and TV shows, when there is a big battle happening, groups of archers always synchronize their firing. I was wondering whether this is something that writers made up ...
Caesar's user avatar
  • 853
36 votes
6 answers
9k views

What was the point of horse armour?

From my knowledge (and please correct me if I'm wrong), horse armour wasn't very thick (0.4mm-1.9mm) according to the paper in the link: How thick was late medieval horse armor? Even without ...
BobSpongepantssquare's user avatar
36 votes
9 answers
6k views

At what point was the Byzantine Empire's decline irreversible?

I've heard various arguments that the Byzantines were dealt the mortal wound at Manzikert in 1071 which allowed the Turks to claim most of Anatolia and set the stage for the later sacking of ...
user avatar
36 votes
10 answers
17k views

Why did only the English adopt, evolve and use the longbow en masse in war?

The bow was a relatively common weapon on dark age battlefields as Harold's arrow in the eye at Hastings will attest. But shortly after is was largely superseded by the crossbow, partly because pretty ...
Bob Tway's user avatar
  • 4,255
36 votes
2 answers
12k views

How common were marital duels in medieval Europe?

On social media, I came across a post claiming that in medieval Germany spouses could settle a divorce outside of court, civic or religious, through trial by combat! Naturally, I was shocked (the ...
YokedSinger8062's user avatar
36 votes
2 answers
6k views

How were drawbridges and portcullises used tactically?

How were drawbridges and portcullises used tactically? I was recently asked why medieval castles would have both a drawbridge and a portcullis. After giving an explanation, I realized that it was just ...
ConanTheGerbil's user avatar
36 votes
3 answers
4k views

Who believed the earth was flat?

Christians are sometimes mocked for having once believed the earth was flat. However, the only references I can find are Lactantius in the beginning of the 4th century, and Copernicus, who says ...
jdj081's user avatar
  • 615
36 votes
2 answers
16k views

Did the Pope's crossbow and archery bans have any effect?

One of the more famous and certainly curious decisions at the Second Council of the Lateran in 1139 was a ban on using missile troops against Christians. Specifically, Canon 29 states that: We ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
35 votes
2 answers
7k views

How kind were the Muslim occupations of North Africa?

I grew up in Egypt and although I was raised in Muslim-majority country, I am atheist now. In history classes we were told a doubtful story: The Muslims would have been kind and merciful invaders ...
K. M.'s user avatar
  • 481
35 votes
4 answers
11k views

How were medieval castles built in swamps or marshes without draining them?

By this, I mean a castle built without terraforming or draining the swamp; a castle that was built while keeping the swamp intact. Inspired by Monty Python Since apparently, castles built in marshes ...
Li Jun's user avatar
  • 1,033
34 votes
2 answers
8k views

How did cities operate in medieval times?

Modern fiction is often filled with fantasy versions of the Middle Ages, from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones, and everything in between, but how did the reality of this trope operate? There ...
Django Reinhardt's user avatar
34 votes
4 answers
6k views

How much would 300 pounds (money value) weigh in Medieval England?

I remember reading a Robin Hood story as a child where the Sheriff of Nottingham rode though Sherwood forest, as I remember foolishly going alone, and Robin Hood robbed him of 300 pounds. And I ...
MAGolding's user avatar
  • 19.3k
33 votes
4 answers
10k views

Were there any travel restrictions during the Black Death pandemic?

From the Wikipedia article Black Death: The Black Death, also known as the Pestilence, Great Bubonic Plague, the Great Plague or the Plague, or less commonly the Great Mortality or the Black Plague,...
Mikael Dúi Bolinder's user avatar
33 votes
2 answers
6k views

What is the date and original source of this medieval picture?

While researching the history of chimneys, I came across this medieval image on two different sites, neither of which gives any details. Source: Dark Ages Project. The same picture can also be found ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
33 votes
2 answers
7k views

Is this medieval picture of hanging 5 royals showing an historical event?

I was reading up on medieval hanging and came across this picture. It shows five royals (kings? princes?) being hanged from trees, but the articles I read don't mention any royal hangings. I had a ...
bonzo-lz's user avatar
  • 1,304
33 votes
4 answers
56k views

In the Medieval period, how long would an average swordsmith need to forge an average sword?

Based on this question over in RPG, I'm trying to figure out how long it took to forge a sword in the Medieval/Renaissance smith to make swords. I am recalling a figure of about 9-12 months per sword,...
Pulsehead's user avatar
  • 715
32 votes
9 answers
13k views

Were there any high-ranking female soldiers during the Middle ages?

There are several fictional works describing female knights in a fantasy world, but do they have any real world counterpart? For example, a knight or a high-ranking female military officer during the ...
Zeick's user avatar
  • 865
32 votes
5 answers
14k views

How prevalent were recreational drugs in the ancient world?

A recent discussion about the Queen Mab Speech in Romeo and Juliet, prompted us to wonder whether Mercutio was on drugs. Which then led to the question of how prevalent recreational drugs where ...
SleepingGod's user avatar
32 votes
6 answers
8k views

Did Pope Urban II issue the papal bull "terra nullius" in 1095?

Countless sources claim that the origin of the term terra nullius is from a papal bull issued by Pope Urban II in 1095 called "Terra nullius". Here are a two: Pramod K. Nayar, The Postcolonial ...
Gaslight Deceive Subvert's user avatar
32 votes
2 answers
4k views

Did Muslim states hire Western European knights as mercenaries before the Crusades?

In the book Hattin by John France the following claim is made: The fighting qualities of western knights were widely recognized in the Mediterranean lands, and they were often employed even by ...
Felix Goldberg's user avatar
32 votes
5 answers
12k views

Why did the grip-centered viking shield fall out of use relative to the kite shields?

Did Normans have battle advantage with strapped kite shields over Saxons and Vikings with their grip-centered shield style of fighting? What often comes to my mind are battles like Hastings (1066). ...
Jotunn's user avatar
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