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How Long Would You Survive In Medieval Times?

A plague upon you!

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  1. 1. Winter a-cometh. How will you, a poor peasant, stay warm?

    Pieter Breugel The Elder, "Hunters In The Snow"
    I’ll turn on the heating
    I'll chop down the trees and use them for firewood
    With several layers of linen, wool, and leather, and sleeping six to a bed
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You'll need to dress up and huddle for warmth!

    The small fire in your shack won't provide much heat, so your only guaranteed protection during a harsh winter is several layers of clothing. You'll need to wear linen undergarments, with wool on top of that, and then leather to protect you from the rain and snow. If you get wet, tough – it's still warmer than taking your clothes off. Your shack is so small you're forced to share the bed with all your relatives, but this helps keep you warm. You can't just chop down trees – they belong to the lord of the land you live and work on. If you're lucky, the lord might offer you firewood during a festival when he is feeling charitable.

    You'll need to dress up and huddle for warmth!
    Via lucmedievalgarden.blogspot.co.uk
  2. 2. A plague is upon your village. How will you protect yourself?

    I’ll wear this mask containing a posy of protective flowers to stop the harmful germ.
    Via commons.wikimedia.org
    I’ll wear this mask containing a posy of protective flowers to stop the harmful germ.
    I’ll shut myself and my family up in our small room until it passes.
    Via upload.wikimedia.org
    I’ll shut myself and my family up in our small room until it passes.
    The doctor will give me a remedy.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
    The doctor will give me a remedy.
    I'll consult an astrologer.
    Via books.google.co.uk
    I'll consult an astrologer.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The only way to survive the plague is to not get infected.

    Plague swept across the world during the medieval period. The "Black Death" lasted from 1348–50 in Britain, and killed 30–45% of the population (in some villages, 90% of people died). Many "cures" were peddled by quack doctors, astrologers, and wizards, but none of them worked. The only way to survive was to avoid infection, and quarantining your family was the best option.

    The only way to survive the plague is to not get infected.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  3. 3. The crops have failed. What will you eat to survive?

    Pieter Breugel The Elder, "The Triumph of Death"
    I’ll eat the delicious red berries I’ve seen growing in yonder woods.
    I’ll eat the rats that plague our village.
    I’ll steal food from the lord’s manor.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You're going to need to eat the rats.

    Global crop failures led to the great famine of 1315–17, which killed millions of people. During a famine, medieval peasants would be forced to eat anything they could – including dogs, cats, rats, roots, even each other. Accidentally consuming poisonous vegetation during a famine was another risk. And if you were caught stealing from the lord, you'd risk punishment and even death.

    You're going to need to eat the rats.
    Via fineartamerica.com
  4. 4. You’ve got a bad infection in a wound on your foot, which has turned gangrenous. What will you do about it?

    Matthius Grünewald
    Wash it in the stream.
    Have it sawn off by the doctor, and then cauterized (burned) to kill the bacteria. I’ll be fine – I’ve got this piece of old rag to bite down on.
    Just ignore it and get on with things. It’ll get better on it’s own.
    Ask the witch for a remedy.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You'll need to have your gangrenous foot cut off.

    A serious, festering wound could quickly prove fatal in medieval times. Without antibiotic treatment to kill the bacteria, the infection would spread and destroy living tissue. Washing the wound at this point won't be enough, neither will a herbal remedy from the time, like white bryony. In order to survive, you'll probably need to have your foot amputated. The doctor will use a saw, and you will be awake during the operation – at least until you pass out from the pain.

    You'll need to have your gangrenous foot cut off.
    Via commons.wikimedia.org
  5. 5. You’re accused of being a witch. What do you do?

    en.wikipedia.org
    Deflect attention by accusing someone else of being a witch.
    Deny it!
    Put a curse on your accusers.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You're probably going to die, but you can try to blame someone else?

    Witch hunts peaked in medieval Europe between 1580 and 1630, as various Christian sects fought for supremacy. If you're accused of being a witch, your options are limited. A witch finder might prick you with his "jabbing needle" – if you screamed, you were innocent. Except the needle was retractable so it didn't hurt. You'd then be drowned, burned, or hanged. Your best bet might be accusing someone else of being a witch and hoping the witch hunters go after them instead. But tbh they'll probably just put you both on trial.

    You're probably going to die, but you can try to blame someone else?
    Via pendlewitches.co.uk
  6. 6. A great fire is raging through the town! How do you get it under control?

    I've got this one bucket of water – that should do the trick.
    Via commons.wikimedia.org
    I've got this one bucket of water – that should do the trick.
    I'll use gunpowder, axes, and fire hooks to create a firebreak so it can’t spread.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
    I'll use gunpowder, axes, and fire hooks to create a firebreak so it can’t spread.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Water will only get you so far – you're going to need gunpowder, axes, and fire hooks.

    You'll need to get a lot of people in the town to form a chain from the river to the fire, passing buckets of water along it. But even that won't save you. The most effective way to fight a fire raging through a medieval town would be using gunpowder, axes, and fire hooks to destroy the wooden houses in its path, depriving the fire of its fuel.

    Water will only get you so far – you're going to need gunpowder, axes, and fire hooks.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  7. 7. Where will you get fresh drinking water?

    Hieronymous Bosch, "The Garden of Earthly Delights"
    From the stream
    From the well
    From the tap
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You'll need to draw fresh water from the well

    Streams and rivers could be contaminated by dead animals, tanning, sewage, and other pollution. The tap won't be invented until the 19th century. As long as you have access to a deep well, you should be OK.

    You'll need to draw fresh water from the well
    Via medievalists.net
  8. 8. A drunk man is giving you a nasty look in the tavern. What do you do?

    Pieter Breughel The Younger, "Battle of Carnival and Lent"
    Leave quietly
    Confront him
    Buy him a drink
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Get the hell out of there!

    Tavern brawls were a frequent occurence in medieval times. They were bloody and brutal, and everyone would get involved. You might be started on by the tavern owner for underpaying, or for giving him a rude look. Or a drunk punter might get rowdy. Your best bet is to get out of there quickly and quietly before someone (it could be you) gets killed.

    Get the hell out of there!
    Via Pieter Brueghel the Younger / sothebys.com
  9. 9. How many children will you have?

    Pieter Bruegel The Elder, "Children's Games"
    1–2
    3–4
    5–8
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    You want to aim for 5–8.

    With the child mortality rate at around 25% in the first year, you'll need to have several children in the hope that at least some survive to adulthood. This is essential, as from the age of about 7 they'll help around the home, and by 12 will start work seriously, either farming the land or learning the family trade. But having too many children survive could be costly too, and child abandonment was rife at the time.

    You want to aim for 5–8.
    Via Pieter Bruegel The Elder

How Long Would You Survive In Medieval Times?

You'd die before you were 12

You wouldn't last long in medieval times, sadly. It was a brutal era – don't take it personally.

You'd die before you were 12
themystique.net
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You'd die at around 18

You've had sex, got married, had kids – life's just getting good! But then you get the plague and there's just no coming back from that.

You'd die at around 18
medievalists.net
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You'd make it to your 30th birthday!

Life expectancy for a peasant in medieval Europe was around 28 to 35. So getting to 30 was impressive. Well done you for making so many good life choices!

You'd make it to your 30th birthday!
medievalists.net
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