Year 8: Week 1: Life and Death in Medieval Europe

Dear Year 8 Students,

I hope that you are all well and that you and your family are staying safe and coping well with the shutdown. 😐 

This post will provide you with all the work that you will need for the first week of remote classes. You can also go to our Compass Lesson Plans to find day by day lessons and to our Teams Channel for a chat.

Don’t forget that you can email me with comments and questions any time at You can also leave a comment or a question on this post by clicking on Leave a Comment above. 

All the very best from Ms Green

Lessons 1 and 2: The Life of the Common People in the European Feudal System

Introduction: These two lessons will help you to gain an understanding of the social hierarchy of Medieval Europe, which is now known as the Feudal System. Most people within it (about 90%) were peasants. Some of these people were bonded to their lord. This means that they were almost like slaves. They were called serfs (or sometimes villeins).

First, download this handout and type into it. You will need to visit the links below in order to complete it. Work through each task in order. The last task requires you to watch the (slightly yucky and mucky) video embedded below the links.

Once you have completed the worksheet, tackle this online quiz: The Life of Medieval Peasants. Save a screen capture of the final summary page to your history folder.

Video: The Worst Jobs in History: Making a Wattle and Daub Cottage

Lesson 3: The Impact of the Black Death

Introduction: As you will have noticed through your personal experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the outbreak of a disease changes societies. A pandemic leads in the short term to anxiety, panic and sometimes prejudiced behaviour. In both the short and the long term, it can also have an impact on the way a society is organised and governed. The Feudal System (see Lessons 1 and 2 above) was already in decline before the Black Death struck Europe in 1348-9. The death of millions of peasants was to be a crucial factor in weakening this system further in the long term. Moreover, the beliefs that people held before the outbreak, including their religious beliefs, were shaken by this horrific experience.

Task 1: First, read two sources about the impacts of the Black Death.

Task 2: Write answers to these questions in your workbook or type them and save them to your history folder.

Try to use words like these in your answers: questioning, crumbling, weakening, breakdown.

  1. What happened to the old manorial system? (PDF1, page 401)
  2. What did the serfs (bonded peasants) do as a result of the Black Death? (PDF1, page 401)
  3. What effects did the Black Death have on the Feudal System? (PDF 2, page 316)
  4. How did the Black Death influence people’s attitudes to the Church and to established beliefs? (PDF2, page 314 and page 317)

Lessons 4+5: Disease in History

Introduction: In these two lessons, you will be exploring the impact of diseases in human history. This is not the first time that a pandemic has swept around the world. As you now know, the Black Death destroyed millions of lives. One of the most fatal diseases in the history of humankind was smallpox, thought to be responsible for perhaps 90% of the deaths of indigenous peoples in South America and conceivably 50% of Australia’s indigenous peoples. The worksheet and the video below provide an overview of this theme.

Task 1: Read this worksheet, titled Disease in Human History.

There are many difficult words in the video that you are about to watch. This worksheet will prepare you for all these tricky words and make the video easier to understand. Download the worksheet and read it through before watching the video.

Task 2: Watch this video: Crash Course History: Disease in Human History, embedded below.

Turn on the English subtitles and, if possible, slow down the video slightly. John Green speaks very fast! You might also install a YouTube speed controller like this one to make this video easier to follow.

Stop and start the video as often as you wish. Highlight the words and phrases on the worksheet as you watch the video. This will help you to focus on the key words.

Video: Crash Course History: Disease in Human History

Task 3: Complete the sentences on the bottom half of the worksheet, using the words provided.
Save your handout into your history folder.

Task 4: Hypothesise about the future…

Write or type a paragraph about how you believe the experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic might affect human societies in the long term. Contemplate what you know about the Black Death (a disease with a far higher mortality rate) and consider the possible changes to our society, medical system, ways of thinking, travel, interaction and work.

The long term means not this year or even next year, but ten, twenty or even fifty years from now. Use the questions below to consider your answer, but feel free to go beyond them in your hypothetical thinking.

• What might governments do to protect us from diseases like this in the future?
• How might individuals and their families prepare themselves for the long-term future?
• What might scientists and doctors focus on, investigate and develop?
• What kinds of inventions and innovations might gain popularity?
• How might our belief systems and ideas about ourselves, our countries and our world change?
• Might governments consider introducing a guaranteed income to protect people against such crises in the future?

When you have typed your paragraph, add it as a comment to this post. I look forward to reading your thoughts and I shall write a response.  💡  Warm regards from Ms Green

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Becoming a Timelord

Dear History Students,

I hope that many of these speech bubbles will be filled with your words and your ideas!

Welcome to the subject of History and to your new year at school! I hope that you make new friends and enjoy all the experiences that our school has to offer. In particular, I wish you the very best in my class and I look forward to hearing your comments and reading your ideas about the past — and the present.

As you know, we have no choice but to experience our lives in chronological order, from birth to death. When we take on the role of historians, however, we can dip into the history of humankind at any time and in any place.

I like to imagine that, in this role, we all become rather like timelords who, even without a tardis or a time machine, somehow manage to wander into other societies where mysterious people lived. These people were like us, yet also different from us in intriguing ways. As historians, we encounter their suffering, their hopes and their dreams. In the process, we both discover their stories and enrich our own.

I hope you will enjoy this journey through space and time. The activities and the presentation below will introduce you to many vital details about history and prepare you for the adventure ahead.

Kind regards,

Roslyn Green

Materials, Links and Videos for Your First Experience as a Time Traveller



Online Quizzes and Activities:


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Renaissance, Rebirth, Rinascimento

Florence • Commonly considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance

Here I am as the Mona Lisa. Sigh. I don’t think the mysterious smile and the intriguing eyes have quite worked in my version…

Dear Year 8 students,

The Mona Lisa • Leonardo da Vinci • Wikipedia

Right now, you are working your way through adolescence, a period when children turn into adults, become increasingly independent in thought and action, and begin to question all that they have ever been told. In a way, the Renaissance was rather like that. The word Renaissance means “rebirth”.

During the Renaissance, people began to rethink and reconsider all the ideas that had been accepted and assumed for centuries. There were new ideas in art, science, literature and other fields of human endeavour. Of course, in those days, ideas and movements did not spread with lightning speed as they do now in our intensely connected world. The ideas and the achievements of the Renaissance developed over centuries, beginning in Italy and spreading from there all over Europe.

Albrecht Dürer - Hare, 1502 - Google Art Project
Albrecht Dürer – Hare, 1502 – Google Art Project • An example of the growing interest in the natural world that developed during the Renaissance
Over a period of more than two centuries, artists gradually became more and more intrigued by the nature of human beings, human and natural beauty, anatomy and the natural world. They created art with several themes that artists would not have considered earlier: portraits of wealthy people (often clutching books to show their intelligence and education); detailed prints and paintings of plants, animals and landscapes; scenes and  buildings in which careful attention to the rules of perspective is evident. Later, artists began to paint ordinary people involved in everyday pursuits, such as children playing games or peasants at a wedding. There were still many religious paintings, but other central ideas became evident.

Many fields were affected by these new trends. Sculpture and architecture changed and developed dramatically as well. Writers began to employ their mother tongue and tell stories that revealed the lives of ordinary people. Scientists and astronomers started to question the long-accepted ideas of the Church and to base new theories on experimentation rather than on “deduction from fundamental principles”. The scientific method as we now know it was born.

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli • Wikipedia

This was certainly a time when creativity flourished, yet there was also a reaction against new ideas. Alongside those who embrace change in any historical period, there are also others who fear the effects of change on their belief systems and way of life. The leaders of the Catholic Church, for example, were deeply suspicious of many Renaissance ideas, did not allow dissection and accused scientists of heresy. For fear of scorn or punishment, Copernicus did not publish his theory about a sun-centred universe until late in his life. Galileo was accused of heresy after supporting this view of the universe and placed under house arrest for the last few years of his life. Botticelli, the artist who gave us “The Birth of Venus”, even burned some of his paintings because of his fear that they were sinful and wrong. Even within a single human being, there was sometimes a conflict between the desire for change and the fears that change brought.

All in all, this period was an absorbing and ground-breaking time.  Some people pushed forward into the future; others yearned for the old ways. 

As you grow older, your thinking will become more independent and questioning, like that of many people during the Renaissance. There may also be a small part of you that yearns for the security of childhood. During the time of upheaval and change of human history that we now call the “Renaissance”, there were also those who cast a lingering look back at the past.

All the best for next year!

Ms Green

Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance 

Handouts and Activities

Handout – Jigsaw Activity: Medieval versus Renaissance Sculpture  

This handout provides two jigsaws of a medieval sculpture, Crusader and His Wife, and the Renaissance sculpture Pietà by Michelangelo. After completing the sculpture (in pairs if you like), select which adjectives relate to each:

stiff • rigid • flowing • expressive • rounded • angular • charming • childish • realistic • moving • eye-catching • life-like • religious focus • upright composition • triangular composition

Then write a short paragraph contrasting the two sculptures. These sentence starters might help:

  • While the “Crusader and his Wife” sculpture is…, Michelangelo’s “Pietà” is…
  • In contrast to the “Pietà”, the medieval sculpture titled “Crusader and his Wife” is…
  • Whereas the “Pietà” depicts…, the medieval sculpture shows…
  • The composition of the two sculptures is different in the following ways: …
  • The clothing of Mary and Jesus in the “Pietà” is …, while the clothing of the “Crusader and his Wife” is…

♦ Quick Quiz on Renaissance Flashcards (based on Online Activity 1 below)

Online Activities

1 Flippity Flashcards | Quick Bingo

2 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 1

3 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 2

4 Searching for Alternative Monas

A Pinterest board that might inspire you 

My former students’ Mona Lisas 

Live Science website on the Mona Lisa

5 Some Great Minds of the Renaissance:

6 Other Recommended Links

7 Recommended Films

♦ Film on the Medici family and the birth of the Renaissance in Florence

Please note: There is a rather gruesome opening to this. In my experience, most students are less sensitive to blood and gore than I am, but avoid the first minute if you become faint at the sight of violence, blood or unbridled ambition.

♦ Khan Academy: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

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