Year 8: Learning from Home 1: Life and Death in Medieval Europe

Dear Year 8 Students,

We 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 the work that you will need for the first week of remote classes. Some of you may still be finishing off your Black Death assignment. If so, the resources under Lessons 3 and 4 might come in handy. Please just complete whatever work is possible for you. We realise that this is a tough time in all our lives! 🙄 

Don’t forget that you can email your teachers with comments and questions any time. 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, Mr Harley, Mr Ditchburn and Ms Weyenberg ♥♥♥♥

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.

 😉 Optional: 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 one of these two sources about the impacts of the Black Death.

Task 2: Write answers to the two questions relating to the PDF that you have chosen 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.

 😉 Optional: 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 OPTIONAL paragraph, add it as an OPTIONAL comment to this post. We look forward to reading your thoughts and we shall write a response.  💡 

Warm regards from all your History teachers!

The common people

Piers_plowman_drolleries public domain wikipedia commonsThey were poor. They did all the menial work. They made up more than 90% of the population. No, I’m not talking about students, not even my hard-working year sevens. I’m referring to the peasants of medieval Europe.

Seedman copyright free from medieval clipartImage kindly provided by

Even in such a lowly group, there were variations in status. Some were free and some were serfs. A serf was like a slave but not quite a slave. My beloved Shorter Oxford (which I carry around in my pocket on my i-Pod) describes a serf in this way: “a person in a condition of servitude or modified slavery”. According to this tome (which in its book form would weigh down even the healthiest peasant), the powers of the master were “more or less limited by law or custom”. You can see that the writers of the Shorter Oxford, being learned types, don’t want to be too specific.

In any case, I doubt whether such precise meanings would have mattered much to the peasants. When you are nearly a slave, but not quite, the finer distinctions might not concern you. (The word “villein” is also used sometimes as a synonym for serf.) Servitude meant that the serfs were subject to the will of the lord of the manor; they could not leave the manor without his permission. They were subjugated, they were poor, they were often hungry; to get through each year would have required unimaginable struggle, grinding toil and, I assume, a fair bit of luck.

Medieval face from http medievalHunger was a constant danger, starvation a real possibility. According to Lacey and Danziger, the writers of The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millenium, July in England was the toughest month for the poor to get through. The spring crops had not yet matured; the midsummer harvest produced hay for the animals and nothing for the humans. This time was referred to as “the hungry gap”.

Yet there were some healthy aspects of their lifestyle. They had a very healthy diet, if only they could get enough of it. They lived on a pottage (like a porridge) of grain and vegetables, into which they dipped the hard, coarse and often stale flat bread that they baked. No soft, fluffy bread for them: their bread was a little like a pita bread or nan, but tougher and coarser. The pottage served to soften the hard, stale bread and make it edible. The bread was also used as an edible plate, called a “trencher”.

DETAIL october tilling and sowing pd calendar page of  Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de BerryA detail from the beautiful 15th century Book of Hours (in the public domain from called Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. This shows October – tilling and sowing.

One of the healthiest aspects of their diet was that they had no sugar. Until the 17th century, when sugar was brought back from the Caribbean, no one in England had sugar. Honey was so precious that it was sometimes used as a currency. Imagine a life without sugar! But at least it meant they experienced almost no dental or jaw decay. The skeletal remains of the Anglo-Saxons in the year 1000 show that they were surprisingly tall, with excellent teeth.

Below are some extra details about their lives, with some websites for you to explore. Don’t work too hard. I don’t want you to feel like serfs.

On the other hand, I’d quite like to feel like a lord…

Did you know…?

Medieval face from http medieval

Medieval peasants worked long hours, produced most of the food and paid most of the taxes. If you want justice, don’t expect to find it in the medieval world.

Medieval face from http medieval

Peasants’ cottages had dirt floors and walls made of mud and straw. There was no glass in their windows and their animals often lived with them.

Medieval face from http medieval

Fleas were common. People expected to have them.

Medieval face from http medieval

Many peasants died in the winter from hypothermia.

Medieval face from http medieval

Outer clothes were rarely washed but wood smoke acted as a kind of deodorant.

Medieval face from http medieval

It has been estimated that 20% of women died in childbirth (this would not have varied much from peasants to the wealthy, presumably). Infant mortality was also high.


General details of peasant life:

A village street of the Middle Ages: Click on the characters in the street to discover the range of people in medieval life:

Peasant life and housing with pictures of cruckhouses:

computer_station_sign_pageNow that you have read all that information about peasants, leave a PARAGRAPH comment in irreproachable formal English, answering two or more of the following questions:

1) Read up on the people in the medieval village and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each person. Who would you most like to be and why…. a trader? A peasant? A lord?

2) Which part of being a medieval peasant would you find the hardest? (Think about what you would miss most: Facebook? Warmth? Abundant food? Luxury? A soft bed? PSP? Sugar?)

3) Based on the research you have done, name one modern object/idea/thing you would give a family of medieval peasants (e.g: electricity or a television).

4) Now imagine you could only give the family one medieval object/idea/thing. What would you give them? (e.g: A cow? A new church?)

Make sure you include WHY you think this is the most important thing a medieval family of peasants needs!

Continuing your Journey Through Ancient Egypt


Clipart used by permission of

Goutami’s Emit PowerPoint: emit-egypt-pp

Thanks very much for your friendly comments and suggestions, 7F. We teachers were talking about you at the Swimming Sports yesterday and even a teacher who had taken you for an extra, Ms Willshire, commented on how lovely you were. At the moment she teaches only Year 12 Maths (it makes me shiver to think of it) and you made her miss having Year 7 classes.

I started to create a little multiple choice quiz for you to teach you more about Ancient Egypt, but when I’d only written three questions the website froze…Later I went back and added five more. There are many comments on each question that will give you inside information on ancient Egypt.

Quick Quiz: Journey to Ancient Egypt 

Here is a little more information:


Image of Nefertiti provided by

Yes, I know, girls, ancient Egypt seems dreadfully patriarchal, but all the books suggest that women in ancient Egypt actually had more rights and freedoms than other ancient societies. For instance, they could own lands and businesses, speak in court, launch legal actions against men, breastfeed in public (some modern western societies frown on this) and retain custody of their children in a divorce. The man was still the head of the house, of course, and most of the Pharaohs were men. Check out these sites for more information:

Rights of Egyptian women:

Egyptian women’s rights compared to ancient Greeks:


Sources suggest that peasant farmers made up about 80% of Egypt’s population. The most likely way to raise one’s status was through learning to write, but this would not have been easy for many peasant farmers to do. They had many other onerous tasks and they paid a very substantial proportion of their grain in tax – some sources suggest over half.

Life of peasants: