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From Fields of Labour to Fields of War
The most dominant weapon of the Middle Ages was the longbow and every man was expected to train in its use.

From Fields of Labour to Fields of War

From Fields of Labour to Fields of War looks at life for the common soldier.

For the common man in the fifteenth century life was hard. For three days a week he farmed his master's land and for three more he farmed the land he rented. All this for scant reward; his crops gave just enough for him and his family with some small amount left over to trade. But worse than this; if his master called him to war he must go, risking his life in the quarrels of noblemen far removed from his own daily struggle.

1.
The vast majority of people in England during the Middle Ages were obliged to serve their master by farming his land or going to war if necessary. What is the name given to these people?
Villeins
Crooks
Ne'er-do-wells
Rascals
Villeins (derived from the Latin for 'worker at a rural villa') were the second lowest class of peasant; only slaves ranked below them. Another class of peasant, the 'Freeman' ranked above them. The word peasant was not used at the time and is a later addition to the language
2.
Peasants, when called to war by their masters, were often only armed with farm implements or makeshift clubs. Why was this?
They could not afford to buy weapons
They gave their weapons to their masters
They were not allowed to own weapons
They were considered 'unworthy' of using weapons
The law forbade villeins from owning any weapons. This meant that if they were to be armed for war it would be at the expense of their master. Many were given hooks or spikes to fight with but they had no training in how to use them
3.
What kind of armour would a typical peasant wear to battle?
A chainmail shirt
No armour at all
A padded leather jerkin
Scraps of different kinds of armour put together
Some had pieces of armour lent to them by their lords and many had pieces of their own which they had scavenged from the bodies of the fallen in earlier battles
4.
For how long was a man obliged to stay away from home when serving his master in war?
For two weeks
For forty days
For a year
Indefinitely
The law Servitium Debitum required that nobles should provide the king with men for a period of forty days. By the time of The Wars of the Roses, this length of time was no longer sufficient as warfare had changed since the law was written. Many men had to serve for longer periods, but they were paid for their service. With wars lasting longer and longer, they were becoming an expensive business
5.
Healthcare was virtually non-existent for peasants who were injured in battle. What proportion of people in some towns were said to be getting by with unhealed breaks to their arms or legs?
One in every thousand
One in every hundred
One in every fifty
One in every twenty
Many men also had disfigurements and injuries such as missing eyes, ears or limbs; though these were rarer as most men who lost a limb soon died from lack of blood or infection
6.
The most dominant weapon of the Middle Ages was the longbow and every man was expected to train in its use. Which pastime was banned in order to achieve this?
Drinking alcohol
Playing football
Fishing
Playing darts
In 1363 King Edward III declared, "... that every man in the same country, if he be able-bodied, shall make use... of bows and arrows... and so learn and practise archery." It was not only football that was banned. Also punishable by imprisonment were "handball, hockey, coursing and cockfighting..." and "other such idle games"
7.
Medieval society was divided into three parts: those who fought, those who worked and which other group?
Those who governed
Those who sold
Those who prayed
Those who cared
At the top were the nobility who governed and fought for the nation; in the middle were the monks and the clergy who prayed for the nation; and at the bottom were the peasants who worked to feed the nation. It seems a little unfair that they were also expected to fight alongside the nobility whose task was meant to be fighting
8.
One battle in the Wars of the Roses involved an army which was actually led by a peasant. Which battle was this?
The Battle of Stoke Field
The Battle of Losecote Field
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor
The Battle of Blore Heath
The Yorkist army was led by the 10-year-old Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the throne and the son of a tradesman. He bore a resemblance to the Royal Family of York and so the Yorkists pretended that he was Edward Plantagenet, the rightful king
9.
Villeins were subject to their lord's service for life but there was one way out of this bondage. If one fled to a city, he would become a freeman after how long?
Forty days
A year and a day
Three years and a day
Seven years and a day
This was not always beneficial. At least on his lord's manor, he was guaranteed land to farm; in the city he had nothing. Unless he knew a trade, which very few peasants did, he was unlikely to find all but the most menial and low-paid work
10.
With Henry the VII's victory in The Wars of the Roses it was no longer compulsory for peasants to serve their lords in war. Why did this happen?
Henry wanted no more wars
Henry wanted more rights for peasants
Henry wanted to end the feudal system
Henry wanted to prevent any of his nobles from revolting
The new Tudor king issued tight controls on his barons. He took away their right to have armies and so their power dwindled. Future arguments between barons would be settled by the king himself

 

Author:  Graeme Haw

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