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E® GRADE 6: MODULE 2B: UNIT 1: LESSON 6

EXPEDITIONARY LEARNING



Serfs and Peasants Text 1: "The Peasant's Life"

About nine-tenths of the people were peasants—farmers or village laborers. A peasant village housed perhaps 10 to 6o families. Each family lived in a simple hut made of wood or wicker daubed with mud and thatched with straw or rushes. Layers of straw or reeds covered the floor; often the peasants' home included their pigs, chickens, and other animals. The bed was a pile of dried leaves or straw, and they used skins of animals for cover. A cooking fire of peat or wood burned day and night in a clearing on the dirt floor. The smoke seeped out through a hole in the roof or the open half of a two- piece door. The only furniture was a plank table on trestles, a few stools, perhaps a chest, and probably a loom for the women to make their own cloth. Every hut had a vegetable patch.

Only a very small number of the peasants were free, independent farmers who paid a fixed rent for their land. The vast majority were serfs, who lived in a condition of dependent servitude. A serf and his descendants were legally bound to work on a specific plot of land and were subject to the will of the lord who owned that land. (Unlike slaves, however, they could not be bought and sold.) Serfs typically farmed the land in order to feed themselves and their families. They also had to work to support their lord. They gave about half their time to work in his fields, to cut timber, haul water, and spin and weave cloth for him and his family, to repair his buildings, and to wait upon his household. In war, the men had to fight at his side. Besides providing labor, serfs had to pay taxes to their lord in money or produce. They also had to give a tithe to the church—every loth egg, sheaf of wheat, lamb, chicken, and all other animals.

Peasants suffered from famines. Plagues depleted the livestock. Frosts, floods, and droughts destroyed the crops. Bursts of warfare ravaged the countryside as the lords burned each other's fields and harvests.

The peasants' lot was hard, but most historians consider it little worse than that of peasants today. Because of the many holidays, or holy days, in the Middle Ages, peasants actually labored only about 260 days a year. They spent their holidays in church festivals, watching wandering troupes of jongleurs (jugglers, acrobats, storytellers, and musicians), journeying to mystery or miracle plays, or engaging in wrestling, bowling, cockfights, apple bobs, or dancing.

"Middle Ages." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Library Edition, 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2013. < http: //library, eb .com /kids/comptons/article-9 2758 3 3 >.

NYS Common Core ELA Curriculum • G6:M2B:II1:L6 • February 2014 • 11 Create PDF files without this message by purchasing novaPDF printer (http://www.novapdf.com)
GRADE 6: MODULE 2B: UNIT 1: LESSON 6

EXPEDITIONARY LEARNING



NYS Common Core ELA Curriculum • G6:M2B:II1:L6 • February 2014 • 12

Serfs and Peasants Text 1: "The Peasant's Life"



Serfs and Peasants Text 1: "The Peasant's Life" Glossary

Word

Meaning

daubed

covered or smeared with a thick layer of something sticky

trestles

frames to support a piece of wood

servitude

the state of being owned by a master

descendants

children, and their children, and their children

tithe

a one-tenth contribution to a religious organization

famines

periods when food is scarce


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