How was life

Life in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, the peasant stratum was again one level lower. Not only did they make up by far the largest part of the population, they were also the weakest members of society. However, there were also big differences among the farmers - from free to unfree, from poor to wealthy.

Vassalism served as a kind of social cement between the individual estates. A member of a lower class was usually a vassal (henchman) of a higher rank.

The follower swore unconditional loyalty and obedience to his master. This included, among other things, that the vassal paid taxes and went to war for the Lord. In return, he gave his subordinate land and protected him.

"City air makes you free"

In the Middle Ages, unless they became a monk or nun, they remained in their class for a lifetime - advancement was next to impossible. This only changed with the upswing of the cities from the 12th century onwards.

If an unfree peasant moved to a medieval city and was not ordered back from there by his master for a year, he was a free city citizen. This is where the much-quoted saying "city air makes you free" comes from. In order to enjoy this freedom and participate in the economic boom, more and more people poured into the city from the countryside in the High Middle Ages.

The market is considered to be the "nucleus of the high medieval city", as the writer Rolf Schneider puts it. This place, where traders from different regions met, was not infrequently the starting point for a city to be founded. The cities developed into the most important economic centers of the empire, in which trade and handicrafts flourished.

So it is no wonder that one of the most powerful economic associations of the Middle Ages emerged from a merger of cities: the Hanseatic League. At the heyday of the Hanseatic League - between the 14th and 16th centuries - around 200 cities belonged to it, including Hamburg, L├╝beck, Cologne, Dortmund and Berlin.