Historical story

An ordinary man's house. How did the mob live in the past centuries?

Last updated:2022-07-25

Some time ago we told you about the life, upbringing and even rooms of young ladies from good homes in the past epochs. You have rightly pointed out that few families have lived on such a foot in the past. Well, how did the most ordinary people live then? In fact ... almost like animals.

Throughout the Middle Ages and most of the modern era, the living conditions of the rural population in Europe hardly changed. In the 17th century, peasants still lived in low wooden huts with a maximum of two rooms.

All their household belongings were a few simple items:a bench, a stool, and sacks stuffed with straw. There was no furniture in the rooms, and only a partition separated people from piglets or cows. Animal dung provided warmth in winter .

Such conditions prevailed in rich Burgundy, so it must have been even worse in the poor lands of the Republic of Poland. Polish peasants often lived not even in huts, but in huts made of clay and brushwood, covered with straw. The windows were covered with animal membranes. Even in the 18th century, glass was still a rarity in the countryside.

At one fire with cows and pigs? Until recently, that was the norm…

Throughout the continent, a sign of luxury were also ... tables! As the authors of the Pewu textbook "Universal history. XVI-XVII centuries ", even in French Gascony (...) peasants ate around the hearth, without a table and drank from one cup (p. 150) . Only sometimes the table was replaced with barrels cut in half. It was even more difficult to find this seemingly basic piece of furniture in the east. Dutch merchants going to Moscow were advised to take strong paper with them, as they might not find a table throughout the Russian Empire. This, on the other hand, forced you to write on your knee. Literally.

Of course, there were no beds or chairs in the country huts either. Simple people used benches both for sitting and sleeping. In the 16th century, for example in England, it was still considered the absolute norm to sleep on the floor . Anyway, in those days in the British Isles, all the possessions of an average peasant family were ... a pitcher and a saucepan. Needless to say, no one has even heard of bathrooms in the countryside. Even a simple basin, used for occasional bathing, was a delight.

The article is based on two books by PWN:"A general history. XVI-XVIII Centuries "and" Customs in Poland ".

It was only from the 16th, 17th and most of the 18th centuries that individual regions of Europe became so rich that it even affected the lives of the rural population. The benches began to be replaced by chairs, there were eiderdowns and woolen mattresses, beds, and even - what profligacy! - lockable chests. There were still ... shoes missing. Even in the affluent 18th-century Netherlands, there was often one couple for the whole village . She was commandeered by every representative of the local government whenever he had to go to The Hague on state affairs (p. 151) .

This new wave of wealth bypassed completely eastern Europe. In the 18th century, many peasants in Poland lived exactly like their distant ancestors in the times of Brave and Łokietek. No wonder that it is so difficult to write about their everyday life ... They woke up with pigs, lived with pigs, went to sleep with pigs. And once a week they went to mass at church. The prose of life.