You think life is hard? Keep in mind a few obscure items on the Middle Ages in
Europe from William Manchester's A World Lit Only By Fire:
"Although homicides were twice as frequent as deaths by accident, English
coroners' records show that only one of every hundred murderers was ever brought
"Among the lost arts was bricklaying; in all of Germany, England, Holland,
and Scandinavia, virtually no stone buildings, except cathedrals, were raised for
"Conquering Saxon rebels [Charlemagne] gave them a choice between baptism
and immediate execution; when they demurred, he had 4,500 of them beheaded in one
"[Europeans] trudged into the 16th century in the clumsy, hunched, pigeon-toed
gait of rickets victims, their vacant faces, pocked by smallpox, turned blindly toward
"...The period seems to have been the worst of times - an age of treachery,
abduction, fratricide, depravity, barbarism, and sadism. In England, by royal decree,
the Star Chamber sent innocent men to the gallows ignorant of both their accusers
and the charges against them."
"...The most dangerous enemy in Europe was the Pope ... the five Vicars of
Christ who ruled the Holy See during Magellan's lifetime were the least Christian
of men: the least devout, least scrupulous, least compassionate, and among the least
chaste - lechers almost without exception .. they were medieval despots who used
their holy office for blackmail and extortion."
"In the hardest times [peasants] devoured bark, roots, grass; even white
clay. Cannibalism was not unknown. Strangers and travelers were waylaid and killed
to be eaten, and there are tales of gallows being torn down-as many as twenty bodies
would hang from a single scaffold - by men frantic to eat the warm flesh raw."
"The chief legal penalty was execution. There were alternatives in lay courts
- ears were cut off, tongues ripped out, eyes gouged from their sockets..."
"The average man stood a few inches over five feet and weighed about 135
pounds. His wife was shorter and lighter ... Life expectancy was brief; half the
people in Europe died, usually from disease, before reaching their 30th birthday."
"The level of everyday violence - deaths in alehouse brawls, during bouts
with staves - was shocking. [Tournaments] were vicious sham battles by large bands
of armed knights ... occasions for abduction and mayhem. As late as the year 1240,
in a tourney near Dusseldorf, 60 knights were hacked to death."