• Fall of ancient Rome to Renaissance.
  • A time of war, little interest in education, plague and a reduction in population of Europe.
  • Feudal system: Kings granted land, called a fief, to vassals in return for soldiers. Kings, barons, knights, bishops and abbots, freemen and serfs.
  • Knights lived on Manors. They kept some for themselves (demesne) and rented out the rest to peasants.
  • Norman invasion of Britain: William the Conqueror, Battle of Hastings 1066, Bayeux Tapestry.
  • Norman invasion of Ireland: Rory O Connor V Dermot McMorrough king of Leinster. Asked Henry II for help. 
  • Strongbow (Richard de Clare) marries Aoife in Waterford (1169). Normans take Dublin from Vikings.


  • Motte and Bailey castle: used early on or by poorer knights. Bailey was the courtyard. An example is Knockgraffon in Tipperary.
  • Stone castle: strategic location, moat, battlements, drawbridge, portcullis, gatehouse,
  • The Keep: great hall, solar, spiral staircase, arrow slits, dungeon, garderobes tapestries.
  • Siege: undermining the wall, giant catapult, battering ram, hot oil, scaling-ladders
  • Gunpowder meant the end.
  • The lord: controlled territory, fought wars, administered justice, attended tournaments and hunted.
  • The lady: ran the keep, came with a dowry, had an arranged marriage, looked after daughter’s education.
  • Feasts in the great hall. Jesters, musicians. Knives and spoons only. Lots of meat. Drank wine, ale and mead.


  • Page: 7 to 14. Learned manners and attended to lady.
  • Squire: 14 to 21. Trained for fighting (sword, mace, lance, crossbow, longbow). Helped with lord’s armour. Learned code of chivalry.
  • Knighthood: night in church. Dubbed. ‘Arise Sir…’
  • Tournaments and Jousts: mock battles. Coat of arms.

The Manor

  • The Manor was the village and the land around it.
  • Knight or lord: lived in manor-house (sometimes called a grange), and bailiff ran manor-farm. The demesne was kept for lord or knight. The life-style of the knight was similar to that of a lord, but was not as well off. The manor-house was made of wood and plaster.
  • Peasants: lived in 2 rooms. Houses made of wattle and daub and thatch. Houses had 2 rooms, one for family and one for animals. Freemen paid money rent and could go when they wanted. Serfs could not (year and a day). All had to work for lord at certain times. All had to use the lord’s mill. All had to pay tithes.
  • Open field system: 3 fields.1 fallow. Strips. Crop rotation. Common land. Animal parts not salted in autumn burned on ‘bonefires’ at Halloween.
  • Food: porridge for breakfast. Bread and cheese for lunch. Pottage (thick vegetable soup). Peasants rarely had meat. Ale or beer.
  • Clothes: wool spun and woven.
  • Tower houses: replaced manor-house for protection. Built by Gaelic Irish as well as Anglo-Norman. Rectangular, spiral staircase, murder-hole, door high up, had bawns for peasants.

Towns and cities

  • Normans developed Viking towns and also built new ones at: river crossings, ports, route crossings and around castles.
  • A town charter granted by the king gave the town the right to have a corporation, fairs and markets and courts.
  • Towns had walls. Houses made of wood (curfew). Open sewers. Chamber pots onto narrow streets with the shout ‘Gardez-loo’. Market cross. Town crier.
  • Merchants and Craftsmen: merchants well off, lived in stone houses. Craftsmen had workshops on ground floor with a sign outside (few could read).
  • Guilds: controlled standards and prices, decided who became master craftsmen, looked after sick members and their families.
  • Apprentice at 14. Lived with master. Could be punished. 7 years.
  • Journeyman. Could work for anyone. Paid by the day. Had to make a masterpiece to become a master.
  • Markets and Fairs: markets weekly at market cross. Fairs once or twice a year on the fair green (outside the walls). Lasted a week or more. Entertainment (bear and bull baiting, jugglers, musicians, fire-eaters)
  • Crime and Punishment: no one on streets after curfew. Stocks or Pillory. Hands chopped off. Torture, hanging and beheading.

Churches and monasteries

  • Bishops (dioceses), parishes. Church very powerful. Power shown in architecture.
  • Romanesque: rounded arches, square towers, thick walls and columns
  • Gothic: pointed arches, slender columns, thin walls supported by buttresses, rose windows and lancet windows.
  • Medieval Monasteries: different orders such as Benedictines and Cistercians.
  • Rule of St. Benedict. Poverty, chastity and obedience. Lay brothers.
  • Main buildings: cloisters, church, almonry, refectory, dormitory, infirmary, chapter house and scriptorium.
  • Main Monks: Abbot, novice master, infirmarian, almoner, hospitallar (guests).
  • Monasteries were very important to the community.
  • Monk’s day: Up very early. Down to church to pray. Breakfast in refectory. Meeting in chapter house to get jobs for day, punish and read a chapter from the Rule of St. Benedict. More prayers. Work. Prayer. Dinner. Prayer. Work. Prayer. Supper. Prayer. Bed at eight.
  • Begging monks or friars: Dominicans and Franciscans lived among people. Did not agree with the wealthy monasteries.
  • Plague or Black Death: killed one quarter to one third of population. Flea on black rat. Towns hit hardest.