The place of Medieval men in society was not dictated so much by gender, or even by which nation they lived in during Medieval times. The main factor that decided where a man’s (or usually for that matter, a woman’s) place in society was wealth, because wealth dictated your position on the social hierarchy. It is from a position of wealth, or lack of it, that dictated a man’s place in Medieval society. For the common peasant, life during Medieval times was hard, brutal, and usually short. The common man had a strong, steadfast belief in God, in the basic virtues of Christianity (as much as he could understand it since scripture was read in Latin), but yet the Devil seemed to be hiding in every alley and behind every tree to force evil, and droughts were not sad pictures on a television screen, but life threatening situations. A man would need to work the land, pay any taxes or homage necessary to the noble that ruled over the area, and fulfill any other responsibilities demanded of him.
In times of conflict, this meant that the common peasant had to trade in a pitchfork for a shield and sword to go fight in a battle he might know nothing about. Often times large numbers of peasants perished fighting other peasants because two lords were ticked off at one another. If the peasant was unlikely, he didn’t get to trade in his pitchfork, and he would use that as his weapon. Taking a vow into monastic life was one way to insure a little more security than might otherwise be available, but like with all things, it came with a price.
Drought and famines were common endurances for all, and there was the constant fear of plague. At its height in Europe, the bubonic plague, aptly named “Black Death,” killed one in three Europeans, and in some places, such as England, killed over half of the entire population. The dirty, unclean conditions of cities and streets made the entire disease situation even worse. The attitude of the master also could be a major factor in determining the comfort level of life. Harsh masters could make death a welcome respite, while kinder ones at least left a ray of hope for the common men, even if most of it was still based on a promised afterlife after death.
Conquest, assuming the common man survived, often meant forced labor. This meant working for cruel masters and breaking the body for a project that offered no food, no shelter, and no benefit to his own family. Often times the man needed both his wife and kids to work, as well. Life expectancy was short; often little more than thirty some odd years. Even so, they continued to work, to try their best to provide and protect, and in that sense, aren’t that much different than many blue collar men today, except that then the life was so much harder, and the stakes so much higher.