Living and Dying

Julia M. H. Smith

in Europe after Rome

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780192892638
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670626 | DOI:
Living and Dying

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Men and women in early medieval Europe lived intimately with deprivation and death. In the face of intermittent climatic disasters, periodic epidemics, and harsh everyday living conditions, the population of Europe laboured to produce a living from the land and to raise children to carry on their efforts. Most lived at or near subsistence level; others reflected on the meaning of human existence and its moral qualities amid the fearfulness of unexpected death and the likelihood of dearth. This chapter enquires into the interaction of humans and their natural environment. It also reflects upon their understanding of it. The first section addresses the environment: climate, landscape, and settlement distribution. Against this background, the second section turns to demographic questions, to estimate population levels and to suggest explanations for the fluctuating rates of fertility and mortality that seem to have been characteristic of the early Middle Ages. The final part asks how men and women coped with deprivation, disease, and death, and seeks answers in a range of cosmologies and curative strategies. In all these respects, a pattern of intense localism emerges.

Keywords: Middle Ages; medieval Europe; natural environment; death; fertility; mortality; deprivation; localism

Chapter.  12287 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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