It seems really weird to me, which parts of medieval history people choose to emphasize when they do movies and books set in medieval times.
Like… they usually emphasize the violence, and the misogyny, and the uncleanliness. To the point where we assume a lot of things that actually aren’t true.
Like, there are actually a ton of hygiene practices in medieval times most people don’t know about because we just assume that people never bathed ever.
Lots of people bathed, a lot. Bath houses were really freaking popular, to the point where the church got mad about it and told people to quit spending all day in the bath. And there were several different ways to keep your teeth clean- various mouth rinses, and tooth scrubs (typically the ashes of burned herbs that were rubbed on the teeth), wiping them with linen, etc.
Also, the violence makes it seem like that was all there was to life… and I don’t want anyone to downplay it, but, the PRESENT is full of violence too, but we still have movies that show our lives as not being characterized by that alone.
And people also assume that because of misogyny, there were NO women who did anything, ever. That all women were thoroughly suppressed to the point where they didn’t contribute ANYTHING to history. Which is in itself a misogynist viewpoint. There were women in every point of history who did things.
(Licorice roots were often chewed up and then used as toothbrushes!)
Yes, seriously, things get very distorted. And also made more uniform, when the middle ages was actually a long time period with changes and also spread out over a large region.
The hygiene thing is a good example. People in most places had some sort of bathing routine and many even washed their face and hands before every meal. Herbs helped people smell good too! Grooming tools, especially combs are *very* common artifacts, and in some places both men and women carried a comb with them at all times for little “touch up” combings. It wasn’t until the later middle ages (due to the catholic church putting a lot of pressure on people - they saw taking care of the physical body as a vanity and a distraction) that washing became uncommon… well… more uncommon than it was before.
There was also a large knowledge of medical herbs (we’ve found both written records and the herbs themselves) and monks and nuns in some more “worldly” religious communities were experimenting with combinations of herbs to decrease pain for surgery.
Similarly, some women were very oppressed and un-free. Treated as objects and tools for making marriage alliances. But there were also women who ordered extra crossbows so they could defend their households from bandits (We have the grocery list for that one!) And many worked in some household trade - and those trades were valued! Especially spinning and weaving - they were neccesary for everyday life! And if you weren’t nobly born, marriage was usually a thing decided on by both partners after they were fully grown and ready to make their own house in the community.
Oh, and speaking of bandits… the bandits were usually the knights. >.< When you mold your whole life around wielding weapons and then don’t have a war… Chivalry was created in part to *curb* that kind of thing. How you treated women was just a small part of it. The TL:DR version is “don’t mis-use your power against the weak”. Many knights just gave it lip service, though.
And I’m not even getting into the peasant revolts, and strikes (including cross-dressing strikes) and petitions.
There’s so much that gets left out.
And a lot of this is because much of our popular information about the medieval era was filtered through the Victorian Era. Victorians writing about the middle ages had own biases and were very selective about *which* stories they told. And so for instance, they lovingly retold every medieval story about a lady being rescued by a knight, but didn’t bother translating the ballads that involved women rescuing, carrying off, or craftily eloping with men.
It’s also important to note that a lot of our perceptions come from the writings and customs of the elite. They were the ones who were educated so we know more about them because they wrote shit down. The life the commoner isn’t as well known nor discussed all that often; they often had very different lives from the elite. Not everyone wore led paint on their face.