A child’s Life in the middle Ages

A Lecture by Imogen Corrigan

The Arts Society Torbay

A CHILD’S LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES – A Lecture by Imogen Corrigan

In her lecture on April 11th Imogen Corrigan seemed to have two questions in mind: what was life actually like for children living in the Middle Ages and where is the evidence?

The verdict seemed to be that, as usual, life was very hard for the poorest in society, especially the rural poor, and less so for the wealthy and growing middle classes. Most children were working in their childhood but this was seen as training for their adult roles and the work, although often arduous, was not usually beyond their capabilities.

The influence of the Church, which was all pervading at this time, put great emphasis on morality in family life with the Holy Family and the childhood of Christ as the supreme example. Many in the Church took their role as educators and nurturers very seriously and were supported by the wealthy who saw this as a sure way to salvation. Much of the evidence for attitudes and factual information comes from Church and Monastic records, some visual and some written, both formal and informal. Glimpses of daily life and entertainments could be seen in the hidden spaces such as misericords and in the paintings in private copies of a ‘Book of Hours’.

Later as printing developed and books and block prints of art work became more widespread such images became more prevalent and manuals for the training and education of young people appeared. Patrons were happy to see scenes of daily life in the religious and secular images they had commissioned.

This was a very welcome second visit to the society by Imogen Corrigan thanks to the very generous anonymous donor who sponsored the lecture.