Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked

Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked

By Khalid Elhassan
Myths About the Middle Ages Debunked

Some of what most of us know – or think we know – about the medieval period is true, and some not so much. In many ways, medieval people were just like us, and in many other ways, they were extremely different, with beliefs and habits and mores that simply do not have equivalents in our modern world. But for all the similarities and differences, life for people in the the Middle Ages had its share of hardships, pleasures, excitements, quirks, and strange, strange, stuff. Following are forty things about fascinating medieval facts and figures.

A medieval monk drawing drinking water from a well. Medievalists

40. It is a Myth That Medieval People Avoided Water and Drank Alcoholic Beverages Exclusively

You might have heard or read that people in centuries past only drank beer and wine in lieu of water, because water was too often contaminated with deadly pathogens. That is not true. During the Middle Ages, for example, water was the most popular drink – as it was throughout all of humanity’s existence, for that matter – for the simple reason that it was free. It is true that people in the Middle Ages did not have the kinds of water purification treatments that the water coming out of our faucets nowadays usually go through. While contamination was a problem, medieval people – like all humans since our species first walked upright – knew enough to spot and avoid obviously contaminated water.

In short, people in the past had enough common sense and common knowledge to know that swampy, muddy, and cloudy water was not good for drinking. In medieval days, health manuals and medical texts positively praised water as being good for you – so long as it came from good sources. Indeed, authorities in the Middle Ages went to great lengths to supply people with drinking water. For example, London constructed ‘The Conduit’ in the 1200s, using lead pipes to bring fresh water from a spring outside the city walls to the middle of the city, where people had free access to it.