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Medieval World: Occupations

Resources to support the Year 8 Humanities Unit: Medieval world - The Middle Ages




The Four Orders of Society During the Middle Ages

Of course, when you say "Middle Ages" it covers a thousand years and things changed over these centuries but generally there were four different orders during the Middle Ages:

  1. Clergy
  2. Nobles and Kings
  3. Merchant Guildsmen
  4. Craftsmen and Laborers

This article, for the most part covers the fourth category of Craftsmen and laborers.

Some of the well known Medieval Jobs

  • Miller
  • StoneMason
  • BlackSmith
  • Armorer
  • Falconer
  • Tailor
  • Carpenter
  • Plowman
  • Butcher
  • GoldSmith
  • MetalSmith
  • Groom
  • Squire
  • Page
  • SilverSmith
  • Grocer
  • Draper
  • Furrier
  • FishMonger
  • Baker
  • Weaver
  • Minstrel

Lesser known but no less interesting Medieval Jobs

  • Cooper - This is the profession of Barrel Maker
  • Cobbler - repaired old shoes
  • Cordwainer - Made new shoes. Cobbler and Cordwainer were very distinct job differences.
  • Cartwright - Cart Maker
  • Chandler - A candlemaker. But often times in castles a chandler was also in charge of all the candles making sure they were lit and put out at appropriate times.
  • Hayward or HedgeWarder - His duty was to inspect the fences and hedges around the meadows or gardens. 
  • Bailiff - Was hired by the lord to be his general overseer
  • Reeve - Was elected by the Peasants to be their representative
  • Brewer - Would make various alcoholic beverages, He would hang a green branch over his door which would signify that the brew was ready. 
  • Busker - A person who sings or performs music in a public place for money. Similar to Minstrel.
  • Gongfarmer - The person who cleaned the outhouses.
  • Court Jester - A joker, trickster and fool for entertaining people. Typically a jester wore a three pointed hat and bells. He often carried a fake sceptre.


Guilds were a very important part of Medieval life and medieval jobs. They were bands of men and women that joined together for profit and mutual protection. Each guild revolved around a particular craft or the trade of a particular type of item. The Guilds established standards, set prices, and determined skills. A good example of this would be a merchant guild that dealt in wool.

Getting a job in a particular craft meant joining a guild and following the rules for craftsmanship and pricing. A young person could be given a job as an apprentice with a master craftsman. This wasn't a paid job however. 

It was often the case that the young persons family actually paid the master craftsman to take on the apprentice. After a period of time as an apprentice the young person could possibly be promoted to the position of journeyman. As a journeyman, he would now become an assistant to the master and get paid. He would learn the craft more fully. And eventually, if he had acquired the necessary skills, and had the money to pay his guild dues he could in turn become a master craftsman. This application to become a master craftsman often had some kind of a test where the journeyman would make something that showed he had fully mastered all aspects of the craft. This object was called a "Masterwork".

- There were basically two different types of guilds: The Merchant Guilds and the Crafts Guilds

Merchant Guilds: These were typically guilds of traders who were involved in the various aspects of trading items (commerce). They would typically purchase rights to trade from the king and would establish monopolies. they would set tolls and taxes on outsiders. Wool was one of the most vibrant types of merchant and a Merchant Wool Guild of a city or town would make rules that prevented outsiders from trading in wool. Some of the tasks of a merchant guild of this type would be to set the standards for weight of wool and the standards for price.

Craft Guilds: This type of guild is more well known in modern times and it is what we think of when we think of guilds. Craftsmen banded together to set prices and standards for their craft. They could be stone masons, blacksmiths, cooper or any of a wide variety of crafts where things were made.


Information Source: › medieval-life




Everyday life in the Middle Ages - BBC Bitesize

This resource focuses on Europe. 
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