Why Sheep Replaced Peasants

‘As the country recovered in decades following the Black Death landowners tried to restore the old systems, rediscovering old laws of compulsory service that had been forgotten in the good times when England was increasingly moving to a money economy. […]

The old feudal consensus had broken down, and the lords realised that if the peasants were now free form any obligation to them, they were equally free form any obligations to care for the peasants. Thus it was that the peasants came face to face with their greatest natural enemy – sheep.

Labour had become expensive and your average lord could now make more money out of sheep than he could out of his peasants. There was more wool on sheep, for a start, and you could also eat them – with is possible with peasants but socially taboo – so the lords started to throw the expensive, troublesome and uneatable peasants of their land and replace them sheep.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 34-35

On The Medieval Diet

‘Today, we are urged to stop eating fast foods with all the nutrition of cardboard and to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This is actually a return to the peasant diet – a diet that was despised by the nobility. They regarded fruit and veg as the poor man’s food, believing that greens weren’t good for you and that fruit gave you dysentery – the bloody flux.

Peasant bread was much healthier than our white, steam-baked, sliced bread: it was brown, like a good wholemeal loaf. Peas and beans were sometimes added, which made it even more nutritious. In the fields people ate a kind of medieval pot-noodle, a paste of dried vegetables, beans and bread to which they added ale to turn it into an instant meal. Eel pasties were another favourite, and preserved foods such as bacon, cheese and sausages were special treats.

Even for the poorest, the countryside was a larder teeming with wildlife. Rivers were full of fish – there were even plenty of salmon in the Thames – and peasants had elaborate nets and traps to catch songbirds, eels and rabbits. […]

In fact the medieval diet, with lots of coarse grains and grit in the bread, was much better for human teeth than our own. It means they were worn down to a flat plane leaving no room for food to fester. But fossilised plaque in some skeletons’ teeth does suggest that many of the people at Wharram Percy had suffered from bad breath. This was a bit of an issue in medieval times; in Wales a peasant women could divorce her husband on the grounds of his halitosis.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 28-29