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Medieval Jobs: Where the Grind was Literal

The economy centered around agriculture in the Middle Ages, so most Medieval Jobs were linked to farming and food production. However, certain medieval jobs required specialized knowledge and skills like –

  • Scribes who wrote and reproduced books by hand
  • Stained glass makers who created beautiful windows for churches and cathedrals

Other professions focused on trade, such as merchants traveling to different cities to buy and sell goods or money changers who converted foreign currencies. Despite the challenges of daily life during this time, people discovered ways to flourish and establish a vibrant culture that has left an enduring impact on history. Discover the various Medieval Jobs and trades in this captivating medieval world.

Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent Medieval Jobs:

Medieval Farmers

During the Middle Ages, the role of a farmer was essential for the entire community’s survival. Farmers cultivated crops such as rye, wheat, barley, and oats, barley and during the 13th century, peas, beans, and vetches were used as a fertilizerMetal-tipped ploughs were the most common farming tool to turn over the soil.  

The feudal system was also in place during the Middle Ages, where the local lord of the manor was protected in exchange for using the land. Although farmers did not own the ground, they were given strips of land from the knights, were expected to share their products, and were not allowed to leave. 

Medieval Bakers

Medieval bakers were skilled craftsmen who played a crucial role in providing the staple food of the era. They learned baking through apprenticeships, starting as assistants and working their way up to become journeymen and eventually masters. 

Making bread was a complex process that involved the acquisition of grain, which was separated from the chaff and ground before it could be turned into dough. Yeast was used to create the bread, which frequently came from beer. Baking bread required an oven, and some places had communal ovens used for a fee. using long-handled paddles. 

The bread’s size, color, shape, and texture varied depending on the type of grain used, and the loaves were named after the client they served. The most common types of bread were unleavened bread, wheat white bread, rye and barley bread, and combined bread.

Medieval Butcher

The Medieval Butcher played a vital role in ensuring that the community had access to fresh meat while adhering to strict regulations and standards set by the guilds. 

medieval jobs
Medieval Butcher by Internet Archive Book Image was licensed under CC0 1.0

Guilds were formed as early as 976, with the first official butcher’s guild dating back to 1272. Cleanliness and hygiene were essential in preventing disease outbreaks, and butchers were required to maintain high levels of sanitation. Different social classes had access to different types of meat.

  • The wealthy and noble consuming wild game and livestock.
  • The peasants consumed fish or reserved beef for special occasions.
  • Pigs were popular and consumed as ham and bacon.
  • Chicken was only eaten after their egg-laying days were over.
  • Mutton and lamb were preferred over goat meat, and veal was regarded as more tender than beef. 

Medieval Shipwright

Medieval Shipwrights were skilled professionals who played a vital role in designing and building boats and vessels. They had a wealth of specialized mathematics, science, and design knowledge and were considered highly skilled craftsmen. 

Their work was in high demand throughout the Middle Ages, as boats and ships were essential for trade, transportation, and military conquest. Their creations helped win wars and expand territories, making the profession of shipwrights highly lucrative and respected. With their expertise, shipwrights were able to create sturdy and seaworthy vessels that could withstand the harsh conditions of the open sea. 

Overall, the role of shipwrights during the Middle Ages was crucial in shaping the maritime industry and contributing to the development of trade and exploration.

Medieval Scribes

Medieval scribes played a vital role in creating and disseminating knowledge during the Middle Ages. They were responsible for making copies of manuscripts, as all books were handmade then. Scribes were trained monks who worked in scriptoriums, quiet rooms designed for better concentration. 

These scribes would begin their work with the morning bells and work until the evening with a lunch break in between. The primary purpose of their work was to promote the ideas of the Christian Church, and they were required to copy works in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, even if they did not understand the language. The materials used by scribes included parchment or vellum made from treated hides of sheep, calves, or goats, ink made from charcoal or lamp-black mixed with gum or iron gall, and quills. 

The process of copying books was very time-consuming, with scribes ensuring that all the lines were straight and the words the same size throughout an entire book. For instance, it would take about fifteen months to copy a Bible, and the process was quite expensive, making books rare and valuable commodities.

Medieval Executioner

During the Middle Ages, the role of the executioner was an important and often controversial one. They were responsible for carrying out capital punishment on behalf of the government or local authorities. Before executing anyone, an executioner was given a warrant that authorised him to execute the sentence.

Although executions were rarely numerous, executioners travelled around a circuit or region performing their duties. They were usually not robed in all black and hooded only if their identity was to be preserved.

Contrary to popular belief, medieval jobs for executioners were poorly paid and had to find other work to supplement their income. Many executioners were also knackers who cleared animal carcasses, taxed lepers and prostitutes, and cleaned latrines and cesspools. 

While their neighbors sometimes shunned executioners, some British executioners were widely known and respected by the public, and the profession sometimes ran in families. However, executioners were still typically consigned to society’s fringes and forced to live at the edge of town.


The Middle Ages were a time of great hardship, but they also gave birth to a vibrant culture and unique professions. Although the economy was centered around agriculture, many other Medieval jobs emerged, such as scribes, stained glass makers, merchants, and executioners. Skilled artisans, such as bakers and shipwrights, played an essential role in shaping the era’s maritime industry, while butchers ensured that the community had access to fresh meat. Although society was organized according to a feudal system, many professions provided opportunities for individuals to improve their standing. 

Also, if interested, check out – Back to School, Medieval Peasant Style, Explore the Enchanting Medieval Era with the Best Medieval History Books

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