In the Middle Ages, there was a definite
structure in society. You were born into a class of people
and generally stayed in that class for your entire life.
Working hard did not change your status. Your clothing,
food, marriage, homes, etc., were determined for you. After
the rank of king, the hierarchy was the nobles, the knights,
the clergy (religious people), the tradesmen and the peasants.
trade or occupation generally refers to a job that requires
some specific kind of skill. It often refers to people
who produced goods or services that required specific
skills. Generally people who were tradesmen lived in cities.
formed guilds, which were associations of craft people
with a specific trade. Tradesmen generally had a higher
level of education and had more privileges than people
who worked in the fields.
Tradesmen often worked an apprenticeship,
a system of training in which a master craftsman assists
in the learning
of a trade. Most of the training is done on the job
while working for an employer. Often some informal, theoretical
education is also involved.
Tradesmen called merchants
commonly traded items such as salt, iron and textiles.
There were also rarer items,
as silk and spices, that came from trades in China
and the Middle East. With time, craftsmen produced
made shoes, became brewers (beer makers), made glass
stones for buildings.
A family surname, or last name,
is the part of a person’s
name that indicates to what family a person belongs.
In the Middle Ages, surnames often were derived from a
occupation. Examples include Miller, Smith, Cooper,
Fletcher, Driver, Skinner, Tanner, Hunter, etc..
Trades That Are Still Practiced
Trades That No Longer Exist
Ewerer — heated
water for the nobles
Fuller — shrank and strengthened
clothes by hitting them on a rock
Gong farmer — emptied
the latrines (toilets)
Cooper — made barrels
Fletcher — made
Trades That Have the Same Name Today, but Different Meanings
||Duty in Middle Ages
||Gives jobs to the peasants and repairs tools
||Assists in the courts
||Cuts hair, is a dentist and sometimes is a doctor
||Shoes horses and makes weapons for the knights
||Shoes horses and forges iron for many uses
||Spins the yarn or thread from sheared sheep
||An unmarried older woman
||Digs tunnels during sieges to undermine a castle
||Digs for ore