Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Work-Life Balance In Medieval Europe

Talked to someone in Norway today. Their government basically gave everyone 3 months vacation, paid out of the emergency fund. Of course, they are an independent country and don't have to support their less well-to-do neighbours (the privilege of not being a part of the EU), but it's another topic:)

Apparently, some people would consider such a long hiatus immoral somehow, yet historically speaking, people in Middle Ages used to have a much better work-life balance than we do now:

In her essay, the professor revealed that records from 13th century England show many families only worked 150 days a year on their land and in the 14th century, even servants often only worked 175 days a year. 

Their working days, though technically longer, were much more leisurely, too:

A typical working day in the medieval period stretched from dawn to dusk work was intermittent - called to a halt for breakfast, lunch, the customary afternoon nap, and dinner. 

'Depending on time and place, there were also mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshment breaks.'

While the article compares long medieval holidays with much shorter American ones, I should say that even in Europe, people typically don't enjoy 25 weeks vacations:

The medieval calendar was filled with holidays - official [church] holidays included not only long "vacations" at Christmas, Easter and midsummer but also numerous saints' and rest days. 
'In addition to official celebrations, there were often weeks' worth of ales - to mark important life events (bride ales or wake ales) as well as less momentous occasions (scot ale, lamb ale, and hock ale). 
'All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one-third of the year.' 

In light of this, 90 days off in Norway don't look like something really extraordinary, do they now?

Read the whole article over here.


  1. Our frenzied work pace is very modern and leads to lots of health problems. It's one of the reasons people seek to "simplify" their life. Life in the past was more attuned to the seasons and daily cycles of light and dark. I'd love my husband to have a 3 month paid vacation, oh wait, he's a school teacher so he sort of gets one each year. And that's one of the reasons I encouraged him to become a teacher after retiring from the military (USMC).

  2. Yes, I agree! Our life has become too hectic, may be this crisis will lead us to rethink our priorities? Spending more time with your family and working on projects in your own house and garden instead of running all over the country? (as we used to do, lol). Now we finally have time for our garden...