By Kim Rendfeld
|A 15th century illustration of a market|
In other words, the real cost of food, fabric, livestock, and slaves was what the buyer was willing to pay. So I’ve used a price list Pierre Riche’s Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne as a starting point when my characters negotiate a purchase rather than an absolute. Still, the list gives us a glimpse into what people of different classes chose to eat, wear, and use for protection:
- Wheat bread cost almost twice as much as oat bread. No surprise, then, that the wealthy favored wheat while peasants might consume rye, barley, or oats.
- A cow, farm dog, and sheep cost about the same, but a bull was worth six times as much. So a pagan who killed a bull to thank a god for a victorious battle was making a true sacrifice.
- A horse cost 20 to 30 times more than a cow and two to three times a male slave. The type of horse is unknown here. A warhorse, used only in battle, was the most expensive animal of all.
- A sword, scabbard, and armor for a warrior cost the same as 20 sheep or more. A peasant family might have thought themselves well off if they had a mix of 16 sheep, cows, and pigs. So, commoners conscripted into the army typically opted for the less expensive spears.
- Apparently fur was a status symbol in early medieval times, too. A sheepskin cloak was about the same price as one living sheep. A sable-lined cloak was worth 10 sheepskin garments, and marten or otter fur cost three times as much as sable. This is why the aristocrats in my novels wear fur-lined cloaks while commoners and slaves use sheepskin garments to protect themselves from the elements.
Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne Pierre Riche
Daily Life in Medieval Times by Frances and Joseph Gies
To read the first chapters of Kim's published novels or learn more about her, visit kimrendfeld.com or her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com. You can also like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.
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