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Medieval Education (Life)

During the Roman Times, most noble kids were educated before the age of fourteen. The schools were small and numerous and often taught Greek and Latin to its students. With the Fall of Rome in 476, most educational institutions ceased to function. Teaching changed radically in a century and geared toward religion - the institution that would dominate education for the following millennium. In the Early Middle Ages the vast majority of the population was uneducated; this was later reflected in poor political decisions, much conflict and lack of any centralized power.

Charles Martel was the first ruler who sought to educate the population. At first, he appointed several priests to educate the sons of important men. Gradually he changed education from being purely related to God to including more practical knowledge such as mathematics and Latin. By this time education had increased considerably but very few could read and write and even fewer pursued a higher education.

The most common language in the medieval world was Latin, even though most countries had their own language. Latin a thousand years ago was like English today: The language that most people understood and did business with. Many nobles were taught to read and write in Latin which was taught mostly in monasteries and abbeys.

Those who studied in a monastery often became monks and worked by writing books and preserving Greek and Roman texts. They translated many classical works into Latin. Few professions existed for those who were educated - those who were skilled in fighting generally earned more than those who weren't. For example, most politicians and rulers ascended to power rarely by education, but rather by warfare and inheritance.

Most peasants were never allowed to study as the fees required by the church were beyond their reach. In addition, by keeping the population ignorant, the upper class could get away with almost anything. Study books were extremely expensive so the only viable way to learn was with the help of a teacher. From an early age a boy's role was determined. Some became fighters, others became merchants and so on.

Most elite fighting troops were educated. The knights, with their famous Code of Chivalry are a perfect example. They were educated from a very early age and excelled in reading, writing and other practical skills. A knight was usually appointed to teach them everything they needed to know.

During the High Middle Ages many European nations became more stable. The Viking raids were over, Law and Order improved and periods of peace ensued. The first real universities were constructed during this period. Even though still reserved mostly for the rich, they allowed a gradual shift towards education that had been lost since the times of the Romans.

Women had been virtually ignored up to this point. Even though only a small minority of them began to study in universities, this was a changing point towards a more equal society. However, women were still required to do everything his husband or lord pleased.

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