What would an ideal childhood look like

There were no medical checkups during pregnancy. Women in the rural working population in particular often suffered miscarriages due to overexertion at work and carrying heavy loads. Scholars covered precautionary measures in medical tracts, and priests also warned the population of the risk of miscarriage from strenuous labor and sexual intercourse during pregnancy.

3. The birth

Childhood and giving birth were closely related to that in the Middle Ages Marian cult connected. The representation of the Virgin Mary in her maternal love and care for the "Baby Jesus" was probably known to most of the medieval people. In a narrow sense, religious iconography reflected the ideal-typical notion of motherhood.

For the cover of this work I have chosen a representation of the birth scene of Mary. It shows the care of children and women who have recently given birth and is relocated to the social milieu of the aristocratic world. Mother, maids and midwives wear sumptuous brocade robes and in this way correspond to the sanctity of the situation through their appearance.

As can also be seen from that illustration, was Obstetrics is the sole responsibility of women. The midwife was responsible for a smooth birth. Doctors whose training did not include obstetrics anyway, like the child's father, were not allowed in the birthing room. The risk of childbirth was high, and midwives found it difficult to intervene to help if the birth was poor. In Europe, caesarean sections were only practiced gradually since the 13th century and this operation was only allowed to be performed on dead women in order to save the child.

Even simpler interventions such as perineal incision, labor enhancer or forceps seem to have been largely unknown. In addition to the already high mortality rate of those who have recently given birth, that of first-time mothers was correspondingly high.

In view of this high mortality rate, it does not seem surprising that women giving birth, their husbands and relatives pleaded with God and the Virgin Mary for help and made vows regarding a pilgrimage or the like. Just as widespread was the use of magic pills, amulets and incantations such as: "O child, whether alive or dead, come out, for Christ calls you into the light."

The pharmacist and doctor Eucharius Rößlin wrote his German work "Der swangeren Frauwen und Hebammen Rosegarten" at the end of the 15th / beginning of the 16th century, in which he addressed those affected without any scholarly education, mothers and midwives. The book, illustrated with woodcuts, deals with normal and abnormal child positions, possible complications during childbirth, miscarriages and premature births, advice on how the mother should behave in the last few months and baby care.

He also explains the use of the birthing chair, which is padded with towels so that the woman is comfortable. The midwife sits in front of it to check the birth processes, to anoint the birth canals and to have a calming effect on the mother. This should be done by stroking, persuading and offering food and drink.

According to Rößlin, the midwife should not only teach the expectant mother the correct breathing technique, but also comfort her with the "happy birth" of a boy. This frequently expressed view of the easier birth of a boy is partly due to the fact that the birth weight of girls is usually higher, but partly also due to the often greater esteem for a son and ancestor.

This attitude is also evident among the Jews in the 12th and 13th centuries. When a girl was born, the parents did not receive congratulations, when the girl later died, people did not give condolences, but wished a boy would replace her.

Was the However, the fetus died in the womb indicated the following signs: lack of movement in the uterus, sunken eyes, and numbness in the lips and the rest of the face. In this case, attempts were made to expel the fetus with herbal baths and inject vapors or fluids into the uterus. If none of this showed any effect, the midwife had to pull the dead fetus out of the uterus with the help of a mirror with a hook, whereby the risk of infection for the mother was high.

When it was a matter of choosing between the life of the mother and that of the newborn, midwives generally preferred the life of the mother.

While for wealthy women the time of visits and gifts came after giving birth, until they were raised from bed again and led through the church in a ceremony that lifted their state of impurity, the majority of women found themselves in a different reality: the majority of all women who had recently given birth returned to their work shortly after giving birth!

3.1. Infant care

The suggestions that doctors such as Arnald von Villanova (early 14th century) or Bartholomäus Melthinger (1473) made in their writings on infant care in the Middle Ages seem surprisingly "modern". It is recommended that the infant

To bathe in lukewarm water immediately after his birth, on the one hand with the aim of cleansing him, on the other hand to alleviate the shock that he suffered from the transition from the womb to the outside world, which is caused by the cold air. An overload of stimuli, especially from blinding light, should also be avoided. That didn't turn out to be too difficult, as the lighting in the Middle Ages was usually very sparse anyway. Warm baths are also gladly seen in the further course of childhood, whereby it should be noted that the bathing water of the girls should be slightly warmer than that of the boys.

As a further element - which is still used today - I would like to mention an illustration from the late Middle Ages, which shows that the midwife places the infant, whose umbilical cord has not yet been cut, on the mother's stomach.

By the way, Bartolomaeus Anglicus recommends rubbing the child's body with rose water and salt to cleanse the skin. It was believed that the salt protected the limbs from the cold and heat and the skin from infection. Other sources prefer oil to rub in instead of "acrid salt".

3.2. baptism

Children were largely aged in the Middle Ages

baptized a week to save her from the sin of hereditary

to wash away guilt. It was widely believed that

that baptized children have better chances of survival would have

as unbaptized. According to popular belief, stolen fairies

newborn, unbaptized, as yet nameless children. The

Baptism was considered indispensable requirement for obtaining

of salvation.

Preserved votive pictures show the problem

through the death of an unbaptized child.

For this reason, emergency baptisms were common, they

could also be carried out by the midwives.

Often, however, admonitions had to be given

be that this Emergency baptisms exclusively with water

to be undertaken, and not with wine, milk,

Beer or something similar.

In the event of an emergency baptism, the midwife should sprinkle the part of the child's body protruding from the birth canal with water and say in any language the sentence: "Creature of God, I hereby baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. "

Even if she did not speak the words in the correct order, the baptism was considered complete.

In Care for the soul of the stillborn child There were shrines in some places where the parents carried it in order that a miracle might briefly bring them to life for the moment they were baptized.

If you did not know in the case of a foundling whether it had already received the sacrament of baptism, the priest repeated the same. He said: "If you have already been baptized, I will not baptize you." Normally, a foundling was hung around its neck as a sign that it had not yet been baptized.

Unbaptized dead children frightened the living. An ancient pagan custom of drilling a stake through the heart of a child was intended to prevent them from returning and causing harm to people. The church condemned this custom.

3.2.1. Naming

With the baptism the baby gets its name. Up until the 14th century, a person's first name was also a gender name, which indicated that they belonged to a gender or a clan through the form of the name. This habit was gradually replaced by the choice of saints first names.

It is particularly noticeable that more than a third of the names recorded in the late Middle Ages took up the names of children of the same family who had previously died. This can be interpreted as the result of an enormous child mortality rate.

4. Breastfeeding

Today, doctors and psychologists recommend feeding infants with breast milk, as the composition of the amino acids has a better effect on the child's metabolism

is matched as cow's milk. Furthermore, the intimate body contact when breastfeeding strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child.

Breast milk was also preferred in the Middle Ages, as the life expectancy of a child raised on cow, sheep or goat milk was much lower.

When there was no other option, however, infants were fed animal milk, the advantage being in rural areas where fresh milk could be more easily obtained. To give children animal milk, the horn of a young cow was flattened, a small hole drilled at the tip and two finger cots made of parchment over it.

4.1. Wet nurses

While peasant and artisan women usually breastfeed their children themselves, it was at Upper class women, especially in Italy, less so in Germany, it is common practice To employ wet nurse. Furthermore, in the case of the death of the mother after childbirth, the service of a wet nurse was required and even if the mother had too little or no milk, suffered from mastitis or postpartum depression.

The Activity as a wet nurse for many women a welcome side-profit or even one right profession But the bitter circumstances under which such a contract often came about can be seen in the letter from the wife of the merchant Francesco Datini, in which she writes: "You seem to have disappeared from the earth, because none of them got into my hands. And some, who I already held in my hands, whose own children were close to death, now say that they are well again ... I found one whose milk is two months old, and she promised me dearly that she would, if her child, who is near death, dies tonight, will come as soon as he is buried. "

When choosing a wet nurse, the general rule was that she should be healthy and clean, have a fresh complexion and lush bosom and should not eat spicy or sour foods such as onions, cabbage or leeks while breastfeeding. It was also considered advisable that the wet nurse abstain from all sexual intercourse while breastfeeding. Conception during this time was considered extremely dangerous for the breastfeeding child, since during pregnancy the "good" blood of the woman is food for the fetus and only the "bad" blood is left for milk production.

Children who were cared for by a wet nurse in their own parental home were privileged because the nurse only nursed this one child who, like the wet nurse, was well nourished.

Many children, however, were taken to wet nurses outside the home, often in the country, and were at the mercy of them for better or for worse. Authors of didactic writings advise parents to visit their children regularly and also to take care of the nurse's health. The existence of this advice indicates that not all parents went to the trouble.

Most illegitimate children, children whose mother had died or who returned to their parents' home after the death of their husband, were neglected.

While some authors took the use of wet nurses to feed the child as a matter of course, others, such as Konrad Bitschin (1433), strongly opposed it: "This custom has now spread to a great many women who have the children who have given them This seems to have been introduced solely because of their (sexual) incontinence; just because they do not like to be restrained, they do not want to breastfeed their children themselves Seeing children afflicted with the ugliest diseases and the most shameful ailments, although their parents were good and honorable people; which can only be due to the fact that mothers have given their children to vicious and shameless wet nurses, of whom the children apparently share the vices of the food ... "

One of Main reasons for employing wet nurses is probably to be found in the frequent pregnancies, especially of wealthy women. In the Middle Ages, the church had a say in all marriage matters. In order to avoid the frequent pregnancies that prevented women from breastfeeding their children, she would have had two options: on the one hand, a strict ban on marital relationships during breastfeeding, as was quite common in other societies, on the other hand, to prevent permission, both did not consider them, however. Rather, the Church took the position that marriage was monogamous and that the fulfillment of conjugal duty protected against adultery and other debauchery. Contraception was considered a grave sin. The churchmen were well aware of the incompatibility between marital and maternal duties, which explains their contradicting behavior: since they did not clearly insist on abstinence during breastfeeding, they allowed, sometimes only half-heartedly, the employment of a wet nurse.

4.2. Weaning and solid foods

Children became average in the Middle Ages two years long breastfed. Most medical and didactic works recommend weaning from the mother's breast afterwards, since then the milk teeth have also grown, which enable the children to be able to eat anything. According to Konrad von Megenburg, weaning in Germany took place at one year, only in rare cases - and then in poor people - at two years.

While they were breastfeeding, the babies were given water and honey water, and in northern countries even beer to drink. On the other hand, there was a warning against wine because the children could not tolerate it and would get sick from it.

In relation to solid foods, one was held here too slow weaning Recommended, at the beginning of which the mother or nurse should only give the child soft, pulpy or pre-chewed food such as honey, gruel or bread soaked in honey water, wine, beef or chicken broth.

The children were also given opium and liqueur to keep them calm. The linen sachet with poppy seeds is known, which put babies in constant sleepiness. As soon as this common "Zulp" or "Nutschbag" was no longer sufficient to bring the little ones to rest, the restless child was either rubbed with brandy or soaked with a decoction of poppy seed heads. This practice stems from the opinion of doctors who believed that infants should not cry too long and made various suggestions to calm them down.

Parents and wet nurses attached great importance to the fact that children were fed often and abundantly, even if they lacked appetite. Bellino Bissolo wrote about it in the second half of the 13th century in "De regimine vite et sanitatis - mirror of life and health" as follows:

"... one should keep moderation with the food. The children should not be given too much to eat; those who eat too much get sick easily. There are parents who believe that their children will starve to death if they do not always have a piece of bread in the He is wrong and is deceived, and he lacks any prudence who always gives the child something to eat when it demands it. If one always fulfills every wish for food, it also cultivates stubbornness ... "

The attitude of the parents does not seem surprising in view of the constant threat of famine. This time was marked by high child mortality, well-stocked granaries were seen as a sign of prosperity and it was believed that children had a lot

eat, have a better chance of survival.

5. Everyday life and development of the toddler

5.1. Wraps and clothing

Medieval doctors recommended the diapers

To change children as soon as they are dirty, these

Instructions were not always followed exactly.

One reason why the diapers are sometimes not often

enough was changed because the infants

mostly not just in a diaper, but the whole body was tied with ribbonsso that only the head looked out. This could sometimes lead to sores and carbuncles if the child lay in their excrement for too long and these children were not bathed often, which particularly affected poor families, because infants and toddlers of the affluent urban population were quite often able to enjoy bathing. On contemporary illuminations, babies wrapped in this way are reminiscent of mummies or small larvae.

Figure 8 illustrates this winding method very well.

Changing diapers was certainly a central part of a child's early years. The parents projected dangerous behaviors onto the child: they believed that as soon as they were allowed to move freely, they would scratch their eyes, tear off their ears, twist or break their bones, be frightened at the sight of their own limbs or even look like one Move the animal on all fours. After the birth, swaddling should prevent all of this and alleviate the birth trauma by gently shaping the transition from the warm womb to the cold.

The swaddling process was often so complicated that it took up to two hours to get dressed. Eva Mitterdorfer describes this procedure in her diploma thesis on "Childhood in the Middle Ages":

"Starting at the forearm, you should wrap your fingers around the extended fingers downwards, and then rise over the forearm to the elbow and upper arm. The trunk should be wrapped with a wider bandage, the legs should then be wrapped around the arms again. You should be between ankles and knees Put a piece of wool to avoid pressure points. Then the baby's arms were stretched along the torso, the feet were put together and the whole child was wrapped like a mummy. "

Bartholomaeus Anglicus mentions in his work "De rerum proprietatibus - About the nature of things" around 1250 in book 6, chapter 4 as another reason for swaddling:

"The child's limbs are easily deformed because of their weakness; therefore, they must be bound with swaddles and diapers to prevent them from becoming crooked or crippled."

As a negative effect of this custom, hip dislocations from too tight swaddling can be cited.

However, it must be said that some psychologists today are of the opinion that it does not harm children if they cannot move their limbs freely in the first phase of life. Warmth and firmness as well as the restriction of freedom of movement should therefore have a calming effect on the child.

With regard to diaper changing, Cornelia Löhmer throws in an objection in which she states that, contrary to the largely accepted custom of diapering, not all children have been diapered for a long time. According to her, children wore, unless it was a matter of representation comfortable and simple clothing. A clear testimony to clothing fashion would be, for example, the costume book by Matthäus Schwarz. Children who have outgrown infancy are usually depicted in simple, comfortable clothing in various image sources. These are loose shirts and generously cut coats or capes that have not restricted the child's freedom of movement.

When looking at children's portraits, another interesting detail stands out. Some boys also wore girls' dresses. The most important reason for this custom was probably that the children had not learned to control the bowel and bladder by an average of three to four years of age, and the hygienic conditions made it difficult to get clean. The wide children's skirts were therefore less sensitive than pants. In addition, there were no panties: the children were naked under the long skirts.

5.2. Sitting, walking and talking

Since it was assumed in the Middle Ages that children develop at different speeds, she was not forced to sit or walkbefore they felt the urge to do it themselves.

Only when the toddlers could walk were they put on shoes. Wet nurses were exhorted to see to it that the children should take their first steps on a smooth and level surface.

In relation to that Learning to speak was seen to be related to the existence ofMilk teeth. In addition, many contemporary scholars believed that children learn the language not systematically, but through imitation, by continually encouraging and praising them.

If there were difficulties with language acquisition, Francesco da Barberino gave the following advice: according to this, the nurse should place another child who can already speak and whose voice resembles that of the child behind a mirror and say certain words on the instructions of the nurse. The child in front of the mirror will then repeat these words, believing it had heard its own voice earlier, and thus begin to speak.

5.3. How to make a bed: the cradle

It was common in all walks of life for babies to sleep in their cradles. Baskets or tubs served as cradles for poorer people. The earliest pictorial representations of a cradle date from the 13th century. However, it can be assumed that it was used in a simple form before.

The diversity of the cradle in terms of shape and design, plus the abundance of illustrated examples, show which one the central role of the cradle as a bedstead played for babies in the Middle Ages. The most widespread cradle shape was the sled-base cradle and here, too, there were different types of flat cradle corpora on sickle-shaped sled runners to transverse runners attached under high cradle posts.

According to popular opinion, sleeping in the cradle had three advantages:

1. The child fell asleep more quickly; 2. By rocking the cradle, the child's limbs and balance would be better trained and exercised; 3. Lying in the cradle was safer for the child than in the bed of the parents or the wet nurse, where it ran the risk of being crushed or suffocated.

Despite orders from church authorities and warnings from doctors, some mothers and wet nurses took the children to bed with them. On the one hand, this probably happened as an expression of maternal longing, on the other hand, for practical reasons: the child enjoyed the warmth and closeness in the parents' bed, and the mother or nurse did not have to go out into a cold room if she wanted to reach out to the baby. It appears that some children were actually crushed by it.

5.4. The adult-to-toddler relationship

It was known in the Middle Ages that children depend on love and affection in order to be able to develop, and most medieval children certainly received this affection. The report by Salimbene of Parma around 1285 in his "Chronicle" about an "attempt" by Emperor Frederick II shows that this was not true for everyone:

"... His second delusional idea was to find out what language and way of speaking children had who grew up without being able to speak to anyone. And so he ordered the nurses and nurses to give these children milk, to breastfeed them, to bathe and dry them, but on no account caress them or talk to them, because he wanted to find out whether they spoke Hebrew - as the oldest - language, or Greek, or Latin or Arabic, or the language of their birth parents The effort was in vain because the children or infants died without exception. They could not live without affection and touch, without smiles and caresses from their nurses and nurses ... "

The belief of some adults that screaming infants are possessed by the devil shows a hostile attitude towards unruly and "annoying" children. For example, it emerges from the "Decretorum Libri Viginti" by Burchard von Worms that at the beginning of the 11th century crying infants were sometimes put into a hole in the ground so that they would stop crying. This offense was punished with five days of penance.

At this point it seems appropriate to ask the question, how it might have happened to aristocratic and upper-class children in particular when they returned home from the nurse's home at the age of about two? Certainly they suffered from enormous difficulties in adapting, after all, unlike their wet nurse, there was no longer any real relationship with the real mother. Eva Mitterdorfer suggested that it was often not easy for such children to win the affection of their birth mother, and that for this reason they might initially join their older siblings or other relatives living in the house.

6. The development from the second to the seventh year of life

The statements about the period from birth to the second year of life are usually more frequent than those that deal with the later phase of a child's development. The reasons for this are presumably to be found in the fact that at this age on the one hand theChild mortality gradually decreased and that on the other hand the Personal hygiene easierhas been. Up to the age of seven, children should not be overexerted because their limbs would still be weak.

In artisan and farming families, the mothers personally looked after the care and nutrition of the children, in contrast to the aristocratic women, who were available for the "low jobs" such as cleaning, bathing, diapering and feeding. At times the duty of raising children collided with the rest of the work, the effects have generally been at the expense of young children. Two to four-year-olds in particular were harmed by accidents when they began their first exploratory expeditions in the house, yard and garden, and fell into fire pits and wells or were trodden on by cattle due to insufficient supervision. Older children, around four years of age, could be brought in to help out in the house and garden and pay off by relieving the mothers' workload.

City children from poor families also sniffed the world of adults at the age of four to five. They had to supervise younger siblings, help with spinning, look after geese for wages and do auxiliary work in the household, in the garden and sometimes also in the vineyard.

There are relatively few documents about the life of the peasant children. Yet research has shown that boys and girls had the same tasks in early childhood that they learned from watching their parents. Little by little, however, the girls acquired their "feminine activities"; they spun, wove, cooked, fetched water, made cheese, tended the vegetable garden and brewed beer in some places, the boys worked outside the home: they plowed, harvested and walled. Since women also helped with almost all field work, there is still no strict separation of tasks in the farmers' area. Both boys and girls tended geese, lambs, sheep, cows and horses, but only boys took up the real profession of shepherd.

6.1. Children's game and children's toys

It is clear that children play and played at all times and in all cultures

have - and not just the children! The game is also an integral part of adult life. The instinct to imitate and compliance with certain rules as part of socialization are particularly relevant when the child is playing. For the Middle Ages the fact applies that, given the often inadequate written and pictorial tradition, only a few references to toys of that time have survived; the late Middle Ages are best explored here.

Today the opinion of historians prevails that the assumption sometimes expressed in research that the Middle Ages were a "toy-free time" must be rejected.

Basically one can say that the medieval people tolerated the play of children with some restrictions and certainly also encouraged it. I would like to give two examples of this. Konrad von Megenberg said about the game around 1352 in chapter 14 ("Of play and movement in the fresh air") of his work "Yconomica - Hausbuch" as follows:

"The child should also be occupied with appropriate games and beneficial movement and exposed to healthy air. Appropriate children's games are puppetry, rolling around wooden toys and looking at oneself in the mirror. Because childhood is still astonished at the smallest things and is with the simple With such games the child's soul is delighted, the blood is set in motion and the mind is sharpened, whereby the limbs are sensibly moved by walking around, the entire body is strengthened and also experiences a desired strengthening.

Appropriate exercise is, for example, lively running around the house and within the courtyard, where neither deep pits nor the voracity of wild animals can cause harm, nor can a crowd endanger the boys playing together. Most of the time they romp around until they feel a heaviness in their limbs and fatigue all over their bodies; Overtired, they then cry without knowing what is wrong with them, reject food and drink, discard everything that is offered to them or only take it reluctantly. A good nurse knows from this sign that it is time for the child to sleep. "

Megenberg deals with the physical as well as the psychological development of the child, and he admits that the game is very important for both aspects. He also describes the dangers of nature that can lurk in wait for children, from which one can conclude that children in medieval society were by no means indifferent. In my opinion, his precise powers of observation of tired children also appear surprisingly lovable for a cleric.

The second excerpt, a treatise on raising children, comes from an exchange of letters from Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1450), later Pope Pius II, to King Ladislaus:

".... Besides, I would not forbid the child to play - with the exception of immoral games. I think playing ball with friends, for which Johannes Hinderbach wrote you instructions, is correct and commendable. There are also tire games and other children's games which do not offend against common decency and which your teachers should allow you frequently so that, in addition to work, there is also space for relaxation and physical training ... "

Here, too, the - spiritual - author insists on the omission of "immoral games" and emphasizes the positive side effect of the game: physical training.

What and with what children played, is passed down to us on pictorial and written sources. The game was differentiated according to age and, in some cases, gender. In the first years of the child's life, teethers and rattles were in the foreground, later pinwheels, spinning tops, hobby horses and dolls.

For the children of the Middle Ages, hobby horses were likely to have had a similar meaning to today's toy cars or war toys. They were a copy of a class-appropriate means of locomotion for knighthood. There were also ball games, catch and ring games, dance and hide-and-seek games, pawn games with many rules and a variety of children's songs. Finally, the animals, especially tame birds, represented a timeless toy. Playing with clay balls, for example marbles, was a common sight on the streets during the warm season.

And even then, the hustle and bustle of children in public was a thorn in the side of many of the city's residents: Nuremberg police regulations from the 14th century forbade children from "wallowing" in and in front of the city, and they shouldn't shoot around with pennies. The children do not seem to have adhered to these prohibitions so strictly!

The in Originally preserved children's toys essentially consist of clay dolls and figurines. With regard to this, Jaritz throws in the objection that this should in no way be taken as a sign of their outstanding popularity, but rather is due to the fact that they come primarily from archaeological finds and that clay proves to be far more resistant to wood and metal. It can therefore be assumed that wooden toys were even more common than clay toys.

As a final point on the subject of play, I would like to address the question of whether Were toys available to children from all walks of life? All children certainly had homemade toys, such as carved wooden figures. Arnold goes one step further. He justifies his view that there can be no question of a toy being restricted to an elitist circle by the fact that a large number of the clay toy horse type in particular have been excavated. These finds come not only from castles, but also from town centers and rural settlements.

6.2. Breeding and upbringing

To strive for Goal of education should be the pious man who lives in the service of God.After infancy, the father was largely responsible for bringing up the sons, while the daughters were to be trained by the mother to be real wives. The next generation grew into their gender role, as well as into their gender-specific division of labor, whereby the woman was more tied to the house and family and the man oriented himself to the outside and saw his work determined by physical strength.

A central tool for education of a medieval child certainly was the rodwho accompanied the children through to school. The rod as an "attribute" of the teacher is rarely missing from a graphic representation.

Saint Augustine apparently said of himself at the age of 62 that he would rather die than go to school again.

In the literature one comes across an abundance of requests not to spare the children from the rod. Berthold von Regensburg said in his "Sermons" around 1260:

"From the time the child speaks the first bad words, you should have a little jig ready, which is always on the ceiling or in the wall; and if he says a bad word or a bad word, you should give him a prank the bare skin. But you should not hit it with your hand on the bare head, otherwise you could make a fool of it; only a little boy will fear it and be well educated. If you do not do that, you will become bad experience on them ... "

Johannes Ludowicus Vives also shares this opinion. In 1523 he said about "raising children" as follows:

"... In the" Book of Wisdom "we find advice on the subject of rod and chastisement that everyone should heed: Folly, it says there, gathers in the heart of the child and the rod drives it away. Do not take the rod away from the child If you hit it, it won't die from it. You hit it with the rod and save its soul from hell .... "

Worst of all for today's terms, however, the ideas of Philip of Novara seem, who propagated an escalation in punishment in his work "Les quatre de l'homme - The four ages" around 1260:

"... You shouldn't show your child too much love, because from that it becomes haughty and derives the right to do bad from it. When you realize that it is about to do bad, you should strictly reprimand it and go along with it Censure words; and if he does not cease to do so, he should be punished with the rod; and if that doesn't help, he should be threatened with imprisonment: for few children perish from being punished; most of them because they were poorly brought up. .. "

Skepticism about the punishment can, however, be proven less often. In addition to the already mentioned Italian humanist Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, one encounters these at least in Mapheus Vegius, who notes in "De educatione liberorum - Erziehungslehre" 1444 in Chapter 16, which deals with threats, reprimands, corporal punishments and their fairness :

"Here, too, one should find the right measure so that the children are not overly frightened by threats or reprimands or broken down by corporal punishment. Unfortunately, many parents are caught in their mistake that threats and beatings are of great use in a good upbringing of their sons On the other hand, nothing else is achieved by this than instilling a fear in them from which it is difficult for them to free themselves as adults ... "

It is difficult to ascertain to what extent parents actually followed this or that educational advice.

Certainly there were children who were beaten and tormented by their parents, especially those who are predestined for abuse due to certain characteristics: sickly or handicapped children who need special care, nervous or emotionally easily vulnerable children who already have high demands on them Parents. Finally, one must not forget the children of alcoholics, cholerics and the mentally ill.

In view of this issue, Shahar finds it important to note that the incidence of child abuse does not indicate society's attitudes towards children, and points out the staggering number of recorded cases of child abuse in Western Europe and the United States alone happening constantly even in our presence.

Arnold also points out the fact that the child in the Middle Ages was by no means the "unloved creature" and points out that the parents' love for their children was taken for granted and perhaps that is why it was relatively seldom found in literature.

7. Number of children and child mortality

Supreme Purpose of the marriage in the Middle Ages it was Fathering children. These guaranteed that the sex would continue beyond one's own death. As a result, childlessness was a tough test for a married couple.

The desire to have as many children as possible is supported by the laws for the protection of pregnant women, as can be found in various city charter, as well as the precautions that the spouses took to protect the mother and the new life from harm.

The largely high birth rate was offset by a high death rate. Children not only fell victim to the "black death" to a particular extent, but also epidemic childhood diseases such as diphtheria, rubella, measles and smallpox were life-threatening due to poor medical care.

Autobiographical records are often quoted, from which the dates of birth and death of all family members emerge. As an example I would like to cite the chronicle of Burkard Zink (1396-1474) from Augsburg, which is similar to that of other wealthy families. It is intended to demonstrate what child mortality could look like in the reality of the time. Zink's four marriages, one of which remained childless, and a marriage-like relationship resulted in eleven female and seven male children. On the other hand, the surplus of girls at birth contrasted with a higher mortality rate: seven daughters and four sons did not survive the father. And finally, Zink's chronicle also points to a high maternal mortality rate.

At this point I must admit that research into child mortality rates is largely based on estimates. The dates of birth of broad strata of the people are only passed down in the 16th century, in the course of the church reformation, when the pastors were asked to enter the dates of birth, baptism, marriage and death of their parish in church books.

The high death rate among infants and small children also suggest literary and pictorial evidence of the Middle Ages, which, however, again only reflect the life of the upper classes of the people. The results of the archaeological-anthropological research make this suspicion numerically comprehensible and the investigation is also extended to broader strata of the population. Because of this, Arnold considers it certain that infant mortality will decrease by 10% and overall children by at least40% moved.

As a "positive side aspect", the spade research provides information on careful burial rites, for example at the Espenfeld grave field in Thuringia, which was excavated between 1959 and 1965, and an associated appreciation of the deceased child, even among lower social classes, for which written records are otherwise lacking.

Also at demographic studies on the average number of children for a woman one has to fall back on estimates. It is therefore assumed that a woman who did not have contraceptive and regular sexual intercourse would become pregnant about every two years. Malnutrition, physical and psychological stress and, above all, a long period of breastfeeding were able to extend this "natural" birth interval to 31 to 48 months.

The targeted use of wet nurses enabled women of the nobility or the urban patriciate to have more children at shorter intervals. Because of this, the English demographer Russell hypothesized that the sudden increase in the number of children in the noble and royal families around 1000 could be due to the use of wet nurses, for example Eleanor of Aquitaine Henry II of England had eight children in nine years born.

7.1. Family planning and infanticide

The theologians dealt with that Birth control themewhich was probably also practiced in the Middle Ages, since at least part of the population knew about substances with a contraceptive or abortion effect, extensively among the deadly sins. From a moral point of view, their use was seen as a sign of unbridled passion and was therefore placed on a par with murder and "pagan sorcery".

According to the biblical view, the soul was breathed into the male embryo on the fortieth day and the female only on the eightieth day after conception. From that point on, the Church viewed the fetus as a full human being.

Abortion, abandonment and infanticide were therefore considered murder, so does contraception, as it prevents the natural connection between sexual intercourse and conception.

When a child died suddenly, there was often a fine line between accident and murder; many children certainly died through the fault of their parents, although I would like to point out the problem of suffocation that could arise when parents and child shared the same bed . In such cases, the prevailing opinion was that the misfortunes were caused solely by the negligence of the parents.

The situation is different with the Killing a child immediately after birth. It became general increased death penalty threatened: in southern Germany drowning prevailed, in the north buried alive with impalation. According to research, infanticide was rarely charged in the late Middle Ages. Arnold explains this with the fact that living together within the narrow walls of a late medieval town made it difficult to conceal pregnancy or childbirth.

Nevertheless, it must be added that the number of indictments does not necessarily have to say anything about the real number of offenses.

7.2. Illegitimate children

Illegitimate children or bastards, as they were mainly called in the Italian and French-speaking areas, were met in the Middle Ages in all walks of life and the relationship with them was at times extremely contradictory.

Suspensions occurred again and again, so in addition to the establishment of foundling homes, which were built in some large cities in the 14th and 15th centuries, since

In the 15th century, public funds were made available in almost all cities for people who took on the care of a foundling.

Since, according to canon law, the A father's duty of care for his children is part of theNatural law an illegitimate mother could sue the father of her child in a church court for alimony. For the most part, the fathers looked after their illegitimate children.

Often, especially in the households of the urban upper class, a large number of children from different marriages of the man (less often the woman) lived under one roof. This also included illegitimate offspring of the man, some of whom came from the phase of life before the marriage. In Italy, Spain and Portugal their mothers were often oriental or African house slaves, in more northern regions they were maids and housekeepers.

Almost all studies show that urban illegitimacy exceeded rural illegitimacy. Neithard Bulst explains this with the fact that the specific urban living and working conditions as well as the great social differences are essential factors that favor illegitimacy more in the city than in the country.

In aristocratic circles - especially in France - a strange development is noticeable: here illegitimate children sometimes seemed to have been directly desired, especially when the legitimate marriage had no children or only daughters. These bastards rose to prominent positions in the military, church and politics in the 15th century

In the other strata, however, attitudes towards children born out of wedlock underwent a clear change in the 15th century, from recognition or at least acceptance to rejection. Only the children conceived in the cohabitation continued to enjoy the same reputation for a while that was shown to their parents. The descendants of clerics and prostitutes were particularly frowned upon. This development is presented, among other things, by the fact that illegitimate people were not allowed to inherit legally. In addition, the acceptance requirements for guilds, brotherhoods and civil rights placed increasing emphasis on proof of conjugal birth.


In the course of this work I tried to draw a picture about "Childhood in the Middle Ages", but I have to say that this topic seems almost inexhaustible to me and that I was only able to pick out individual aspects.

When dealing with literature on this subject, I got the impression that children in the Middle Ages were by no means regarded as "little adults", as is sometimes claimed. Rather, I think that they were accepted as children in their stage of life and that they held a firm stake in the home and in medieval society. Childhood was certainly seen as such, and children were treated as children, at least up to the age of seven. Baby care in the Middle Ages may seem a bit strange and complex today, but it gives good indications of the devotion with which toddlers were cared for. Within the family, childhood has certainly not changed much to this day, because then as now there were wanted and unwanted children, parents who looked after their offspring intensely and lovingly and some who neglected / neglected their children.

Some aspects of everyday children's life seem surprisingly positive and up-to-date today, while others are frightening.

Nevertheless, in this case, I believe we must not turn a blind eye to the tendencies of the present, at this point in time a new generation is growing up. On the one hand, this consists of many so-called "key children" who spend a large part of their free time alone while their parents work (full-time), on the other hand, the phenomenon of single mothers or single fathers, who after a divorce - at least for a while - play the main role in the upbringing of their children. The future will show how all of this will affect society today.

At this point I would like to point out the ambivalent behavior of adults towards children, which existed in the Middle Ages as well as in the present. I would like to close this thesis with the following formulation, which Klaus Arnold found on this topic: "Through the centuries of the Middle Ages and the earlier modern age, the child had its fixed place in society; it was simply there. In the family, in the house, In streets and squares, children were present everywhere. They were loved and at times perceived by their parents and the environment as a nuisance, as in all times; light and shadow accompanied their existence as they do today. "


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Klaus ARNOLD, child, in: Lexikon des Mittelalters, Eds. Robert-Henri Bautier and Robert Anty, Volume V, Munich and Zurich: Artemis and Winkler Verlag, 1991

Klaus ARNOLD, Child and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Contributions and texts on the history of childhood, Paderborn, Schöningh and Munich: Lurz, 1980

Mathias BEER, family in the late Middle Ages. "That they win beautiful children together ...", in: At that time 12/93

Henri BRESC, City and Country between the 13th and 15th Centuries, in: History of the Family, eds. André Burguiére, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Martine Segalen and Francoise Zonabend, Volume 2 (Middle Ages), German Gabriele Krüger-Wirrer, Bodo Schulze, Klaus Jöken and Thomas Gotterbarz, Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 1997

Neidhard BULST, Illegitimate Children - Many or Few? Quantitative aspects of illegitimacy in late medieval Europe, in: Illegitimität im Mittelalter. Writings of the Historical College. Colloquia 29, Ed. Ludwig Schmugge, Munich: Oldenburg Verlag, 1994

Gerhard JARITZ, Life to Live, in: Everyday Life in the Late Middle Ages, Ed. Harry Kühnel, Vienna, Graz and Cologne, special edition 1996

Robert JÜTTE, History of Abortion. From antiquity to the present, Munich: Beck, 1993

Andrea KAMMEIER-NEBEL, When a woman has taken herbal potions in order not to receive ... Birth restrictions in the early Middle Ages, in: Mensch und Umwelt im Mittelalter, Ed. Bernd Herrmann, 3rd edition, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH , 1987

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Eva MITTERDORFER, childhood in the Middle Ages. Legal, biological and educational aspects, Masch. Phil. Dipl., Salzburg 1992

Claudia OPITZ, Women's Everyday Life in the Late Middle Ages, in: History of Women, Ed. Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, Volume 2 (Middle Ages), Ed. Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 1993

Shulamit SHARAR, Die Frau im Mittelalter, German by Ruth Achlama, Königstein: Athenaeum, 1981

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Erika UITZ, The woman in the late medieval city, Stuttgart: Verlag Dr. Bernhard Evening, 1988