Most people in medieval times lived under the manorial system. This meant that the lord of the manor leased his land to the peasants (villeins) in return for labour. the peasants farmed small individual strips of land. The maor court organised the life of the village and decided how fields were to be farmed, and (since villeins held strips of land in large open fields) the days for planting and harvesting, the boundaries of each person's land and the dates on which animals were allowed to graze in different fields. Although the court was presided over by the lord's steward, its officials were villeins elected by the village, and its decisions were made by a jury of villagers. there was the reeve, who acted as a general overseer, the hayward, whoo watched over the crops and brought offenders to court, and so on.
Most people in the villages would be engaged in agricultural labour. There would also be some specialist craftsmen like blacksmiths. There would be a tavern,where they could buy ale(similar to beer), which was in an ordinary house. Ale was essentail to life as many villages lacked clean water and it was drunk from leather mugs lined with pitch. Brewing was often viewed as an appropriate activity for widows, who found it hard to farm land. Wine was also drunk, excavated medieval villages in england have revealed the remains of wine jugs from France.
There would be a miller, where people would take their corn to have it ground into flour. Mills were a very important feature of medieval life. The invention of the mill was a particular boon to women, as in societies which do not have mills it is generally women who have the job of grinding corn, which is hard and monotonous work. The mill was one of the first great labour-saving devices in history.
medieval villagers ate brown bread, which had often had peas and beans added to it. In the fields they ate a sort of porridge made of dried vegetables, beans and bread, to which ale was added. Eel pasties were a popular dish with medieval peasants, and they would also have preserved foods like cheese, bacon and sausages. They ate a lot of fish, the rivers were full of fish in those days, and set traps to catch songbirds, eels and rabbits.
peasant women would work in the fields and would also be in charge of running the house, cooking and preserving food, brewing ale, making cheese and butter, and spinning wool to make clothes. spinning was a very important job for medieval women of all classes. gilrs would be taught household management by their mothers, and would learn to spin at an early age. Peasant women would also make their own candles out of tallow.
peasant houses could be quite subsntantial dwellings, some peasant houses that have been excavated have been found to be quite comfortably furnished, with pewter tableware, pottery, and board games like chess and dragaugths. it was evidently possible to be quite comfortably off if you were a peasant.
For a really good fictional account of life in a medieval village I recommned 'the Reeve's Tale' by Margaret Frazer, which is a medieval murder mystery featuring the nun Sister Frevisse
The church was an important part of medieval life. The year revolved around the church festivals. Saints's Days were holidays, and there were a lot of them. Peasant children would often be educated at church schools, and about one peasant boy in ten became a clergyman, which requried the ability to read latin, so the education must have been quite good. Monasteries also provided charity for the poor, and hospitals for the sick and dying.
'medieval lives' by Terry Jones
'medieval women' by eileen power
'the Reeve's Tale' by margaret Frazer