Survival Tips for the Middle Ages

I found this random item posted on Kottke the other day and proceeded to read the shit out of it. It brings up a great ‘what if?’ scenario where you try and figure out how you would survive if you were “unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else.” What he did was get 97 comments from people and how they would survive, and they’re all pretty damn interesting. Some of my favorites are as follows:

If – no, let’s be real here – WHEN you are suddenly and unexpectedly time-travelled to the early days of the Black Death, make straight for Nuremberg. It’s one of a handful of cities that didn’t get bubonic plague. I read it on a list somewhere, one time.

– First, I’d find a small town — one where the word-of-mouth of my arrival would be brief and wouldn’t lead to rioting or something. It would be especially good to initially meet a group of kids or teenagers, because they’d be the less likely to harm or kill you. See E.T. for details.

– I’d calmly and serenely smile, presenting the locals with my iPhone as a gift to help build trust. I think the key would be to get a group of townspeople to believe that you’re not crazy or intending to hurt them. Let these townspeople do the work of introducing you to (or shielding you from) people from other towns. I’d act as much as possible like God, using any pieces of technology I had with me to coerce the locals into my holiness.

– I would end up being treated as a witch or as a whore.

The skirt I’m wearing is short (showing my …(gasp)… KNEES) and made of rather flimsy, garish cotton (whore). And although I have nice skin and beautiful teeth (whore), my hair is short and I wear glasses (witch). My hands are soft and I’ve obviously lived a life of comfort (whore). I would have to lie about my age and find a way to explain my abdominal scars (witch). I would also have to lie about being able to read, write and figure (witch).

I’d like to think that I could survive such an ordeal, but I’d probably be messed up straight away. I think the idea of pretending to be mute is a good one, but how would you know what anyone is saying? I think resources would also be really hard to find, especially clean water, which you have no way to boil or sanitize. It’s definitely a fun read, people REALLY got into the conversation which makes it that much more interesting.


August 4, 2008