The Modern Person Works Harder Than the Average Medieval Peasant

When we think back to medieval times, it is easy to assume everyone back then worked 24 hours per day. You read stories of people working themselves to the bone in service of their King, Lord, or whoever told them what to do. However, while this might seem like a fair image of a time when people simply did as they were told, it appears the modern person might work harder than your peasants of old.

On days when you feel like you have worked hard, you can probably console yourself with the idea that someone back in the day worked even harder. However, that might not be the case at all. While modern machinery and equipment make it easier for us to do daily tasks like cleaning our clothes and homes, there are many things that we need to achieve today that means, on average, we exceed the workload of the average medieval peasant.

The numbers behind medieval life compared to life today

A book released in 1992 by Juliet Schor, dubbed “The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure” found that while the average peasant worked in the region of 1,620 hours per year, the average American today works 1,786 hours.

Add in the amount of time that peasants got off from work, too, and you work a more consistent schedule today. Most peasants worked in farming, and after a harvest, they could have as many as eight weeks off. When did you last get two full weeks off, never mind eight!?

The average US citizen gets a paltry eight days off in vacation per year – most of the time, this is not even paid. On average, peasants worked something in the region of 150 days per year. So, they might have worked long days on average, but they worked far fewer days overall.

You also need to factor in the ‘work’ that you do outside of your actual job. How many of your ‘leisure’ hours do you spend cleaning your house, doing laundry, and managing out-of-office hours tasks like preparing jobs and sending emails? In the modern world, we are ‘on’ far more than we are ‘off’.

So, if you ever think that you have it easy compared to the ‘bad old days, then remind yourself of this: you are probably doing more than the peasants we see in period dramas working themselves to the bone!