The Average American Today Works Longer With Less Vacation Than Medieval Peasants, and Here’s Why:

July 25, 2019 Updated: July 26, 2019

Toiling peasants plowing or harvesting fields from dawn till dusk is how we often envision “work” in medieval times. You might find it surprising to learn that modern Americans, on average, work more hours and take fewer vacation days than those medieval peasants did.

No doubt, there was much plowing and harvesting going on in olden times, when the land was ruled by knights, lords, kings, and of course, the Catholic church. But it was probably a lot less work than you think.

©Wikimedia Commons

While the average modern-day employee takes an average of eight vacation days per year, medieval peasants took anywhere from eight weeks to half a year off annually, as the church would enforce numerous compulsory holidays as a measure to curb rebellion. Plus, it was customary not to work on Sundays.

On top of this, there were celebrations, such as weddings and births, and sporting events and entertainment, such as jugglers coming to town to perform. And of course, there were off-season periods between plowing and harvest, which would provide plenty of leisure time.

According to Juliet Schor, an economist and author of the book “The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure,” English peasants of the 14th century lived in a time of high wages when they would work no more than 150 days annually.

©Wikimedia Commons

“The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed,” Schor said via Business Insider. “Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.”

Not only did they work slowly, they also enjoyed longer meals and a customary afternoon nap during the day. Although they might have worked 16 hours per day during farming seasons, that work was broken up by such intermissions.

Contrast this with the fast-paced modern lifestyle of today, where we are now bidding farewell to the 40-hour week and embracing more hours with fewer days off.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Gorodenkoff

The advent of the 40-hour week may have seemed like an improvement from the grueling 70–80 hours put in weekly during the 19th century, according to Schor, but those years were not the norm, historically. Today, we are simply returning to what has long been customary, says Schor.

Nowadays, trends of both high unemployment and job insecurity have led to employees forgoing holidays in order to hold their jobs. Secure, long-term positions are practically a thing of the past; hopping from job to job or working part-time is now normal.

Meanwhile, more job seniority no longer means more vacation time, according to Business Insider.

Nor do employers have it any easier than workers do. Some businesses simply cannot afford to pay for vacations or days off due to the state of the modern economy, which has seen numerous catastrophic crashes from the early 1900s right up to today.

Of course, there are reasons behind all of this mega-scale disruption.

While many cite the U.S. economic crash of 2008 as one of the main contributors for the poor state of the modern economy in America, it certainly is not the only one. Some say that it began as early as 1971, when the United States severed its currency from the gold standard, leading to incredible instability. It can probably be traced as far back as the Great Depression and World Wars I and II, and indeed further back.

Happy Earth Day! Did you know that over 300 solar panels on top of 45 Rock help reduce our energy footprint?

Rockefeller Center စာစုတင်ရာတွင် အသုံးပြုမှု ၂၀၁၈၊ ဧပြီ ၂၂၊ တနင်္ဂနွေနေ့

The Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C. (©Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla)

For decades, corrupt financial elites and banking cartels have benefited from war and siphoned away money from economies through multi-trillion-dollar scams (yes, trillion with a “T”). Now, we are left with an economy buckling under the weight of debt, as if about to collapse.

Noted economist John Maynard Keynes once famously predicted that, by 2030, society would have advanced to the point where it would no longer be characterized by work, as it now is, but instead would be characterized by leisure. Society seems to be sliding in just the opposite direction.

Illustration – Shutterstock | JMiks

Sadly, a world of endless toil with no rest benefits practically no one. Studies have shown that being overworked reduces productivity, while more leisure time improves performance. Employees return to work with renewed focus and energy, and the more time off, the more productive they become.

Perhaps it’s time for our leaders to finally stick up for the modern worker by draining the “economic swamp” of corruption that has plagued the world for so long. Afterwards, perhaps a nice long vacation is long overdue.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Day2505

Speaking of vacations…

The Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., on May 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

10 Rules You Must Follow When Visiting Walt Disney World

If you and your family are heading to Disney World soon, first, let me say I am so excited for you!

Okay, okay, deep breaths. Let’s try to stay cool here.

There are some rules I’d like to make you aware of. These are unwritten rules, but if you don’t follow then strictly, you’ll turn back into a pumpkin or turn into a frog or some other awful fate!

Did I mention I’m excited for you?

Okay, here’s what you need to do in Walt Disney World.

Ride It’s A Small World

No, really, you must try this ride. It’s like you didn’t even go to Disney World if you don’t. Yes, the song repeats over and over. It’s tradition. Now get in the boat!

Enjoy a Mickey-Shaped Treat

You may be tempted to pass right by the snack vendors throughout the parks but you’d be missing out on some classic deliciousness! It doesn’t get any better than the Mickey ice cream bar if you ask me. It’s beyond good.

Meet Mickey

Actress and country music artist Jamie Lynn Spears poses with her six-year-old daughter Maddie and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom park August 14, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images)
Actress and country music artist Jamie Lynn Spears with her 6-year-old daughter, Maddie, and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom park. (Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images)

Speaking of Mickey, do not let your trip end without meeting the Mouse himself! Woah—that kind of oversight can get you banned from the Kingdom forever.

Ride the Monorail

And forever engrain in your mind the smell. The monorail has a very specific scent. It’s hard to pin down, but it’s the smell of happiness. This I know. 😉 You get extra points if your family can recite the safety instructions in Spanish by the end of your trip.

Take a Family Portrait in Front of the Castle

I mean, come on! This is it. This is the moment. If you need bribery to ensure everyone smiles in the picture, tell the kids you’ll buy them whatever they want from The Emporium if they cooperate.

Sport Mickey Ears

A woman takes a selfie with Mickey Mouse shaped balloons at the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando on May 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
A woman takes a selfie with Disney balloons at the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando on May 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

You’re about to cross a line here, before which you’ll still hang onto a shred of coolness and after which you’ll let go of that nonsense and go all out for The Disney magic. Do it! Sport those ears and enjoy the look on your little ones’ faces.

Eat Well

There’s an opportunity to eat in Disney World every couple of feet. Not all opportunities are created equal, however. Do some research and find the best meals you can afford. The very best are truly phenomenal. Don’t do the fast food thing through your whole vacation.

Wake Up Early

Actors portraying different Disney characters, sing to the crowd during the opening ceremony before the park opens at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando on May 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Actors portraying different Disney characters sing to the crowd during the opening ceremony at the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando on May 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

News flash: this is not one of those roll-out-of-bed-in-time-for-your-massage-before-lying-all-afternoon-at-the-pool kind of trips. There’s a lot to see here and crowds get heavier as the day gets later. Set alarms and motivate. If you are really on top of things, you’ll get up and out early enough to enjoy the Magic Kingdom’s opening ceremony.

See a Parade

Check park schedules for parade times and be sure to enjoy at least one while you’re there. Depending on the time of year you’re visiting and the crowd levels, gauge the time you’ll need to scope out a viewing spot for your family. Packed with Disney characters, they are a total treat!

Watch the Fireworks

Hope you had a wicked good time tonight at opening night for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! Missed the party tonight? Dates are still available to join in on the fun:

Walt Disney World စာစုတင်ရာတွင် အသုံးပြုမှု ၂၀၁၅၊ စက်တင်ဘာ ၁၅၊ အင်္ဂါနေ့

Ending your day with fireworks, perhaps paired with ice cream, is the way to go at Disney World. They are extraordinary productions and allow you to pause and appreciate these very special memories you’re creating with your family.

Wishing you a magical time!