Education

Education was highly valued in ancient Egypt but it was only for boys. Some girls may have learned to read and write, but their main role was to stay at home and help their mothers.

HierogLetL250Being able to read and write was the key to getting a good job as a scribe, so parents tried hard to send their sons to school. Education was expensive and not all families could afford it. Boys who did not go to school were expected to work. They had a practical education, often learning the family trade by helping older relatives and copying what they did.

Royal children did not attend the same school as the other children. They had their own school inside the palace whereas most boys went to the temples and government offices where they would work when they grey up.

The boys started school at the age of five. They used wooden boards and learned how to write the hieratic script used for official documents. They made their own reed brushes and ground up colours to mix with water to make ink.

Older students learned to draw the beautiful hieroglyphs used for religious texts and practised writing the kind of official letters and documents they would come across in their working lives. They also studied mathematics so they could keep accounts and work out taxes.

Some students took specialist subjects such as foreign languages, history, geography, astronomy and law.

You’ve Decided to Write

Perhaps, you have been jotting down snippets of thoughts and ideas onto scrap paper or maybe you have been writing little stories for years. However you started, you’ve decided that you want to write and you want to be published.

What do you do now?

  • Set up an area in your home especially for writing. Somewhere peaceful and quiet, where you can think and be creative.
  • Buy a computer with a decent word processing programme installed. Some people still like to write freehand but most publishers only accept typed manuscripts so why lessen your chances of being published by being in the minority group.
  • Read everything you can put your hands on about the art of writing. Visit your local library, book shops and search the internet for up to date information.
  • Think about joining a Writer’s Centre, Reader’s Group and Writers’ Message Boards on the internet as they usually have access to many useful resources and ideas.
  • Subscribe to Writers’ Newsletters.
  • Think about enrolling in a writing course or workshop. There are plenty available on a variety of subjects.

The Right Mindset

When you decide to write, you may encounter various obstacles. The biggest of these is often self-doubt. There is a lot of competition out there, so what makes you think you can make it when so many other haven’t. If we all thought like that, no one would ever get published. If you have the right mindset, the determination and a love for writing then you are on the right path. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

If self-doubt plagues you then this is where a supportive family and friends can make the difference between completing that first special manuscript or consigning it to the wastepaper basket.

Rarely, will you be able to sit with other people who also write with a passion so it is important to realise that you have entered into a very lonely profession but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If you’re doing it properly, you won’t have time to feel isolated with all those characters inside your head and those plots waiting to be put down on paper. Besides, these days with the internet at most people’s fingertips, you’ll be surrounded by other people who know and care about what you’re going through whenever you feel the need.

Making Time to Write Each Day!

This is critical to every writer. You will need to write every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the day, in the middle of the night, on the bus or if you steal a few moments at work to jot something down but you must discipline yourself to write EVERY day. If it’s only to write fifty words or edit an existing manuscript. The more practice you get, the better.

When you do sit down to write forget about everything else for that short time. The housework can wait, take the telephone off the hook and get your spouse or kids to tend the garden for a change. It’s time for you to be creative. After a while, you will discover that a certain time of day works best for you. Try to keep that time free.

The First Draft to the Last

Your first draft doesn’t have to be good and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about spelling, style, and grammar just yet. Just write. Get it all down on paper (or on disk) and worry about the rest later.

Before you start editing your work, put it away for a while. A couple of weeks or even a month should be enough. Then start reading it through with a pen and pad beside you so you can make notes. Again, you’re not looking at spelling, style and grammar for the second draft either – you should be checking that the storyline, plots and main points are coming through as they should.

Have you included all the necessary information? Are your thoughts logical and orderly? Have you started your story at the LAST possible moment, the place where the character’s life is about to take a real dive towards trouble? Does it make sense or has it been contrived to make it convenient for you, the writer? Does the reader get to know the characters? Does the story move along at a nice pace or is it slow and boring?

The third draft is when you check the spelling, style and grammer. If you have pointless words in your story, delete them. Study your first page and make sure it catches the reader immediately. This is also the time when you should trim your story.

If you are an unpublished author then this is a very important point to remember. First novels should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length. Less than this and the reader feels unjustified in parting with their money to buy the book because they feel as if they are being ripped off. If you have more than 120,000 words, however, the publisher will look at you as a financial risk because they have to outlay more money to publish a book by an unknown author that may flop.

For the fourth draft you should print your work out. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’ll find as it’s much easier to see them on a printed page. Once this final revision has been completed, you will be ready to start looking for an agent or publisher.

Feudalism

systemLords and Vassals

For safety and for defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle, the church, the village, and the surrounding farmland. These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.

In this “feudal” system, the king owned all of the land in his kingdom. He kept a large portion of the land for his own use, and a great deal of land was also held by the Church. What happened to the rest of the land? The king awarded land grants or “fiefs” to his most important nobles, his barons, and his bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king’s armies.

The nobles divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their servants or “vassals.” Many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them. By 1100, certain barons had castles and courts that rivalled the king’s; they could be serious threats if they were not pleased in their dealings with the crown.

In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. While it gave no rights to ordinary people, the Magna Carta did limit the king’s powers of taxation and require trials before punishment. It was the first time that an English monarch came under the control of the law.

The Peasants

At the lowest echelon of society were the peasants, also called “serfs” or “villeins.” In exchange for living and working on his land, known as the “demesne,” the lord offered his peasants protection.

Many peasants remained free, but most became serfs. A serf was bound to the land. He could not leave without buying his freedom, which was a rare occurrence. Life for a serf was not much better than the life of a slave. The only difference was that a serf could not be sold to another manor.

As rent, Serfs would often work the land and produced the goods that the lord and his manor needed three or four days a weeks. This exchange was not without hardship for the serfs. They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish much of what they harvested. The peasants did not even “belong to” themselves, according to medieval law. The lords, in close association with the church, assumed the roles of judges in carrying out the laws of the manor.

Egyptian Furniture

Wood had to be imported from far away – cedar from the Lebanon, ebony from Africa – so furniture was rare and expensive. The ancient Egyptians did not use very much furniture because of this.

The rich had beds but most ordinary people slept on mud benches covered with mats. Instead of pillows, there were headrests made of ivory, wood or pottery.

In wealthy homes there were chairs to sit on, and three legged stools were also popular. There were no cupboards or wardrobes. Clothes and household goods were kept in wooden chests and boxes, while foodstuffs such as oil and grain were stored in pots and baskets. Trays of food or jars of drink were put on tall stands.

Egyptian Houses

Ancient Egyptian houses were built out of mud-brick then plastered and whitewashed to reflect the sun. The Egyptians built their houses with the walls sloping inwards to make them strong enough to resist floods or earthquakes.

ancienthouseHouses had tiny windows to keep them cool and shady and to keep burglars out. The homes of wealthier families had their inside walls plastered and decorated with brightly-coloured paintings or hangings. Some even had vents on the roof to send cool breezes through the house – an ancient kind of air conditioning!

Houses in towns were built close together, but in the countryside there was room for people to have gardens. There were huge differences between the homes of the rich and the poor.

The enormous villas of the rich were set in great estates. They had many rooms, and separate stables, storerooms, workshops and kitchens, while most houses just had a small yard at the back with a clay oven and a grindstone. Wealthy homes even had bathrooms and toilets, but most people had to wash in the river.

There was very little furniture but most houses had built-in benches to sit and sleep on.

You Want to Write

Why do you want to write? Is it to escape the world in which you live, to entertain other people, because you want to see your name on a shelf in a bookshop or simply because you enjoy the craft. Whatever the reason, if you want to write… write! However, take the time to work out your storyline, to identify with your characters and know the industry, just to name a few very important issues.

I hope the information found on these pages will help you do this and will be a stepping stone to you reaching your goal. Click on “Writing” in the navigation bar at the top of the page to see the list of categories on writing.

Childbirth & Infancy

infancyIn medieval times childbirth could be a time of either great joy or great sorrow. Mortality rates for both mother and baby were high, and many children who lived through the birth died shortly thereafter.

During the delivery, some peasant women received help from female neighbours; others could rely only on their husbands.

A woman of the merchant or noble classes was attended by midwives and female relatives. The chamber would be dimly lit, and a warm bath prepared for the infant. Both measures were designed to ease the transition from the womb into the world.

The expectant father performed the important job of appealing to the saints for the safety of his wife and child.

The infant was wrapped in swaddling cloths – long cloths wrapped around the body and secured with crisscross bands. Swaddling kept the child warm but was also said to force the limbs to grow straight.

Unless work prevented it, peasants and artisans nursed their own babies, but wealthy mothers hired other women to serve as wet nurses. Without the burden of nursing, which can serve as a natural birth control, such women sometimes conceived as frequently as biologically possible, bearing as many as 20 children.

About 50 to 60 percent of children never saw their fifth birthday.

The Egyptian Family

familyThe family was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Paintings in tombs often show the different generations enjoying each other’s company. The Old Kingdom sage Hardjedef advised his readers: “If you would be a worthy man, set up home and marry a sensible woman, so that a son will be born to you.”

People did not expect to live to an old age, so they usually married quite young compared to today and tried to have plenty of children to live after them.

When a boy reached adulthood he left his parents’ house and set up his own home. Girls usually lived with their parents until they married. Marriages were usually arranged for political reasons, especially in the highest levels of society but the more ordinary people generally chose their partners.

In the early times, a couple often moved in together as no religious or legal ceremony was required but in later periods it was usual to have a marraige contract drawn up in case of arguments about children or property.

It was no unusual for people to remarry, either because their partner died or because the couple split up. Divorce was quite common and the marriage contracts would specify how much a man would pay his wife if he divorced her.

An ancient Egyptian household could be quite large. As well as the head of the family, his wife and their children, it was not uncommon for grandparens, unmarried aunts and sisters to live in the family home. The whole family shared one living and sleeping space yet the family members lead quite separate lives.

Boys went to school or work as soon as they were old enough, but girls helped their mothers around the house, learning the skills they would use in their own homes.