Inventions in the Middle Ages

From the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066 right through to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty in 1485 a lot of wars took place during the Middle Ages, and with war comes the development of technology, weaponry, medicine and so much more.

The Middle Ages account for several centuries of human innovation and inspiration, and a vast number off innovations came from this particular historical period.

The Middle Ages may have been bloody, but it led to the great changes in the way wars were fought and the tools that were used to wage battle and protect troops. During this time we know that there was disruption and change to the church, and the period saw considerable changes to ruling monarchies, leadership and ownership.

Pestilence and plague created a change in medicine, farming and housekeeping, and even the peasants were able to change the way that they were perceived and treated.

The truth is turbulent times create change, and with change comes the opportunity for inspiration, ideas and implementation. It’s also worth noting that the incredible Leonardo Da Vinci was born during the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages saw the rise of a number of new technologies, and we’ll take a look at some of these inventions in this article.

Types of Inventions

Because of the vast number of inventions that were made during the Middle Ages, it’s important to branch the different inventions into types or groups. These can include:

  • Weaponry and war related inventions
  • Nautical inventions
  • Farming inventions
  • Timekeeping inventions
  • General inventions

Weaponry and War Related Inventions

The Middle Ages were rife with wars, which led to great developments in weaponry and warfare. During the Middle Ages a number of inventions changed the way that battles were fought. Gunpowder, for example, is an obvious discovery that contributed to the later invention of cannons, which changed the way battles were thought both on the land and at sea.

Siege weapons were also invented and improved upon following the Crusades. The blueprints for these incredibly powerful weapons were brought back to Europe and modified in order to meet the challenges faced in medieval warfare.

Other important weaponry inventions include:

  • The lance
  • The longbow
  • The crossbow
  • The flail
  • Armour
  • Chainmail
  • Nautical Inventions

Perhaps one of the areas that saw the most impressive developments was the nautical industry. From navigation to steering and power, everything about the way boats and sailors worked together was changed, creating the Age of Exploration.

Important nautical inventions include:

  • The compass
  • Traverse boards
  • Astrolabes
  • Cross-staffs
  • Oars
  • Rudder

Farming Inventions

Farming inventions enabled the people of the Middle Ages to increase their food production, helping to feed a growing population. The changes to these farming processes helped to save time, produce more food and better crops. These inventions undoubtedly helped to contribute to the modern agricultural and food production techniques that we see today.

Important farming inventions include:

  • Mills
  • Windmills
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Horseshoes and horse collar
  • Moldboard plough

The wheelbarrow is perhaps an item that we take for granted today, but in the Middle Ages it was an impressive and triumphant invention that dramatically changed the process of farming and production, as citizens and workers could move heavier loads much more quickly.

Timekeeping Inventions

Timekeeping was a concept that was vastly improved upon during the Middle Ages. The first major timekeeping invention was the hourglass, which was used to measure time while at sea as well as on the land. The minute glass was also developed during this time.

The sundial was another simple yet highly effective timekeeping device that was developed during the Middle Ages.

Much later into the Middle Ages was the invention of the clock, which provided a much more accurate sense of time keeping, order and routine. The mechanical clock is a masterpiece of ingenuity and invention, and it still plays an incredibly important part in modern life. To begin with these early mechanical clock struck only at the hour, and did not include hands.

Other timekeeping Middle Ages inventions include nocturnal and quadrants.

General Inventions

There are a number of general inventions which dramatically changed the shape of society.

Perhaps one of the most important and revolutionary of these inventions is the printing press. Suddenly the written word was no longer limited to those who could write; it was now accessible to everyone because production could be increased dramatically. Although paper had been invented in China, it was altered to be made suitable for the printing press.

The spinning wheel may not have necessarily been invented during the Middle Ages, but it’s dramatic increase in use can certainly be attributed to the civilians and workers of the Middle Ages.

There’s also the incredible invention of the eyeglasses to consider. Although lenses had been used in the past it is safe to say that the techniques and understanding that are used today in modern optometry were developed by individuals from the Middle Ages.

Weighing scales are also another Middle Ages invention that perhaps we take for granted in the modern age. Weighing scales are believed to have been invented in 1366, and these scales could be used to improve trade and cooking, as well as other things.

Artesian wells helped to improve the distribution of water in the Middle Ages., as they eliminated the need to pump the water.

Quarantine may not be an invention as such, but it is an important concept that we use in modern medicine that came from the Middle Ages.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Perhaps one of the most inspiration men from the Middle Ages is the incredibly talented genius that was Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1485 Da Vinci designed the first ever parachute, and seven years later, still fascinated with the concept of flight, he began to seriously consider the physics behind flying machines. Da Vinci’s many inventions still inspire people to this day, and many amateur inventors revere Da Vinci and his incredible mind.

1 thought on “Inventions in the Middle Ages”

  1. ..and this article is for..? I mean, emphasis on INDIVIDUALS, as the masses were kept in ignorance deliberately. If no other turbulence, war is just a fine way of creating change, right? Baffling. No mention of how many inventions were supressed, how much progress from the ages before was just annihilated by those in power in the middle ages. The middle ages since the 7th century were a step back for society until the 16th century.


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