Survival tips for the Middle Ages JUN 10 2008
I spend far too much of my life daydreaming about scenarios like this:
I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am 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. Any advice would help.
To which Tyler Cowen replies:
Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church. Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language. You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won't even think your jokes are funny. Even if you can prove Euler's Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation. I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.
The comments are full of informative and entertaining options. I side with the commenters who feel that the most likely outcome is death within a few days. Unless you're skilled at wilderness survival, finding edible food, shelter, and potable water in a time when those things were much more scarce than now will prove difficult. If you do manage to survive, maybe you could set up shop selling goods that people could use:
I'd start a shop that did nothing but boil water and then sell it. I'd market it as "de-spirited" water and sell it to midwives, priests, doctors - anyone who would be charged with the health of another. The boiled, micro-organism free water would dramatically improve the health outcomes for anyone with cholera or plague or infection. Even marginally better outcomes using clean water would bolster my reputation and business. Of course, barriers to entry would be pretty low in my business, but if I were widely copied, I'd start a health revolution. For that quantum timeline anyway.
Again, assuming you survive, other commenters suggest that you "invent" something, sell it, and become rich so that your wealth will insulate you from further problems, stuff like gunpowder, mass production, long bows, guns, soap, steel, the printing press, double-entry accounting, whiskey, capitalism, and hot air balloons. I'm skeptical of this approach...how many people living in the US know how to make gunpowder from scratch? Given enough time, I guess I could build a hot air balloon that actually flies and carries human passengers but anything involving chemistry would prove tougher.
How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.