None of the main characters in ‘Reconquista‘ go to school.

board-597190_1280This may seem strange now, but, in the thirteenth century, most young people didn’t. They learned skills from their parents or relatives and were expected to work by the time they were ten or twelve, tending animals or helping in their parents work. Many couldn’t read or write, but then, neither could the adults.

Our male heroes were lucky, in that they lived in a city and in more settled times they would have attended a school. Nathan’s school would have been attached to the synagogue, which he would have attended with teenagers and slightly younger children.  We know this because he speculates that, given the exodus from the city, there wouldn’t be enough young people left to make up a single school class.  We horsehead-nebula-894256_1280also know that he used to bring his lessons home, to share with his cousin. They have studied the stars together, from the attic window in the house in Plateros.

Rebecca, as a girl, would not have gone to school at all. Girls didn’t. She is very unusual, for that time, in that she can read and write, most girls weren’t taught to do either. Only the daughters of the wealthy were taught at home with their brothers. All young women were expected to learn needlecrafts and cooking and how to run a house and a home, usually from their mothers. By the time a girl was fifteen, as Rebecca is, she would usually have been married for a year or more and probably have at least one child of her own.

Atta would also have attended school, not the same one as Nathan, but probably the madrasa, run by the Imams at the mosque. It was common in those times for educational institutions to be attached to religious ones.

As the son of a nobleman, Juan and his elder brother, Miguel, would have been educated at home, by a tutor or tutors. They would have learned Latin as well as the local languages.  Miguel, as the Delgado heir, would have to study how to manage the family estates, though it’s clear from what Juan has said about him that he spent quite a lot of time trying to get out of the more serious aspects of being the heir to enjoy himself in the less salubrious parts of the city. He is, we learn, well practised at playing dice and gambling.

knightMiguel also did military training, as did Ben Isaacs. The period was an unsettled one, with ongoing wars between the Christians and the Moors, local skirmishes between different city states ( called Taifas ) and repeated invasions from Africa. Young men would learn how to ride and to use a sword and a dagger, especially if they were from a noble family or a family with money.

So teenagers were never idle. They worked, or attended school and, even with the city under siege, they were required to play their part in the defence. Atta helps his father at the Hospital, Juan and Nathan act as messengers and Nathan helps in the forge. Rebecca has been looking after the Calamiel family since she was much younger.

It was a busy time for teenagers in 1264.