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Medieval Demographics Online

An automated tool for creating fantasy populations (with offline version, too)

This tool lets you generate figures for populating low-fantasy kingdoms and settlements. Instructions are included in Low-fantasy Populations article, also included in the offline download below.

Use the drop-down menus and input fields in the form below to generate realistic population numbers for any low fantasy setting. Fields with grey backgrounds are filled in automatically by the Generator.

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Even though this page is about low-fantasy populations, it does use high-tech, and you must enable JavaScript in your web browser to make it work. If you don't know how to do this, just follow these instructions.

Regional Area and Population

Region Name Population Density Physical Area Region's Age
sq. miles years

Regional Area

occupies an area of square miles, of which is arable. This equates to:

Land Type Square Miles Acres
Arable/Settled
Wilderness

Regional Population and Distribution

supports a population of people, distributed as follows:

Settlement Type Number Total Population Average Pop of Each Distance Between Each (miles)
Isolated N/A N/A N/A
Villages
Towns
Cities
Big Cities N/A

Universities and Fortifications

supports Universities and standing fortifications.

Fortification Type Number Active (settled) Active (wilderness) Abandoned (settled) Abandoned (wilderness)
Castle
Keep
Tower
Totals

Settlement Area and Population

Population Minimum Area

people

The settlement occupies square miles ( acres).

Population Overview

Nobles Officers Clergy Freeholders Citizens Hirelings

Population Breakdown

Ruling House and Noble Households
Ruling House Relatives Servants House Guard Serjeants
Additional Noble Houses Population of other Houses  
 
Settlement Officers
Reeve Messor Woodward Constable Law Enforcement Law enforcement is:
Settlement Clergy
Clerics (deacons, lesser priests)   Priests (fully-vested)
 
Freeholders
Adventurers
Apothecaries
Armourers*
Artists
Butchers*
Chandlers
Charcoalers
Cobblers
Entertainers
Foresters
Furriers
Glassworkers
Innkeepers
Jewelers
Litigants
Locksmiths
Masons
Metalsmiths*
Millers/Bakers*
Ostlers*
  Outfitters
Physicians
Potters
Roofers
Ropemakers
Sages/Heralds
Salters*
Scribes
Shipwrights*
Tailors
Tanners*
Taverns
Teamsters
Timberwright*
Tinkers
Vintners
Weaponcrafters*
Weavers
Woodcrafters
Yeomen

Freeholders typically live in the same building as their shop, unless marked with an asterisk (*), in which case their dwelling is separate from their place of business.

Settlement Buildings

Mansions Churches Businesses Municipal Homes Total

Original codebase drawn from The Domesday Book by Brandon Blackmoor, based on Medieval Demographics Made Easy by S. John Ross. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Downloads

Categories: Worldbuilding Tags: ,
  1. May 4th, 2010 at 14:05 | #1

    How do you use the offline version? I downloaded it but I am lost after that

  2. May 4th, 2010 at 15:39 | #2

    @Evil Eli : Just unzip the download into its own directory. Navigate to that directory and double-click on the ‘lowfantasypop.html’. It should open in your web browser, and you can work it from there (it won’t look as pretty as the above). Drop me a line if you get stuck (admin AT welshpiper DOT com).

  3. May 10th, 2010 at 07:43 | #3

    Tks, I got it working!

  4. Summer
    August 5th, 2010 at 05:35 | #4

    The population number of people in a settlement: Does this number represent the entire population (including children and the elderly, i.e. non-labor force) or the adult population able to provide work?

  5. August 5th, 2010 at 09:29 | #5

    @Summer : It’s the entire population (i.e., every single living inhabitant). Details about determining workforce are found in the companion article, “Low-fantasy Populations.”

    Specifically: “Not all citizens are workers; the Generator groups citizens into households of 4.75 each. These include one or two parents and children of various (pre-marital) ages.”

    Hope this helps!

  6. Summer
    August 6th, 2010 at 07:58 | #6

    Thanks, that helps a lot! I must’ve missed that particular line…

  7. August 6th, 2010 at 09:12 | #7

    @Summer : What? You mean that 2-line sentence buried in a sea of text? ;)

    You’re not the first one to ask, though, and I should update for the current version of Chimera. Thanks for the nudge.

  8. Rex Loewen
    February 3rd, 2011 at 17:03 | #8

    I have playing with the numbers but cannot seem to generate a University.
    What does it take before my kingdom, realm, country, province, whatever supports a University?

    Thank you in advance.

    Rex A. Loewen

  9. February 6th, 2011 at 07:37 | #9

    @Rex Loewen : You’re right–universities are very rare. Based on the source material, the output is 1 University for every 27.3 million people.

    You could come up with a university-to-population ratio that fits in better with your campaign, or you could add your universities “manually,” based on what you want in your campaign.

    If you download the offline version, the University calculation is lines 107-110 of the “pop_functions.js” file.

  10. Kyle Stoddard
    May 3rd, 2012 at 17:52 | #10

    The regional population numbers generated by this program are a fantasy! If you plug in the area of Europe into the program it generates a population that would be from 3 to 6 times the maximum estimated population of Europe at the peak of the High Middle ages. (70 to 100 millions people.)

    So, divide all these population numbers by 3 to 6 if you want something approaching reality.

    Kyle Stoddar

  11. May 3rd, 2012 at 21:17 | #11

    @Kyle Stoddard : I see your point, but there may be a flaw in your approach. The tool applies the same population density across the entire area you plug in, which wouldn’t be accurate for all of Europe in the Middle Ages (i.e, some areas were highly populated while others were very sparse).

    To get manageable (and more realistic) results, I suggest you use smaller areas–kingdoms instead of continents, or maybe even individual counties thereof. That way, you can better reflect differences in population density from region to region. Hope this helps.

  12. Summer
    August 20th, 2012 at 12:34 | #12

    Is there a reason I can’t see the online version of the generator anymore? Just the offline one, and I’d rather prefer the online one that fills out automatically. Just wondering if there’s something amiss…

  13. August 20th, 2012 at 13:35 | #13

    @Summer : ACK! Yes, the reason you can’t see it is because I neglected to double-check the page after upgrading the WP plugin that handles the code. Sorry about that. Good news is that it’s easy to fix, which I’ll do tonight. On the meantime, I hope the offline version is of use.

  14. August 21st, 2012 at 06:28 | #14

    @Summer All sorted now – thanks for the heads up, and again, my apologies for the inconvenience.

  15. Summer
    September 5th, 2012 at 04:15 | #15

    @Erin D. Smale

    @Erin, thank you! Can’t begin to tell you how useful this generator has been for me :)

  16. Summer
    September 5th, 2012 at 05:22 | #16

    @Erin, is it possible to add a factor of 10 to population density? Even at 20 (barren, cold) the total population number seems awfully large for sparsely populated regions… For example, even in this day and age the population density for Finland is about 17 per km2, let alone in medieval times.

  17. September 6th, 2012 at 04:54 | #17

    @Summer : Glad it’s useful to you, Summer. And yes, I can add “10” to the dropdown – on one condition: you have to supply the description in parenthesis.

    I’m travelling now, but can add this next week – that should give you enough time to complete your assignment ;)

  18. Summer
    September 6th, 2012 at 05:34 | #18

    @Erin D. Smale Oh, the pressure…. The first describes natural conditions and terrain, right? And the second is temperature.

    Well, since there are restrictions to available space in the drop-down, let’s keep this short and sweet. How about… A) Desolate, Any (reference to temperature). B) Desolate, Unpredictable (that’s probably too long). C) Wilderness, Any. D) Wild, Erratic. E) Desolate, Erratic. F) Desert(ed), Any.

    Or any combination of the above options.

    Wow. This is more difficult than I thought… The previous description, barren, pretty much covers all contingencies. I was trying to find a word that would describe any kind of terrain and temperature, so that the area could be void of people for any sort of reason, from natural conditions to results of calamities, like war or plague or something.

    If I come up with more possibilities, I’ll be sure to add them :) In the meantime, if anyone else would like to take a crack at it, be my guest!

  19. September 16th, 2012 at 10:55 | #19

    @Summer : You’re right – the descriptions are a little confusing. I’ve addressed that with broader terms, AND added your “10” option to both the on- and offline versions. Please let me know if this fits the bill.

  20. Summer
    September 21st, 2012 at 16:41 | #20

    @Erin D. Smale : Thank you so much. This is perfect! It has already worked very well for me :)

  21. September 23rd, 2012 at 10:59 | #21

    @Summer Huzzah!

    But here’s something to think about: why not a high-fantasy demographics tool? What would be different?

  22. JeremyR
    January 4th, 2013 at 02:25 | #22

    This is neat, but it seems way too high. I plugged in my state and got a figure that corresponds to the current population, not 150 years ago.

  23. January 5th, 2013 at 12:11 | #23

    @JeremyR The tool applies the same population density to whatever square mileage you enter. IOW, it assumes that every square mile of your region has the same population.

    This probably isn’t true. Does your state have uninhabited or non-inhabitable areas? If so, you need to take those areas out of the equation. Does your state have a mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas? If so, you’ll need to factor those in as well.

    My advice is to “carve up” your total area into smaller regions that have the same population density, run the tool, and that should give you more “realistic” figures.

  24. drs
    March 2nd, 2013 at 01:07 | #24

    A useful calibration:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_real_population_density_based_on_food_growing_capacity
    gives modern densities by total land, and by arable land. Not directly useful for medieval purposes, since modern numbers ride on fertilizers made with fossil fuel energy (huge), extensive irrigation and aquifer mining (though those can be pre-modern), modern crop breeds (possible with magic or post-apoc setup), pesticides (magic?), mechanized harvesting (though that probably reduces labor more than increases productivity per land… some say proper intensive farming is more productive than modern farms, if you have thed skilled labor for it.) Fertilizer is probably the big one — and was preceded by guano, so you may have to go back to 1840 to find world population numbers. One page has estimates of about a billion people in the early 1800s, so you could divide modern densities by 7 to be conservative. Though how much fertilizer are poor countries affording?

    Anyway, even without such adjustment, the Wikipedia table shows the variation in density per arable land due to climate and the variation in amount of a country that’s arable. Then there’s what you put the land to use for: the US could have far more people per arable land, but we have cattle and other livestock instead, including horses back before the car.

    Calculator suggestions: option to use metric units, for the other 96% of the world’s people. Option to enter a density directly, if someone feels the menu range isn’t good enough.

  25. BRRM
    July 6th, 2013 at 17:42 | #25

    This is GREAT! Thank you for this lovely calculator! Gonna make figuring out my settlement sizes much easier! :) Brilliant! now i can concentrate on my map. :D

  26. Summer
    August 12th, 2013 at 15:57 | #26

    @Erin D. Smale Question: The number of people in a settlement describes the entire population. What is the percentage of the labor force, as in adults in their prime able to work? Obviously this interpretation would exclude children and the elderly. The number wasn’t mentioned in Low-fantasy Populations. Would a rough guess of 60-80 % sound natural? Or do you have a more specific factor in play?

  27. August 15th, 2013 at 22:34 | #27

    @Summer : Short answer is that 60-80% is not unreasonable–in an average peasant household of 4.75, that means anywhere between 2.85 and 3.8 were able-bodied.

    But let me reinforce that with some armchair logic. Assume we’re excluding freeholders, so we count only citizens (i.e. farmers).

    In order to pay rents, pay tithes, and simply survive, a peasant’s feudal obligation was considerable. As a result, children worked the fields as soon as they were capable of being helpful–about 7 or 8 years of age (http://www.localhistories.org/middle.html).

    Likewise, the elderly worked the fields until they were no longer helpful–a variety of factors could contribute to this, but the average lifespan in Medieval Britain (from birth) was about 30 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy). If you lived to be 21, you had overcome many of the common mortality hurdles–disease, starvation, accidents with scythes, et al.–and could expect to top out at about 64. I’ll take the unscientific approach and normalise lifespan at about 47. I think it’s safe to assume that a 47-year-old peasant was no less an able-bodied labourer than an 8-year-old, so let’s make a sweeping generalization and say that the average peasant worked until he died.

    Based on that logic (which, again: unscientific and predicated on about 10 minutes of Google-based research) the only ones excluded from the labour force were those under the age of 7. So the question is, out of the 4.75 peasants in the average household, how many were 6 years or younger?

    Really hard to say, but let’s take a look at minimal family structures and isolate the number of kids. If we have 1-2 parents, we’re left with 3.75 – 2.75 children–basically 3-4 kids. How many of those are under 7?

    Here’s a potential clue. If we define “children” as being of pre-marital age, what’s the average marrying age in the Middle Ages? Sources vary, but a common range is the mid-twenties (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_household)–let’s say 24. So let’s assume that parents have their kids between the ages of 18 and 30–that’s a 12 year span. Three kids evenly spaced in a 12 year period gives us ages 4, 8, and 12; 4 kids evenly spaced gives us ages 3, 6, 9, and 12.

    So we arrive–with many convenient assumptions–1 or 2 kids under 7 per family, leaving us with 2.75 to 3.75 able-bodied workers per household, or basically between 60-80%. ;)

  28. Hyronious
    November 21st, 2013 at 04:03 | #28

    Great resource!

    Just one question, I’m not hugely familiar with medieval society in general, at least the background bits that get left out of popular literature, and I was wondering what sort of numbers I would be looking at for military?

  29. February 11th, 2014 at 19:51 | #29

    @Hyronious : Hey Hyronious! The answer depends on what military means. If you’re talking militia, then every able-bodied man could be conscripted, and I’m saying that’s equal to the labour force (q.v., my previous comment, minus kids under marrying age?).

    If you’re talking trained fighters (i.e., at least 1st-level, or the equivalent in your game), then we can extrapolate a bit – sources consistently suggest it took 15-30 households to support a single knight (here’s one of them: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/plaintexthistories.asp?historyid=ac80).

    So here’s some math: If you took a medieval hundred (composed of 100 “hides,” each of which was enough land to support a single household – size varied from 60-120 acres depending on terrain and land quality), you’d reasonably expect 3.3 to 6.6 knights. If a household is 4.75 people, then a hundred’s population is 475 people, so knights were anywhere from 0.7% to 1.5% of the rural population.

    But like my previous comment, wherein I expound (inexpertly) on the size of the labour force, I’m basing this on about 10 minutes of Google research. I think knights being 1% of the population is a reasonable baseline, but YMMV.

    One more caveat: These figures are based on actual knights, which were expensive: They required a mount, armour, and actual weapons as opposed to dangerous-looking farm implements. A single “knight” is almost definitely worth several, lesser-equipped (but nevertheless trained) troops like archers, pikemen, unmounted spearmen, et al.

  30. February 18th, 2014 at 14:44 | #30

    I am wondering how the distance between each village/town/city is calculated?

  31. March 14th, 2014 at 16:24 | #31

    just a note that, since io.com is no more, the MDME page has moved to http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm

    and a huzzah and thanks for putting this together!

  32. March 17th, 2014 at 11:40 | #32

    @drow : Thanks for the update – link is now fixed.

  33. hobbs
    June 12th, 2014 at 08:24 | #33

    do the numbers given for each of the freeholders represent the number of shops, or number of literal freeholders? (if there is 11 tailors, should i mark 11 tailors’ buildings on my map?)

  34. Samuel
    June 16th, 2014 at 16:28 | #34

    I have a criticism: The Number of castles is wayyyyy off. England and Wales alone had nearly 2000.

  35. Lorien
    July 26th, 2014 at 01:55 | #35

    Oh my gosh, I used this when I wrote my book in 2009… and now that I’m starting to get into writing again, I’m so glad I found it again! Seriously love this tool.

    I just re-downloaded the offline version to have an up-to-date version (based on your updates in the comments above), but the “last update” still reads 2006. Is this accurate?

  1. October 9th, 2009 at 09:52 | #1
  2. October 10th, 2009 at 05:38 | #2
  3. September 5th, 2013 at 20:32 | #3

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