I want to understand how the increase in population translates to order of the creation of different jobs. A very small village probably has a blacksmith, but probably does not have a jewel vendor.

Essentially, how big should a village (mostly farming) be before it has a full time miller, a tanner, a baker, a doctor, a seamstress, general store, etc.

Feel free to include other jobs I may have missed.

I know it will be different for different villages because of different needs but I'm looking for the average.

Eg) 5000 - jewel vendor

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Medieval villages did not have bakers, doctors, seamstresses and most certainly there were no general stores in medieval times. The women did the jobs of bakers and seamstresses. Doctors were available only in large towns and cities. The first specialized profession in a village will be a blacksmith (say, one smithy for every 50 households). Mills were not attached to villages but to feudal estates or cities; a resonably large water mill can grind about 0.5 to 1.5 tonnes of grain per hour, so you can compute how many mills you need; in the real MA on good land there was a mill every few miles. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, and 5000 people is a city, not a village. At least if by medieval you mean European medieval; there may have been medieval villages with 5000 people in China. And remember that during the MA in Europe merchants lived in cities and went to fairs organized periodically to sell their wares; there were no permanent merchants in villages. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ I updated the question to not specify medieval villages. I just wanted a rough estimate for an average fictional settlement. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2017 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ The best way to go about this is honestly understand as best you can how capitalism works. Then understand the historical progression of technology and economy. Alot of it is geographically tied! once you understand this you can make more accurate and personalized predictions. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Sep 11, 2017 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Sounds like you have good answer there. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2017 at 20:19

8 Answers 8


It seems to me you are speaking about early medieval villages not particularly near to a town, but you don't state it clearly, so please feel free to correct my assumption.

Basic assumptions I see in other answers simply do not hold true for medieval life.

A few facts (concerning medieval (i.e.: 800-1400 AC), European villages, keeping in mind north, middle and south Europe were very different and, sometimes, life was very different just a few kilometers away):

  • Moving between villages was difficult and dangerous; most people did not move much more than about ten kilometers in their whole life (beside the ones in the various armies).
  • Money was not common among villagers; primary commerce was barter, even after end of Middle Age.
  • Tools were valued and prized, and, as such, were cared for and often exceeded the life span of the owner becoming heirlooms. It was customary to burn houses when they needed to be rebuilt; that was to recover the nails used.
  • Primary job for smiths was to build horseshoes, which were easy to lose, but that wasn't in villages where horses were almost non-existent and donkeys were without shoes.
  • The limit for population growth was scarcity of food and villagers were always in the verge of starvation.
  • Villagers ate what they grew, almost no commerce on food was done.
  • Tools were traded, especially if village didn't have a resident smith, as often was the case. Smiths were usually in burgs, not villages (difference is a burg is near a castle of some kind and thus there was request for horseshoes, weapons, armor etc.).
  • The first artisans in the village would be miller and baker, who would also act as trade-post.
  • A special twist in larger settlements, especially in northern Europe, was the need for a brewer; reason for this is given hygienic conditions water was not safe to drink, so even newborns drank beer (they has a special low-grade for everyday usage) because that was boiled in the first place and the alcohol it contained prevented too much bacterial contamination); smaller villages usually had less problems.
  • What came next strongly depended on what was around the village: if the next one had a smith it wasn't likely one would come, OTOH whatever was difficult to obtain would have a reason to.
  • Church and priest were in almost any village; priest would teach whatever he could to children, while making sure they would grow God-fearing.
  • Monasteries were primarily productive units, usually having knowledge and "technology" far superior to surrounding villages.
  • Artisans and trading (barter) was concentrated in monasteries and burgs.
  • There you would find also weavers (spinning was done in almost each house).
  • Only in burgs you would find full-time carpenters and masons, everywhere else neighbors would lend a hand as required.
  • Medical doctors were non-existent; old women would help in childbirth and some of them would know a bit of herbal potions and ailments (sometimes risking to be burnt at the stake); many monasteries retained some medical knowledge.

Please clarify better what period/location you are interested in.

  • $\begingroup$ "water was not safe to drink, so even newborns drank beer (they has a special low-grade for everyday usage) because that was boiled in the first place and the alcohol it contained prevented too much bacterial contamination)" This is objectively false btw. Not only was the water very safe to drink (settlements would exist around healthy bodies of waters like springfed or dug wells or natural springs) but the alcohol does almost nothing to cleanse the water even if it's high alcohol content beer. Dirty water is dirty water, and people (just like animals) know not to drink poisoned water. $\endgroup$
    – Carter81
    Feb 2, 2021 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Carter81: this depends heavily on where and when. In large part of Europe, for very long centuries in the Middle Ages cities were VERY unhealthy places and so much so that they could keep population stable only because a constant flux from surrounding countryside. Have a look to what was Edimburgh (as an example) around year 1000. Expect surprises. $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Feb 3, 2021 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ It did not matter where and when. Human beings, even in ancient times, did not walk around drunk 24/7. Also this is objective science. Alcohol, especially heavily dilluted like the myth suggests, doesn't actually purify water. Heavy alcohol content doesn't even purify water like you'd think. You're just drinking an alcoholic version of the same dirty water. It's not purified or significantly cleaner. This is all a myth. Just do some research on this myth. Cities were also NOT as filthy as you think. That again is mostly a myth. Do your research. $\endgroup$
    – Carter81
    Mar 17, 2021 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ LINK 1: youtube.com/watch?v=PFC32MzqHIc LINK 2: io9.gizmodo.com/… LINK 3: history.howstuffworks.com/medieval-people-drink-beer-water.htm $\endgroup$
    – Carter81
    Mar 17, 2021 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ Btw even if your argument isn't that they were always drunk or always drank only watered down beer, you are still 100% wrong. Water was plentiful, clean, and the centerpiece of a town. If the well was poisoned or foul, the entire town would have a major problem and 100% of the town would immediately begin to fix that problem - or the town would be abandoned because it would be unlivable. No amount of wine or beer could change that. Also beer/wine was used as a flavouring agent - NOT as some purification solvent. Humans dont drink poison water - they know not to bc it's foul to taste. $\endgroup$
    – Carter81
    Mar 17, 2021 at 4:25

It entirely depends on context.

"Every village will be different" - despite your own acknowledgement of this fact, it is nevertheless true, and perhaps moreso than you realize.

People will form whatever jobs there are supply and demand for and which a profit can be made from, assuming largely unrestricted capitalism applies. If there is a market for jewelry selling, for instance, then someone will fill that gap as soon as they notice and take the initiative. This could happen whether there are 100, 1,000, or 1,000,000 citizens.

There's no way to know a true average; in order to do so, we'd need accurate historical records of the growth of small villages throughout history. That kind of extensive and accurate statistical data has simply been lost to history.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a kind of non-answer. "We can't truly know" or "it depends" is an okay thing to say, but only as long as there is some tangible guidance. ("Supply and demand," while true, doesn't give a person a leg up on this.) You can even assume some things, like "self sufficiency," so you can say things like "a farmer supports so many people, a blacksmith supports so many farmers, a miller support so many farmers, etc." While we don't have exact numbers, I've seen plenty of reasonable approximations. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:12

I will qualify this as a sort of Non-Answer, but more of a guideline.

Follow Maslow's Hierarch of needs as a model, and couple it with specialization.

As has been stated, most communities are likely to have a blacksmith or farrier and a bunch of farmers. Call it 50 folks per town. I would say that around that time you will get an Inn, based on proximity to a road or navigable waterway. Flowing water will bring a mill. I suspect his might happen around 75 people.

Now we get to Maslows Heirarchy. The above is a guess at what point further specialization to begin. The first thing that individuals, and by extension the community, wants is to provide for the physiological. Food, Shelter, Etc. By the time you get specialization and the purely physical necessities are met and exceeded, maybe at 75 people, you can get further specialization with additional craftsmen. Carpenters, Wainwrights, Pottery makers, and so on. This represents the security phase. YOu have enough, it's time to make sure this state of affairs continues. You are now in a position to sell the surplus, but if you are selling, you need people to buy. You have to attract them by making sure there is more that one way to get to the inn. Waterways, build roads to other places maybe. That might be at around 150 people. As the town grows, opportunites for further specialization is going to come up. If you assume one blacksmith per 50 people, at 150 people you might get a blacksmith AND a farrier AND a weaponsmith. That takes care of tools and Horseshoes and sharp things. Take some of the apprentice metalsmiths and then you might get a silversmith out of the bunch. This launches you into civic pride, or the Love and Belonging phase.

Just remember that every specialization adds to surplus and will have a purpose based on location and local natural resources. Lots of iron might mean additional weaponsmiths. Fertile ground might mean an agricultural hub. Esay transport might give you means to start a Bazaar.

Just use a little logic.

  • $\begingroup$ Population density alone does not lead to specialization, take for instance slums. There has to be surplus of something and an innovation to spend it on. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Sep 11, 2017 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @anon true, hence the qualifiers about specialization on needs rather than population. Population is an independent vairable. Slums always seem to crop up after, rather than during a towns initial growth. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Sep 11, 2017 at 18:05

As populations increase specialization takes place. So everything needed and then wanted by people move from being done by ones self, to be provided by a specialist (blacksmith, baker, butcher, etc) So I would pay a butcher for my meat, and a baker for my bread because my time would be better suited making horse shoes. The higher the population the more specialization, production, and wealth is created.

no sources, just an MBA in Economics and Finance

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Chad! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Sep 11, 2017 at 20:09

Resources and Commerce

All is reduced to the resources that a town has and how well this is translated into trading with other merchants or towns.

An actual example would be Venezuela, they have a resource "Oil", and they sell it to other places in exchange of their products, services and money. You can see the effect in a economy when this price change, they have millions of habitants but that isn't what springs jobs, the demand indeed exist but they don't have the means to acquire it, is a good economy what produce jobs.

Your town would get a jeweler if there is enough money in their local economy, to pay a merchant to bring the stones, to cut them and place them in a shop and for people to come and pay for them.


To best help you understand how this works:


The more currency/product A place generates the more chances it can have to diversify.

Say we have a wheat making village;

We make lots of wheat but we are spending alot of time hand mashing it.

random guy A invents a mill and can mash lots of wheat freeing up time for the farmers.

Random guy A makes a lot of money this way and wants to please his wife with fine jewlery.

He notices random guy B makes fine jewlery so he pays him in currency or wheat to make his wife fine jewelry.

The ladies of the village are jealous the wifes fine jewelery and demand their husbands buy them fine jewelery as well.

The cycle goes on and on till we have facebook.

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    $\begingroup$ Oh, How does this translate on average? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2017 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ basically its a cycle of production, consumerism, and invention. Where excess in one spot leads to transference into the next causing the wheel to rotate $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Sep 11, 2017 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ "Follow the money" would be awkward in a medieval village, given that by and large nobody had any money... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ In medieval village the local ruler would allow peasants to only use his mill and to pay for the use. The random guy A will be hung. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Sep 11, 2017 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for continuing the scenario: So now we have a local ruler who takes all the money and stifles innovation by killing the innovator and effectively saying "innovation will get you killed". Thus progress comes to a halt. Just like it did in the medieval ages and why they lasted so long. So it could be said once a community reaches a certain profitability it will be stifled by a dictatorship so your result is your medieval village with a mill a blacksmith and farmers halted at that rung. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Sep 11, 2017 at 17:29

For population increase this is a function of market size. When there are only a few dozen people, chances are you cannot make a living as a blacksmith or baker or jewelry maker. You need to hunt, gather, fish, farm or whatever, and these occupations do not exist: People do their own smithing, or buy stuff from traveling vendors, or go to a bigger city, or all of those things.

They do their own milling, and baking: For example I've seen slideshows detailing how to use stones to grind your own wheat by hand. I've seen home-made foot pedal type tables for throwing your own pottery, or spinning a grinding wheel.

Specialization occurs for two (and usually three) essential reasons: First, that long practice or expertise improves the product or outcome. Second, that there is enough demand for the product that an individual can remain busy doing it all day. Third, that others are willing to pay or trade enough for the product (or service, like from a veterinarian or water well locator) that the practitioner is better off than they were before becoming a specialist. For an example of this third requirement IRL, in America: practice improves musicianship, there is clearly a demand for music and a willingness to pay something for it, but the vast majority of musicians could earn more money as truck drivers or delivering pizza.


This website has the following list. These are the number of people it takes to support a single business; for example it takes 150 people to support a shoemaker, so a town of 450 inhabitants will have 3 shoemakers. The authors adds that the number can vary by up to 60% in either direction.

  • Shoemakers 150

  • Furriers 250

  • Maidservants 250

  • Tailors 250

  • Barbers 350

  • Jewelers 400

  • Taverns/Restaurants 400

  • Old-Clothes 400

  • Pastrycooks 500

  • Masons 500

  • Carpenters 550

  • Weavers 600

  • Chandlers 700

  • Mercers 700

  • Coopers 700

  • Bakers 800

  • Watercarriers 850

  • Scabbardmakers 850

  • Wine-Sellers 900

  • Hatmakers 950

  • Saddlers 1,000

  • Chicken Butchers 1,000

  • Pursemakers 1,100

  • Woodsellers 2,400

  • Magic-Shops 2,800

  • Bookbinders 3,000

  • Butchers 1,200

  • Fishmongers 1,200

  • Beer-Sellers 1,400

  • Buckle Makers 1,400

  • Plasterers 1,400

  • Spice Merchants 1,400

  • Blacksmiths 1,500

  • Painters 1,500

  • Doctors 1,700

  • Roofers 1,800

  • Locksmiths 1,900

  • Bathers 1,900

  • Ropemakers 1,900

  • Inns 2,000

  • Tanners 2,000

  • Copyists 2,000

  • Sculptors 2,000

  • Rugmakers 2,000

  • Harness-Makers 2,000

  • Bleachers 2,100

  • Hay Merchants 2,300

  • Cutlers 2,300

  • Glovemakers 2,400

  • Woodcarvers 2,400

  • Booksellers 6,300

  • Illuminators 3,900

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    $\begingroup$ I question the logic behind this list, it says 900 for wine makers and 1400 for beer sellers. Beer/ale was the drink of choice in the medieval ages for it to take 900 people to get to 1 person in the brewing trade is wrong. Recent archaeological evidence from "Göbekli Tepe", 9000 bc, suggests brewing as the 2nd industry from agrarianism. Even in small european villages there is always some ancestral brewer of some kind regardless of size. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Sep 11, 2017 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Excuse me... "magic shops"? What exactly is that list based on? $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Sep 11, 2017 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ This list might be what OP was looking for, but has nothing to do with historical data. It is enough to look at the first entries to be sure about that: You have 5 shoemakers for each baker! (not to mention "maidservants" to be one of the most requested). This list is for game building and is about how many people are needed to sustain a certain activity, not about what populace would prompt starting said activity. I'm strongly tempted to downvote, but I'll refrain since OP seems to like the numbers. ;) $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Sep 11, 2017 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ Adding to @anon comment. This source might be accurate in the sense in a big, rich and magnet for noble-houses city as Paris it might well be there were more maidservants then bakers, but this doesn't mean a village counting 150 souls would have a maiden, but you have to wait till population grows to 800 to get a baker! Whoever compiled that list completely failed to understand the issues (and answerer followed blindly). I strongly recommend OP to take this "with a grain of salt". This is like taking an hospital as reference and discovering tailors aren't represented, nurses are majority! $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Sep 11, 2017 at 19:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ But how many piano tuners are there in this village? ;) $\endgroup$
    – brichins
    Sep 11, 2017 at 22:30

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