While it's commonly thought that modern life is far easier than those of our ancestors, when it comes to work hours, your average medieval peasant had us beat.
Sure, conveniences like heavy machinery, running water, and antibiotics give us the edge when it comes to life expectancy and general pleasantries like hygiene, the hours we work far outpace our forebears, according to economist Juliet B. Schor.
In Schor's book, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, she notes we often think of the, "the dreary life of medieval peasants, toiling steadily from dawn to dusk...rising even before the sun, laboring by candlelight late into the night."
She notes: "These images are backward projections of modern work patterns. And they are false."
While the average American worker gets a measly 8 vacation days a year, the medieval worker put in under 200 days a year, total.
Forget about answering middle of the night emails from their superiors, Schor explains. By comparison, the medieval worker had it easy: "Before capitalism, most people did not work very long hours at all. The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely... Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure...Consider a typical working day in the medieval period...stretched from dawn to dusk, sixteen hours in summer and eight in winter, but...work was...called to a halt for breakfast, lunch, the customary afternoon nap, and dinner."
What's more, "Depending on time and place, there were also midmorning and midafternoon refreshment breaks. These rest periods were the traditional rights of laborers, which they enjoyed even during peak harvest times. During slack periods, which accounted for a large part of the year, adherence to regular working hours was not usual."
Try asking your boss for all that.