Serfdom - Wikipedia
Kids learn about the feudal system during the Middle Ages and Medieval times. Feudalism with lords and manors, serfs and peasants. Lords, vassals, peasants, and serfs. Feudalism was built upon a relationship of obligation and mutual service between vassals and lords. A vassal held his. Serfdom: Serfdom, condition in medieval Europe in which a tenant farmer was Demystified · Quizzes · Galleries · Lists · On This Day · Biographies · Newsletters The lord could also compel the serf to cultivate that portion of the lord's land that freed from serfdom, thus recovering their freedom of movement and marriage.
A Vassal's Obligations The vassal was required to attend the lord at his court, help administer justice, and contribute money if needed. He must answer a summons to battle, bringing an agreed upon number of fighting men.
As well, he must feed and house the lord and his company when they travelled across his land. This last obligation could be an onerous one. William the Conqueror travelled with a very large household, and if they extended their stay it could nearly bankrupt the lord hosting them.
In a few days of Christmas feasting one year William and his retinue consumed 6, chickens, 1, rabbits, 90 boars, 50 peacocks, geese, 10, eels, thousands of eggs and loaves of bread, and hundreds of casks of wine and cider.
Feudalism and Medieval life
A Lord's Obligations On the lord's side, he was obliged to protect the vassal, give military aid, and guard his children. If a daughter inherited, the lord arranged her marriage. If there were no heirs the lord disposed of the fief as he chose.
Manors Manors, not villages, were the economic and social units of life in the early Middle Ages. A manor consisted of a manor house, one or more villages, and up to several thousand acres of land divided into meadow, pasture, forest, and cultivated fields. This land was shared out so that each person had an equal share of good and poor.
At least half the work week was spent on the land belonging to the lord and the church. Time might also be spent doing maintenance and on special projects such as clearing land, cutting firewood, and building roads and bridges. The rest of the time the villagers were free to work their own land. Food and Drink The fare at the lord's table was as full of variety as the peasant's was spare. Meat, fish, pastries, cabbage, turnips, onions, carrots, beans, and peas were common, as well as fresh bread, cheese, and fruit.
At a feast spitted boar, roast swan, or peacock might be added. Normans dining Wine or ale was drunk, never water, which was rightly considered suspect. It was always in the interest of the lord to prove that a servile arrangement existed, as this provided him with greater rights to fees and taxes.
The status of a man was a primary issue in determining a person's rights and obligations in many of the manorial court -cases of the period. Also, runaway slaves could be beaten if caught. The United States had approximately 4 million slaves by and the British Empire hadslaves when it abolished slavery in Usually a portion of the week was devoted to ploughing his lord's fields held in demesneharvesting crops, digging ditches, repairing fences, and often working in the manor house.
The remainder of the serf's time he spent tending his own fields, crops and animals in order to provide for his family.
How Knights Work
Most manorial work was segregated by gender during the regular times of the year; however, during the harvestthe whole family was expected to work the fields. A major difficulty of a serf's life was that his work for his lord coincided with, and took precedence over, the work he had to perform on his own lands: On the other hand, the serf of a benign lord could look forward to being well fed during his service; it was a lord without foresight who did not provide a substantial meal for his serfs during the harvest and planting times.
In addition to service, a serf was required to pay certain taxes and fees. Taxes were based on the assessed value of his lands and holdings. Fees were usually paid in the form of agricultural produce rather than cash. The best ration of wheat from the serf's harvest often went to the landlord. Generally hunting and trapping of wild game by the serfs on the lord's property was prohibited. On Easter Sunday the peasant family perhaps might owe an extra dozen eggs, and at Christmas a goose was perhaps required too.
When a family member died, extra taxes were paid to the lord as a form of feudal relief to enable the heir to keep the right to till what land he had. Any young woman who wished to marry a serf outside of her manor was forced to pay a fee for the right to leave her lord, and in compensation for her lost labour.
Often there were arbitrary tests to judge the worthiness of their tax payments. A chicken, for example, might be required to be able to jump over a fence of a given height to be considered old enough or well enough to be valued for tax purposes. The restraints of serfdom on personal and economic choice were enforced through various forms of manorial customary law and the manorial administration and court baron.
It was also a matter of discussion whether serfs could be required by law in times of war or conflict to fight for their lord's land and property. In the case of their lord's defeat, their own fate might be uncertain, so the serf certainly had an interest in supporting his lord. Rights Within his constraints, a serf had some freedoms. Though the common wisdom is that a serf owned "only his belly"—even his clothes were the property, in law, of his lord—a serf might still accumulate personal property and wealth, and some serfs became wealthier than their free neighbours, although this happened rarely.
A serf could grow what crop he saw fit on his lands, although a serf's taxes often had to be paid in wheat. The surplus he would sell at market. The landlord could not dispossess his serfs without legal cause and was supposed to protect them from the depredations of robbers or other lords, and he was expected to support them by charity in times of famine. Many such rights were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.
In some places serfdom was merged with or exchanged for various forms of taxation. The amount of labour required varied. In Poland, for example, it was commonly a few days per year per household in the 13th century. One day per week per household in the 14th century.
Four days per week per household in the 17th century. Six days per week per household in the 18th century.
Middle Ages for Kids: Feudal System and Feudalism
In any case, it became a practice for the dependent peasant to swear fealty to a proprietor, thus becoming bound to that lord. The main problem with the coloni was that of preventing them from leaving the land they had agreed to cultivate as tenant farmers. The solution was to legally bind them to their holdings. Accordingly, a legal code established by the Roman emperor Constantine in demanded labour services to be paid to the lord by the coloni. By the 6th century the servi, or serfs, as the servile peasants came to be called, were treated as an inferior element in society.
Serfs subsequently became a major class in the small, decentralized polities that characterized most of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century to the initial reconstitution of feudal monarchies, duchies, and counties in the 12th century.
By the 14th century, economic conditions in western Europe were favourable to the replacement of serfs by a free peasantry. The growth of the power of central and regional governments permitted the enforcement of peasant-landlord contracts without the need for peasant servility, and the final abandonment of labour services on demesnes removed the need for the direct exercise of labour discipline on the peasantry.
The drastic population decline in Europe after as a result of the Black Death left much arable land uncultivated and also created an acute labour shortage, both economically favourable events for the peasantry. And finally, the endemic peasant uprisings in western Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries also forced more favourable terms of peasant tenure.