Learning Objective

Illustrate the power structure of the manor system by relenten the functions of lords, villeins, and also serfs

Key Points

The mr of a manor was supported by his soil holdings and contributions native the peasant population. Serfs who populated land belonging come the mr were forced to occupational the land, and also in return received particular entitlements.Serfdom to be the standing of peasants in the manor system, and also villeins were the most common form of serf in the middle Ages.Villeins rented small homes v or without land; as component of their contract with the mr they were intended to invest some time functioning the land.Villeins could not move away there is no the lord’s consent and the accept of the new lord who manor they to be to move to. Because of the protection villeins got from the lord’s manor, the was typically not favorable to relocate away unless the landlord confirmed to be specifically tyrannical.The manor mechanism was consisted of of three types of land: demesne, dependent, and totally free peasant land.Manorial structures could be uncovered throughout medieval Western and Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and the germanic kingdoms.

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All the land, not necessarily every physically linked to the manor house, that was kept by the mr of a manor because that his own use and also support, under his very own management.


Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It to be a problem of bondage that arisen primarily throughout the High Middle eras in Europe.


The most common kind of serf in the center Ages. Lock had an ext rights and also a higher status 보다 the shortest serf, but existed under a variety of legal limitations that differentiated them native freemen.


Men who were not serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was an important element the feudal society and to be the arranging principle that rural economic situation that originated in the villa device of the Late roman inn Empire. Manorialism was widely exercised in middle ages Western Europe and also parts of main Europe, and also was slowly replaced through the development of a money-based market economy and new forms of agrarian contract.

Manorialism was identified by the vesting that legal and economic strength in the mr of a manor. The mr was supported financially from his own direct landholding in a manor (sometimes dubbed a fief), and from the obligatory contribute of the peasant population who fell under the jurisdiction the the lord and also his court. This obligations might be payable in number of ways: in labor, in kind, or, on rare occasions, in coin. Manorial structures might be uncovered throughout middle ages Western and also Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the german kingdoms.

The key reason because that the development of the device was perhaps also its greatest strength: the stabilization of society during the destruction of Roman imperial order. With a decreasing birthrate and also population, labor was the key factor that production. Successive managements tried come stabilize the imperial economic climate by freeze the society structure into place: sons to be to succeed their fathers in your trade, councilors to be forbidden to resign, and coloni, the cultivators that land, were no to relocate from the soil they were attached to. The workers of the land were on their way to ending up being serfs. Together the germanic kingdoms succeeded Roman government in the West in the 5th century, roman inn landlords were often simply changed by Gothic or germanic ones, with small change come the underlying situation or displacement of populations. Therefore the mechanism of manorialism came to be ingrained right into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each included three classes of land:

Demesne, the component directly controlled by the lord and used because that the advantage of his household and also dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings transferring the duty that the peasant household supply the mr with specified labor solutions or a part of that is output; andFree peasant land, without such obligation but otherwise topic to manorial jurisdiction and also custom, and also owing money rent resolved at the time of the lease.

Additional resources of revenue for the lord contained charges for use of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or for the best to hunt or to let pigs feed in his woodland, and court earnings and single payments on each adjust of tenant. Top top the various other side the the account, manorial administration involved significant expenses, perhaps a factor why smaller estates tended come rely less on villein tenure.


Serfdom to be the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a problem of bondage that occurred primarily throughout the Middle periods in Europe.

Serfs who inhabited a plot of soil were forced to work for the mr of the manor that owned that land, and also in return were entitled come protection, justice, and the ideal to exploit details fields in ~ the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs to be often compelled to occupational on not only the lord’s fields, but additionally his mines, forests, and also roads. The manor developed the an easy unit that feudal society, and also the lord of a manor and his serfs were bound legally, economically, and also socially. Serfs developed the lowest course of feudal society.


A serf digging the land, c. 1170 CE. “Digging,” detail from the Hunterian Psalter, Glasgow university Library ms Hunter.

Many of the an unfavorable components of manorialism, and also feudalism in general, revolve about the bondage the the serf, his absence of society mobility, and also his low position on the social hierarchy. However, a serf had actually some freedoms within his constraints. Though the typical wisdom is that a serf own “only his belly”—even his garments were the property, in law, that his lord—he can still accumulate personal property and wealth, and also some serfs came to be wealthier 보다 their free neighbors, although this taken place rarely. A well-to-do serf might even be able to buy his freedom. A serf might grow what crops he saw fit ~ above his lands, although a serf’s taxes often had to be paid in wheat. The surplus plants he would market at market.

The landlord could not dispossess his serfs there is no legal cause, was claimed to protect them from the depredations of robbers or other lords, and was supposed to support them by charity in time of famine. Countless such civil liberties were enforceable through the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) to be the most common kind of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had an ext rights and also a higher status than the lowest serf, yet existed under a number of legal limitations that identified them native freemen. Villeins normally rented tiny homes with or there is no land. As part of the contract v the landlord, the mr of the manor, castle were expected to spend some of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contrary to well-known belief, the need was not often greatly onerous, and was frequently only seasonal, together was the duty to help at harvest-time, because that example. The rest of villeins’ time was spent farming their own land for their own profit.

Like other varieties of serfs, villeins were required to carry out other services, maybe in addition to payment rent the money or produce. Villeins were tied to the land and also could not move away without their lord’s consent and the acceptance of the mr to whose manor castle proposed to migrate to. Villeins were normally able to organize their very own property, uneven slaves.

Villeinage was no a completely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the center Ages, land in ~ a lord’s manor noted sustenance and survival, and being a villein guaranteed accessibility to land and also kept plants secure native theft through marauding robbers. Landlords, even where legally licensed has been granted to perform so, rarely evicted villeins, since of the worth of your labour. Villeinage to be preferable to being a vagabond, a slave, or one un-landed laborer.

In numerous medieval countries, a villein might gain freedom by escaping from a manor to a city or borough and also living there for much more than a year, but this activity involved the ns of land rights and farming livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was particularly tyrannical or conditions in the town were person who is abnormal difficult.

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Plowing a French field (French ducal manor in march Les Très wealth Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410). In the foreground, a farmer plowing a ar with a plow traction by 2 oxen; guy the leader v a lengthy pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and till the soil through a hoe to aerate the soil. On the right, a male leans on a bag, presumably to attract seeds the he will certainly then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd take away the dog that keeps his flock. In the lift is the lock of Lusignan (Poitou), building of the battle each other of Berry. Checked out on the best of the picture, above the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.