Learning Objective

Illustrate the pecking order of the manor mechanism by explicate the functions of lords, villeins, and serfs

Key Points

The lord of a manor was sustained by his floor holdings and also contributions native the peasant population. Serfs who occupied land belonging come the mr were required to work-related the land, and also in return received specific 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 with or without land; as part of their contract through the lord they were intended to invest some time working the land.Villeins might not relocate away there is no the lord’s consent and the acceptance of the brand-new lord who manor they to be to move to. Since of the defense villeins received from the lord’s manor, the was typically not favorable to relocate away uneven the landlord proved to be especially tyrannical.The manor mechanism was consisted of of three species of land: demesne, dependent, and free peasant land.Manorial structures could be found throughout medieval Western and Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the german kingdoms.

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


Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a problem of bondage that occurred primarily throughout the High Middle ages in Europe.


The many common type of serf in the center Ages. They had an ext rights and a greater status 보다 the lowest serf, yet existed under a variety of legal limitations that identified them native freemen.


Men who were not serfs in the feudal system.

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

Manorialism was characterized by the vesting that legal and also economic power in the mr of a manor. The mr was supported financially from his own straight landholding in a manor (sometimes referred to as a fief), and from the obligatory contributions of the peasant population who dropped under the jurisdiction that the lord and also his court. These obligations could be payable in numerous ways: in labor, in kind, or, on rarely occasions, in coin. Manorial structures can be uncovered throughout middle ages Western and also Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and the germanic kingdoms.

The main reason for the advance of the mechanism was perhaps additionally its biggest strength: the stabilization of society during the damage of Roman imperial order. Through a decreasing birthrate and population, job was the an essential factor that production. Successive administrations tried come stabilize the imperial economy by freezing the social structure right into place: sons to be to succeed your fathers in their trade, councilors to be forbidden come resign, and coloni, the cultivators that land, were no to relocate from the land they were attached to. The workers of the land were on their method to coming to be serfs. Together the germanic kingdoms succeeded Roman authority in the West in the fifth century, roman inn landlords were regularly simply replaced by Gothic or german ones, with little change come the underlying case or displacement of populations. Therefore the device of manorialism ended up being ingrained into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each consisted of three classes of land:

Demesne, the component directly regulated by the lord and used for the benefit of his household and dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings transporting the responsibility that the peasant household supply the mr with stated labor services or a component of the output; andFree peasant land, without together obligation but otherwise subject to manorial jurisdiction and also custom, and also owing money rent solved at the moment of the lease.

Additional resources of revenue for the lord contained charges for usage of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or because that the ideal to hunting or come let pigs feed in his woodland, and also court earnings and single payments ~ above each readjust of tenant. Top top the other side of the account, manorial management involved far-ranging expenses, probably a factor why smaller chateaus tended to rely much less on villein tenure.


Serfdom was the condition of peasants under feudalism, especially relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage that occurred primarily during the Middle ages in Europe.

Serfs who occupied a plot of land were compelled to job-related for the mr of the manor that owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice, and also the right to exploit details fields in ~ the manor to preserve their own subsistence. Serfs were often compelled to work on not just the lord’s fields, but additionally his mines, forests, and roads. The manor created the simple unit that feudal society, and the lord of a manor and also his serfs to be bound legally, economically, and also socially. Serfs created the lowest class of feudal society.


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

Many that the an unfavorable components that manorialism, and also feudalism in general, revolve approximately the bondage of the serf, his lack of society mobility, and his low position on the society hierarchy. However, a serf had actually some freedoms within his constraints. Despite the typical wisdom is that a serf own “only his belly”—even his clothes were the property, in law, the his lord—he could still accumulate an individual property and wealth, and also some serfs became wealthier 보다 their free neighbors, although this occurred rarely. A well-to-do serf might even have the ability to buy his freedom. A serf can grow what plants he saw fit ~ above his lands, although a serf’s taxes frequently had to be paid in wheat. The surplus crops he would sell at market.

The landlord might not dispossess his serfs without legal cause, was claimed to defend them from the crimes of robbers or other lords, and also was meant to assistance them by charity in time of famine. Numerous such legal rights were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) was the many common type of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had much more rights and a higher status than the lowest serf, yet existed under a number of legal restrictions that identified them from freemen. Villeins typically rented tiny homes with or there is no land. As part of the contract through the landlord, the lord of the manor, they were meant to spend few of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contradictory to famous belief, the necessity was not regularly greatly onerous, and was frequently only seasonal, as was the duty to aid at harvest-time, because that example. The remainder of villeins’ time was invested farming their own land for their very own profit.

Like other varieties of serfs, villeins were compelled to carry out other services, maybe in addition to paying rent of money or produce. Villeins were tied come the land and could not relocate away without your lord’s consent and also the acceptance of the lord to whose manor they proposed to move to. Villeins were typically able to organize their very own property, unequal slaves.

Villeinage was not a completely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the middle Ages, land within a lord’s manor noted sustenance and survival, and being a villein guaranteed access to land and also kept crops secure from theft through marauding robbers. Landlords, even where legally licensed has been granted to execute so, rarely evicted villeins, because of the worth of their labour. Villeinage was preferable to being a vagabond, a slave, or one un-landed laborer.

In many medieval countries, a villein could gain flexibility by escaping from a manor come a city or borough and also living over there for more than a year, however this action involved the lose of land civil liberties and agricultural livelihood, a prohibitive price unless the landlord was particularly tyrannical or conditions in the town were person that is abnormal difficult.

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Plowing a French ar (French ducal manor in in march Les Très riches Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410). In the foreground, a farmer plowing a field with a plow pulled by 2 oxen; male the leader through a long pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and also till the soil through a hoe come aerate the soil. ~ above the right, a male leans ~ above a bag, presumably to draw seeds that he will then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd takes the dog that keeps his flock. In the elevator is the lock of Lusignan (Poitou), building of the battle each other of Berry. Viewed on the right of the picture, over the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.