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|Lord paramount / Territorial lord|
|Lord of the manor / Overlord / Vogt / Liege lord|
|Esquire / Gentleman / Landed gentry|
|Franklin / yeoman / Retinue / Vavasour|
|Free tenant / Husbandman|
|Serf / Villein / bordar / cottar|
Free tenants, also known as free peasants, were tenant farmer peasants in medieval England who occupied a unique place in the medieval hierarchy.They were characterized by the low rents which they paid to their manorial lord. They were subject to fewer laws and ties than villeins. The term may also refer to the free peasants of the Kingdom of France, part of an ordering of classes with legal privileges who constituted the third estate, a land-owning non-political peasantry, mostly different from other countries with estates.
One of the major challenges in examining the free peasants of this era is that no one single definition can be attached to them. The disparate nature of manorial holdings and local laws mean the free tenant in Kent, for example, may well bear little resemblance to the Free Tenant in the Danelaw.
Attempts were made by some contemporary scholars to set out a legal definition of freedom, one of the most notable being the treatise by Ranulf de Glanvill written between 1187 and 1189. This stated that:
He who claims to be free shall produce in court several near blood relatives descended from the same stock as himself, and if they are admitted or proved in court to be free, then the claimant himself will be freed from the yoke of servitude
Another way to identify a freeman in the Middle Ages, was to determine what kind of taxes or laws he had to obey. For example, having to pay merchet, a tax paid upon the marriage of a servile woman, was a key sign of being unfree.
They could get married without permission and they could not be moved between estates against their will.
Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships that were derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labor. Although it is derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), which was used during the Medieval period, the term feudalism and the system which it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people who lived during the Middle Ages. The classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations which existed among the warrior nobility and revolved around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.
Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership in parts of Europe, notably England, during the Middle Ages. Its defining features included a large, sometimes fortified manor house in which the lord of the manor and his dependents lived and administered a rural estate, and a population of labourers who worked the surrounding land to support themselves and the lord. These labourers fulfilled their obligations with labour time or in-kind produce at first, and later by cash payment as commercial activity increased. Manorialism is sometimes included in the definition of feudalism.
Copyhold tenure was a form of customary tenure of land common in England from the Middle Ages. The land was held according to the custom of the manor, and the mode of landholding took its name from the fact that the "title deed" received by the tenant was a copy of the relevant entry in the manorial court roll. A tenant – or mesne lord – who held land in this way was legally known as a copyholder.
Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which developed during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.
Enclosure or Inclosure is a term, used in English landownership, that refers to the appropriation of "waste" or "common land" enclosing it and by doing so depriving commoners of their rights of access and privilege. Agreements to enclose land could be either through a "formal" or "informal" process. The process could normally be accomplished in three ways. First there was the creation of "closes", taken out of larger common fields by their owners. Secondly, there was enclosure by proprietors, owners who acted together, usually small farmers or squires, leading to the enclosure of whole parishes. Finally there were enclosures by Acts of Parliament.
The manorial system of New France, known as the seigneurial system, was the semi-feudal system of land tenure used in the North American French colonial empire.
The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom from the Middle Ages to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.
Lord of the manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England, referred to the landholder of a rural estate. The lord enjoyed manorial rights as well as seignory, the right to grant or draw benefit from the estate. The title continues in modern England and Wales as a legally recognised form of property that can be held independently of its historical rights. It may belong entirely to one person or be a moiety shared with other people.
A manor house was historically the main residence of the lord of the manor. The house formed the administrative centre of a manor in the European feudal system; within its great hall were held the lord's manorial courts, communal meals with manorial tenants and great banquets. The term is today loosely applied to various country houses, frequently dating from the late medieval era, which formerly housed the landed gentry.
In medieval and early modern Europe, the term tenant-in-chief denoted a person who held his lands under various forms of feudal land tenure directly from the king or territorial prince to whom he did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy. The tenure was one which denoted great honour, but also carried heavy responsibilities. The tenants-in-chief were originally responsible for providing knights and soldiers for the king's feudal army.
A demesne or domain was all the land retained and managed by a lord of the manor under the feudal system for his own use, occupation, or support. This distinguished it from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants.
The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geography. They dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor: the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein. Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch. There were three types of manorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court.
A heerlijkheid was a landed estate that served as the lowest administrative and judicial unit in rural areas in the Dutch-speaking Low Countries before 1800. It originated as a unit of lordship under the feudal system during the Middle Ages. The English equivalents are manor, seigniory, and lordship. The German equivalent is Herrschaft. The heerlijkheid system was the Dutch version of manorialism that prevailed in the Low Countries and was the precursor to the modern municipality system in the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium.
A villein, otherwise known as cottar or crofter, is a serf tied to the land in the feudal system. Villeins had more rights and social status than those in slavery, but were under a number of legal restrictions which differentiated them from the freeman.
The history of English land law can be traced for eons, into Roman times, and through the Early Middle Ages under post-Roman chieftains and Saxon monarchs where, as for most of human history, land was the dominant source of personal wealth. English land law transformed further from the Saxon days, to post-Norman Invasion feudal encastellation, from the Industrial Revolution and over the 19th century, as the political power of the landed aristocracy diminished, and modern legislation increasingly made land a social form of wealth, subject to extensive social regulation, such as for housing, national parks, and agriculture.
Gentry are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past. Gentry, in its widest connotation, refers to people of good social position connected to landed estates, upper levels of the clergy, and "gentle" families of long descent who in some cases never obtained the official right to bear a coat of arms. The gentry largely consisted of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate; some were gentleman farmers. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry: the majority of the land-owning social class who typically had a coat of arms, but did not have a peerage. The adjective "patrician" describes in comparison other analogous traditional social elite strata based in cities, such as free cities of Italy, and the free imperial cities of Germany, Switzerland, and the Hanseatic League.
Women in the Middle Ages occupied a number of different social roles. Women held the positions of wife, mother, peasant, artisan, and nun, as well as some important leadership roles, such as abbess or queen regnant. The very concept of woman changed in a number of ways during the Middle Ages, and several forces influenced women's roles during their period.
Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdom of England during the medieval period was a state of human society that organized political and military leadership and force around a stratified formal structure based on land tenure. As a military defense and socio-economic paradigm designed to direct the wealth of the land to the king while it levied military troops to his causes, feudal society was ordered around relationships derived from the holding of land. Such landholdings are termed fiefdoms, traders, fiefs, or fees.
Like slavery, serfdom has a long history that dates to ancient times.
In the early fourteenth century, tensions between villagers from Darnhall and Over, Cheshire and their feudal lord, the Abbot of Vale Royal Abbey, erupted into violence over whether they had villein—that is, servile—status. The villagers argued not, while the Abbey believed it was due their feudal service. Founded by Edward I in 1274, the Cistercian Abbey had been unpopular with locals from the start. This was primarily because it had been granted, in its endowment, exclusive forest rights which surrounding villages saw as theirs by custom, and other feudal dues they did not believe they had to pay. Moreover, the rigorous enforcement of these rights by successive abbots was felt to be excessively harsh. The villagers resented being treated as serfs and made repeated attempts to reject the Abbey's feudal overlordship.