Free tenant

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Free tenants, also known as free peasants, were tenant farmer peasants in medieval England who occupied a unique place in the medieval hierarchy. [1] 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.

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Definitions

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.

See also

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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.

Villein

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.

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Women in the Middle Ages

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Feudalism in England

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.

History of serfdom

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.

References

  1. "Social Classes in the Middle Ages". 25 May 2012.