Lords and serfs relationship goals

lords and serfs relationship goals

The main difference between serf and peasant is that peasants were free to move They were given loyalty by the lords/nobles in exchange for the power to. Feudal society is a military hierarchy in which a ruler or lord offers mounted fighters a The land was worked by peasant farmers called serfs, who were tied to. state of serfdom, a condition that essentially turned them into rural slaves. traditional construction of the feudal society involved the relationship between lords, overindulgence in food and drink marked the highlights of Carnival in places.

In England, at the time of the Domesday Survey, this would have comprised between about 1 and 5 acres 0. They owned no tenancy in land, worked for the lord exclusively and survived on donations from the landlord. 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[21] 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. 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.

Serfdom: Eastern Europe | serii.info

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. A marriage contract was usually agreed upon by the couple's parents. Landlords rarely intervened in marriage contracts and usually did not separate serf families.

The marriage age of serfs was relatively low in comparison to that of nonserf peasants and to west European peasants of that period.

For example, in mid-nineteenth-century Russia, the average marriage age for men was twenty-three and for women nineteen. The pattern of low marriage age for serfs to a certain degree reflected the economic pressures of serfdom because the newly married couple constituted a work unit with its own share of communal land and property. Each couple had the legal and common right to establish its own household. Most east European peasant families lived in villages settlements with households, small stores, mills, communal buildings, a church, and a cemetery ; one or more of these villages constituted the peasant commune.

The peasant commune was the most important economic and social feature of east European serfdom. Through the commune's assembly, represented by the family heads the patriarchsthe peasants managed village resources, directed economic and fiscal activities, and maintained internal order. The authority of the commune over the village varied, depending upon local custom and the degree to which the landlord restricted its autonomy.

The serf commune was a site for interactions between the landlord and the village; the communal elders consulted the lord about appropriate taxes, duties, obligations, and recruitments into the military.

lords and serfs relationship goals

The commune controlled land redistribution where it occurred; coordinated agriculture for example, made decisions about suitable crops and determined the dates of sowing and harvesting ; sold, exchanged, or leased lands; and rented or bought additional land as needed.

The profit from the sale and lease of communal property was deposited in the communal treasury or divided directly among the households. The commune checked weights and measuresdetermined the quality of bread and beer, and set the wages of day laborers.

The commune often supervised the moral behavior of its members and regulated the religious and social life of the village. Community assemblies also had important juridical functions, such as resolving intra- and intervillage conflicts and representing the community's interests in all legal institutions. In Austria, Germany, and Lithuania, village community courts settled internal disputes and levied sanctions against guilty parties.

In seventeenth century Russia, village commune representatives participated directly in the landlord's court, whereas in eastern Germany they acted as advisers to it.

Additionally, in some regions communal assemblies filed suits in courts seeking adjudication when deprived of their interests and rights by their own lords or anyone else. Some even won their cases. Scholars debate the role of the commune in the agricultural economy, the degree of its autonomy from the landlord, and many other specific aspects that cannot reasonably be addressed here. Some specialists argue that serf communes carved out a certain autonomy primarily because they served as instruments of the landlords.

In this interpretation, the communes upheld the landlords' interests, ensuring that every household fulfilled its manorial and state obligations. In contrast, other observers comment that the commune did not always act in the landlords' interests.


Communal obligations were usually agreed upon with the lord in advance, with firm commitments from both sides. When lords unilaterally increased already negotiated and fixed duties, communes often protested vociferously and refused to comply.

The commune's practice in Russia and to some extent in other parts of eastern Europe of periodic redistribution of arable land among households also remains a subject of scholarly controversy. Some historians claim that redistribution was largely a result of serfdom. In this interpretation, landlords required peasants to redivide their lands in order to coordinate each household's landholdings with its labor capability based upon the number of hands in the family, with the overall goal of maximizing the household's labor effectiveness and productivity.

Other historians suggest that land redistribution was not an innovation of the state or of the landlord but rather a traditional peasant practice aimed at maintaining a rough land equality among households based upon their size. Whether land redistributions originated from the commune or were imposed by landlords, it is clear that this practice occurred in parts of Russia up until the turn of the twentieth century and even beyond.

Land redistribution was common in areas in which agriculture dominated the peasant economy and especially where soil quality was varied for example, in the Black Earth regions of southern Russia. In areas where agriculture was not important, land redistribution fell into disuse. The periodicity of land redistributions, where they occurred, varied from one to five, ten, or even more years.

In addition to its important economic, social and juridical functions, the commune, indeed village life as a whole, fostered a collective consciousness among the serfs. Through village life, rich in tradition, custom, religious and national holidays, as well as innumerable communal celebrations, serf peasants maintained a sense of solidarity and cohesiveness.

Overemphasis on intravillage conflicts has led some observers to question the sense of communality among the peasants. Private conflicts among peasants, however, did not undermine village solidarity. Indeed, one of the chief functions of the commune was to contain and adjudicate conflict. Furthermore, peasants who migrated into cities for employment sustained themselves in the unfamiliar urban environment by forming fraternal associations in Russia the famous urban zemliachestvos directly based upon the respective peasants' village and district origins.

In essence, at the first opportunity many peasants who had left the village recreated familiar communal mores, hardly a practice consonant with reflexive mutual hostility. Solidarity among the serfs expressed itself in numerous cases of collective insubordination, refusal to work, disturbances, and rebellions large in size and duration. Popular protest usually broke out when the quality of justice, as it was understood by the peasants, deteriorated.

The village commune was a crucial element in initiating popular protest. Serfs first presented their disagreements and complaints collectively to their lords or local officials.

If the latter failed to resolve the disputes, the serfs resorted to one or another form of protest, which was often accompanied by customary collective rituals and symbols of misrule. Naturally, serfs showed the greatest concern about increases in duties and demands upon them. From tofor example, out of 47 percent disturbances in the central Russian provinces were caused by increases in feudal obligations. In addition to collective forms of protest facilitated by the commune, serfs actively used various forms of individual protest, such as work slowdowns, deception, manipulation of legal norms, and fleeing.

These latter forms of protest were primarily associated with the serfs' unfree status. Although most eastern European cities could not guarantee their freedom, for peasants running away was the primary means to escape serfdom.

Thus, the strong collective consciousness noted above among serfs did not undermine their individual motivations, as also witnessed by their individual economic pursuits trading, temporal migration, and so forth. Thus, although often organized by local communal institutions, most peasant revolts had no concrete political or generalized economic goals. Rather, the recurrence of peasant insurrections in eastern Europe throughout the centuries of serfdom reflected the structural changes of east European society, such as the growth of population, state centralization, imposition of new heavy taxes and obligations, the development of a market economy, and the transformation of popular mentality.

In areas where agriculture was the basic element of the economy, serfs worked roughly half of their time for the landlord and the balance for themselves. For example, in the s an average peasant household of Silesia had to work for its lord days a year or approximately three days a week, along with some payment in kind. Three days a week was the usual amount of time most east European serfs had to give their lords, although some were faced with even higher requirements.

In nonagricultural areas, where serfs usually payed rent in kind or in money, they could spend the greater part of their time working for themselves. In the s, in order to meet all obligations and pay all feudal dues and state taxes, east European peasants spent from 17 to 86 percent of their income, depending on region and the economic conditions of the household. An average serf household paid out in dues and taxes from 30 to 50 percent of its annual income. Although the agricultural economy predominated in eastern Europe, serfs, as well as other categories of peasants, were usually multioccupational.

The local economy and the serfs' occupations depended largely upon regional characteristics such as soil fertility and climate. In Prussia, the Baltic region, and the southern regions of Russia and non-Russian eastern Europe, the national and local economies were based mainly on agriculture and specifically on grain production.

The microeconomy of the northern regions of eastern Europe usually combined various nonagricultural and agricultural activities. With economic expansion during the late eighteenth century, this regional specialization became more notable.

In fact, in certain regions agriculture became a seasonal occupation, and the nonagricultural pursuits largely dominated the peasant economy. One study of peasant economic activity in the central nonagricultural Russian provinces shows that from 60 to 93 percent of the regions' peasants engaged at least part-time in one or another nonagricultural activity. For example, in Moscow province the peasants devoted only 3. Serf peasants engaged in various nonagricultural activities.

About a half of those so employed were hired workers, whereas others were small traders, craftsmen, self-employed in services, and even, though rarely, rich merchants and entrepreneurs.

The degree to which east European serfs engaged in various trading, manufacturing, and commercial activities is striking. Large numbers of peasants maintained cottage industries as a seasonal business for the entire family that produced not only for the local market but for the national and international ones as well.

Textile making was the dominant type of domestic industry. Millions of peasants spun, wove, and finished various kinds of fabrics in their villages. For example, in in Tver' province of central Russia, about thousand female peasants wove canvas during the non- growing season. Peasants sold their products to traveling traders and merchants themselves often serf peasantswho sold them in various national and regional markets and fairs.

Trading peasants, composed of serfs and nonserfs, were often the dominant force in national and local markets throughout eastern Europe. The peasants' protoindustrial activities during the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries energized many serf villages, providing a basis for the economic and social advancement of those who availed themselves of the opportunity.

The peasants' role in the development of east European national economies likewise expanded. After starting out as artisans, craftsmen, and small traders, the more able serfs founded manufacturing concerns and textile mills. Perhaps the single most striking example of serf entrepreneurialism was Ivanovo Voznesensk, a textile city in central Russia's Vladimir province.

This culture was based round village life, the seasons of the agricultural year, folklore and the church.

lords and serfs relationship goals

Many historians, following commentators like Belinsky or Stepniak Kravchinskyhave argued that the Orthodox church had little real impact on peasant life, apart from their carrying out the fasts and rituals, and that peasants were superstitious and illiterate and not genuinely religious. In this essay, Mary Matossian provides a description of the peasant way of life under normal conditions aroundon the eve of emancipation.

She covers various aspects of peasant life, like housing, economy, diet, fashion, family life, and village life. Petersburg, from a sociological point of view. Dennison Tracy, and Steve Nafzinger. Tarasov manages to recollect different aspects of how serfdom came about, the conditions under which they had to live in, among other things.

Serfdom - Wikipedia

Rodney Bohac goes on to examine the actions of serfs living on an early-nineteenth-century Russian estate, through petitions and managerial reports sent from the estate to the absentee owner. Furthermore, the author wants to show how peasants used forms of resistance -dissimulation, petty theft, work slowdowns, and flight- to mitigate the effects of money rent obrok.

Bohac also presents how these forms of resistance did have effects on the production of crops during the s and s.

Knights, Nobles, and Serfs in Medieval Europe

Four Russian Serf Narratives This book gathers four narratives composed by Russian serfs, either during serfdom or after the emancipation of serfs. The first one, composed inrelates the story of Nikolai Smirnov in his own words after being caught trying to escape his lord.

The second story is more of poetic prose written by a anonymous peasant known as Petr O. The third story comes from ex-serf Nikolai Shipovin which he accounts his attempts to escape from being bonded to a lord, and finally ending in his escape.

The book ends with a story told from the perspective of an ex-serf woman, M. Vasilieva, in which he narrates her life as a girl under serfdom Besides being conveniently translated from Russian to English, this compilation offers first-hand accounts of serfs from different areas of the country and under different, individual conditions. Four Russian Serf Narratives. University of Wisconsin Press,