Learning Objective

Illustrate the pecking order of the manor system by relenten the roles of lords, villeins, and also serfs

Key Points

The mr of a manor was sustained by his soil holdings and contributions indigenous the peasant population. Serfs who populated land belonging come the mr were forced to occupational the land, and in return received particular entitlements.Serfdom to be the status of peasants in the manor system, and villeins to be the many common kind of serf in the center Ages.Villeins rented small homes v or without land; as part of their contract v the mr they were meant to invest some time functioning the land.Villeins could not move away without the lord’s consent and also the accept of the new lord who manor they to be to move to. Since of the defense villeins got from the lord’s manor, the was usually not favorable to relocate away unless the landlord proved to be specifically tyrannical.The manor mechanism was made up of three varieties of land: demesne, dependent, and totally free peasant land.Manorial structures might be found throughout medieval Western and also 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 linked to the manor house, that was kept by the mr of a manor because that his own use and also support, under his own management.


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


The many common type of serf in the center Ages. Castle had more rights and also a higher status 보다 the shortest serf, however existed under a variety of legal restrictions that distinguished them from freemen.


Men that were no serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was vital element that feudal society and to be the arranging principle the rural economic situation that originated in the villa mechanism of the Late roman inn Empire. Manorialism was widely exercised in medieval Western Europe and parts of main Europe, and also was progressively replaced by the development of a money-based market economic situation and brand-new forms the agrarian contract.

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

The main reason for the advancement of the mechanism was perhaps additionally its biggest strength: the stabilization of culture during the damage of Roman imperial order. V a decreasing birthrate and population, job was the crucial factor that production. Successive administrations tried to stabilize the imperial economic climate by freezing the society structure right into place: sons were to succeed your fathers in your trade, councilors were forbidden come resign, and also coloni, the cultivators that land, were no to move from the land they were attached to. The workers of the land to be on their way to becoming serfs. As the germanic kingdoms flourished Roman authority in the West in the 5th century, roman inn landlords were frequently simply replaced by Gothic or german ones, with little change come the underlying instance or displacement of populations. Therefore the device of manorialism ended up being ingrained right into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each had three classes of land:

Demesne, the part directly managed by the lord and also used because that the advantage of his household and also dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings delivering the responsibility that the peasant household supply the lord with stated labor services or a part of its output; andFree peasant land, without such obligation but otherwise topic to manorial jurisdiction and custom, and also owing money rent addressed at the moment of the lease.

Additional sources of income for the lord included charges for use of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or because that the appropriate to hunting or to let pigs feeding in his woodland, as well as court revenues and single payments on each adjust of tenant. Top top the various other side of the account, manorial administration involved far-reaching expenses, perhaps a factor why smaller estates tended to rely much less on villein tenure.


Serfdom was the condition of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It to be a condition of bondage that arisen primarily during the Middle eras in Europe.

Serfs who lived in a plot of land were compelled to occupational for the lord of the manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled come protection, justice, and the ideal to exploit certain fields within the manor to preserve their own subsistence. Serfs were often required to job-related on not just the lord’s fields, but additionally his mines, forests, and also roads. The manor formed the straightforward unit of feudal society, and the lord of a manor and his serfs to be bound legally, economically, and socially. Serfs formed the lowest course of feudal society.


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

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

The landlord might not dispossess his serfs there is no legal cause, was an alleged to protect them from the crimes of robbers or other lords, and was intended to support them through charity in time of famine. Numerous such civil liberties were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) to be the many common kind of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had much more rights and also a higher status than the lowest serf, yet existed under a variety of legal restrictions that differentiated them native freemen. Villeins normally rented small homes v or without land. As component of the contract v the landlord, the lord of the manor, they were expected to spend few of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contradictory to famous belief, the requirement was not often greatly onerous, and was frequently only seasonal, as was the duty to help at harvest-time, because that example. The rest of villeins’ time was spent farming their very own land for their very own profit.

Like other varieties of serfs, villeins were required to carry out other services, possibly in addition to paying rent that money or produce. Villeins to be tied come the land and could not move away without their lord’s consent and the accept of the mr to who manor lock proposed to migrate to. Villeins were normally able to host their own property, unequal slaves.

Villeinage was not a completely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the middle Ages, land in ~ a lord’s manor provided sustenance and survival, and also being a villein guaranteed access to land and kept plants secure native theft through marauding robbers. Landlords, also where legally entitled to do so, hardly ever evicted villeins, since of the worth of your labour. Villeinage was preferable to being a vagabond, a slave, or an un-landed laborer.

In many medieval countries, a villein might gain flexibility by escaping from a manor come a city or borough and also living there for much more than a year, but this action involved the loss of land rights and agricultural livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was specifically tyrannical or problems in the village were person that is abnormal difficult.

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Plowing a French field (French ducal manor in march Les Très wide range Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410). In the foreground, a farmer plowing a field with a plow traction by two oxen; man the leader through a lengthy pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and till the soil with a hoe come aerate the soil. Top top the right, a guy leans ~ above a bag, may be to attract seeds the he will certainly then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd takes the dog the keeps his flock. In the background is the castle of Lusignan (Poitou), property of the fight it out of Berry. Viewed on the best of the picture, over the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.