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manorialism, likewise called manorial system, seignorialism, or seignorial system, political, economic, and also social system through which the peasants of medieval Europe to be rendered dependence on your land and also on your lord. Its simple unit was the manor, a self-sufficient landing estate, or fief the was under the regulate of a mr who enjoyed a variety of rights over it and the peasants attached come it by method of serfdom. The manorial system was the most convenient device for arranging the estates of the aristocracy and the clergy in the Middle periods in Europe, and also it make feudalism possible. Under other names the manorial mechanism was discovered not just in France, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain but likewise in varying degrees in the oriental Empire, Russia, Japan, and also elsewhere. The manorial system’s importance as an institution varied in various parts the Europe at various times. In western Europe it was prospering by the 8th century and also had begun to decline by the 13th century, if in east Europe it completed its biggest strength ~ the 15th century.


Manorialism had its origins in the late roman inn Empire, when huge landowners had to consolidate their hold over both your lands and the labourers who functioned them. This was a necessity in the middle of the civil disorders, enfeebled governments, and also barbarian intrusions that wracked Europe in the fifth and sixth centuries. In such conditions, little farmers and also landless labourers exchanged their land or your freedom and pledged their services in return because that the defense of an effective landowners who had the armed forces strength to defend them. In this way, the poor, defenseless, and landless were ensured permanent access to plots of soil which they can work in return because that the rendering of financial services come the lord who hosted that land. This arrangement occurred into the manorial system, which subsequently supported the feudal aristocracy of kings, lords, and vassals.

…medieval society was the regional seigneury, which might be identified as one estate comprising a team of human being subjected come a single master....

Western Europe

The usual western europe manor in the 13th century consisted partly of the cottages, huts, and also barns and also gardens that its peasants, i beg your pardon were typically clustered together to type a small village. There might also be a church, a mill, and also a wine or oil push in the village. Nearby by was the strengthened dwelling, or manor house, of the lord, which could be inhabited by that or merely by his steward if the lord occurred to hold an ext than one manor. The village was surrounding by arable land that was divided into three huge fields that were farmed in rotation, v one enabled to lied fallow every year. There were additionally usually grasslands for providing hay, pastures because that livestock, pools and streams for fishing, and forests and waste soil for hardwood gathering and also foraging. Many of the latter and also a section of the cultivated land were held by the lord together his demesne—i.e., that portion of a manor not granted to totally free tenants but either kept by the mr for his very own use and occupation or lived in by his villeins (serfs) or leasehold tenants.

The lord would certainly grant part of his land out to cost-free tenants to organize at a rental or by military or various other service. Listed below the lord and also the free tenants came the villeins, serfs, or bondmen, each holding a hut or tiny dwelling, a fixed number of acre strips, and a share of the meadow and also of the profits of the waste. Normally the peasant was unfree; he might not without leaving quit the manor and also could it is in reclaimed by procedure of regulation if the did. The strictly contention of legislation deprived him of all ideal to hold property, and in many instances he was topic to certain degrading incidents, such as marchet (merchetum), a payment due to the mr upon the marriage of a daughter, i m sorry was regarded as a special mark of unfree condition. But there were details limitations. First, all these incidents of tenure, even marchet, could not affect the personal status of the tenant; he can still be free, though organized by one unfree tenure. Second, even if unfree, the was no exposed to the arbitrary will of his lord but was defended by the custom of the manor as interpreted by the manor court. Moreover, he was no a slave, since he might not it is in bought and also sold except his holding. The hardship that his problem lay in the solutions due indigenous him. As a rule, a villein paid because that his holding in money, in labour, and also in agrarian produce. In money he paid, first, a tiny fixed rent that was known as rent of assize and, second, fees under various names, partially in lieu of solutions commuted right into money payments and also partly because that the privileges and also profits enjoyed by him on the waste of the manor. In labour he paid more heavily. Week by week he was compelled to come v his own plow and also oxen to plow the lord’s demesne. When plowing was completed, he had actually to harrow, to gain the crops, come thresh and carry them, or to execute whatever can be compelled of him, until his allotted number of days’ work in the year had been accomplished.

The most-complicated structure in the system was the manor court, whose service was split into criminal, manorial, and also civil. Its strength under the very first head depended upon the franchises enjoyed by the mr in the certain manor. For the most part, only petty offenses to be triable, together as tiny thefts, breaches of the assize of bread and also ale, assaults, and also the like. Other than under distinct conditions, the righteousness of good offenses continued to be in the hands of the king or other territorial sovereign. But offenses against the practice of the manor, such as bad plowing, improper taking of hardwood from the lord’s woods, and also the like were of course the staple criminal service of the court. Under the head the manorial business, the court dealt with the choice of the manorial officers and had some power of make regulations for the management of the manor, yet its most important duty was the record of the surrenders and also admittances of the villein tenants. Finally, the court dealt with all suits regarding land in ~ the manor, concerns of dower and inheritance, and also those couple of civil suits not connected with land.

The rebirth of commerce that started in Europe in the 11th century signaled the decline of the manorial system, which could only survive in a decentralized and also localized economic situation in i m sorry peasant subsistence farming was dominant. The reintroduction of a money economic climate into Europe and the development of cities and towns in the 11th and 12th centuries produced a market for the lords’ farming produce and also detailed luxuries because that them come purchase. As a result, lords increasingly enabled their peasants to commute their (labour) services for money and eventually to purchase their liberty with it together well. Agricultural surpluses might now be marketed to the cities and also towns, and also it was found that complimentary workers that paid rent or received wages farmed more efficiently (and produced an ext profits) than enserfed labourers. Fan to these and other financial reasons, the inefficient and also coercive manorial system degenerated in western Europe, slowly evolving right into simpler and also less-onerous financial arrangements in between landlords and rent-paying tenants.


Peasants in ~ work prior to the entrances of a town. Miniature painting from the Breviarium Grimani, c. Late 15th century.

Central and eastern Europe

Manorialism underwent a somewhat various evolution in main and eastern Europe. These areas had witnessed the decrease of manorialism in the 12th and also 13th century as large areas of forest and wasteland were conquered by totally free German and also Slavonic peasants. However the many wars fought in between the Russians, Poles, Prussians, Lithuanians, and also others in the 15th and 16th century reproduced the political instability and social insecurities that had actually led to peasant enserfment in west Europe century earlier. In addition, west Europe’s growing demand for grain native the Baltic area provided nobles and also other landlords there second incentive to enserf your peasants, due to the fact that that to be the best means to ensure work services for grain-growing demesnes. So by the 16th century manorialism had been re-created on a huge scale in eastern Europe, particularly in eastern Germany, Poland, and Russia. These reactionary manorial advances were not reversed in eastern Europe until the 19th century in many cases.

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The editors of Encyclopaedia stclairdrake.netThis article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray.