The Manorial System

Brady Payan and Matthew Galea

Peasants and Serfs

Peasants worked on the manor, which was owned by a lord. Peasants were the equivalent of a slave. Although free peasants continued to exist, increasing numbers of free peasants became Serf, or peasants legally bound to the land. Serfs had to provide labor services, pay rents, and be subject to the Lord's control. By 800, about 60% of the Western Europe population were Serfs. Serfs couldn't leave the manor without the lord's permission, and couldn't marry anyone outside the manor without the lord's approval. However serfs were not slaves. The land assigned to the serfs by the lord were usually not able to be taken away from them and their responsibilities to the lord remained fairly fixed.

Manor Geography

Vassals and Lords

Vassals are men who served a lord with military capacity. For loyalty to their lord, vassals were granted fiefs, or grants of land. Fiefs gave them political authority. The lord owns the manor, which the peasants and serfs work on. It was the lord's duty to protect his own serfs, giving them the safety they needed to grow crops. The lord-vassal relationship was an honorable relationship that implied no sense of servitude. A set of unwritten rules, known as the feudal contract, determined the relationship between a lord and a vassal. The major obligation of the vassal to his lord was to perform military service about 40 days a year. When summoned, a vassal had to appear at his lord's court to give advice. Vassals were responsible for making financial payments to the lord on a number of occasions. These included the knighting of the lord's eldest son, the marriage of the lord's eldest daughter, and the ransom of the lord's person if the lord should be captured. The lord was also required to protect his vassal, either by defending him militarily or by taking his side in a court of law.
9.3 Feudalism and Manor Life

Essential Questions

1. How does the Manorial System relate to present day society?

2. What was the significance of the Lords' legal rights over the Serfs, when the Serfs weren't considered slaves?