The smallest unit of land was called a manor. The majority of manors were like small villages as they created self-contained and independent communities. The land of the estate was divided into two main parts. The first part was the demesne domain which was reserved for the exclusive exploitation of the landowner.
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The second part was the land the labourers lived and worked on for their own daily needs mansus , typically around 12 acres 5 hectares per family. The serfs on the estate farmed that land reserved for their use as well as the demesne. The most important task of serfs was to work on the demesne land of their lord for two or three days each week, and more during busy periods like harvest time. All of the food produced from that land went to the lord. It was sometimes possible for a serf to send a family member providing they were physically able to perform the labour on the demesne in their place.
Usually, serfs could not legally leave the estate on which they worked but the flip side was that they also had a right to live on it which gave them both physical protection and sustenance. A serf inherited the status of their parents, although in the case of a mixed marriage between free and unfree labourers the child usually inherited the status of the father if legitimate and, if illegitimate, the status of the mother. In England and Normandy, the eldest son inherited the actual land worked on by their serf fathers, with daughters inheriting only if they had no brothers.
Widows typically inherited around one-third of their late husbands' land. In contrast, in central and southern France, Germany and Scandinavia, inheritance was equal between sons and daughters of serfs. A landowner could sell one of his serfs but the right for sale was that of labour, not direct ownership of the person as in slavery.
Theoretically, the personal property of a serf belonged to the landowner but this was unlikely to have been enforced or had any relevance in practical terms. The latter was used to maintain a priest, the church and provide a small welfare fund for the poor. Fines were usually paid in kind for most of the medieval period, for example in the shape of the best animal the serf had. Serfs born into a large family very often did not receive any land of their own to work and so were obliged to continue to live in the home of their parents, marry another serf with land or live in the household of another peasant elsewhere giving their labour as rent.
Other options included negotiating a new parcel of land from the lord, working for a local clergyman or trying their luck in a town or city where they might find unskilled employment working for a tradesman such as a miller or a blacksmith.
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As customs varied from estate to estate and over time, there were some labourers who occupied a grey area of status between the free and unfree. One such category of serf was the ministerial serf in parts of France, Germany and the Low Countries. These serfs, still unfree in legal terms, had in practice more freedom of movement and could own their own property and land because they were the children of serfs who had served a lord as administrators or in some military capacity.
A description from the customs of the Richard East estate in England in CE records the following daily tasks expected of a serf:.
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He will plow and harrow at his own expense a fourth of an acre. And throughout the year he will work every second day, either carrying or mowing or reaping or carting, or doing some other work according as the lord or his bailiff commands him, except on Saturdays and major church holidays. And at harvest time he will find two men to reap for two days for the customary additional work at his own cost, that is two men on each day. And at the end of harvest time he will reap with one man for the whole day at his own cost.
The lord was not completely heartless and did have one or two minimal obligations to observe himself:. All the aforesaid villeins at the end of moving will have sixpence for beer and a loaf of bread apiece. And he [the lord] must provide three bushels of wheat for the aforesaid bread. And each of the aforementioned mowers will have one small bundle of hay each evening, as much as he can mow with his scythe.
Men did the heavy agricultural work described above with women also doing lighter farm work and helping out at harvest time. Throughout the year women had their own extensive traditional duties such as milking, making butter and cheese, brewing ale brewed from malted grains , baking bread, tending fruit trees, cooking in general, making wool and producing wool- and linen cloth, looking after poultry, household cleaning, and probably looking after any children.
Medieval Peasant's Cottage by Erenow Copyright, fair use. A tax assessment, compiled in CE for one Richard Bovechurch of Cuxham in England, gives an idea of what a serf of average wealth might own with the value of each item in shillings s and pence d. There were 12 pence to the shilling. Serfs typically lived in a modest one-story building made of cheap and easily acquired materials like mud and timber for the walls and thatch for the roof.
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There a small family unit dwelt; retired elders usually had their own cottage. More welcome than the in-laws, a dog and cat often proved useful, the former for herding and the latter for keeping down the number of rats in the granary. There was typically a hearth fire in the centre of the home which, besides a lot of smoke, provided warmth and light, as did candles.
The windows of these simple dwellings had no glass but were closed at night using wooden shutters, and bedding was made of straw and woollen blankets. Farm animals were kept in a separate or attached building while a more prosperous serf family might also have a building for brewing beer and baking.
A toilet was usually nothing grander than a hole over a cesspit, sometimes within a small shed for privacy but certainly not always. The descendants of the slaves and the slaveholders in my city have achieved a compact that has some merit. My prayer is that we will continue to consider one another fellow countrymen in a great enterprise, that we will continue to offer help when it is needed, and that we will continue to show kindness to all always. I disagree with your sentiment.
It's well known that human trafficking is a problem in the USA, not just in terms of sex trafficking but also forced labor. And so what if President Obama or anyone else happens to have slave owning ancestors? That's not their fault. All one can do is make sure that one lives the best life possible. It's easy this way! In my Church we have been involved for years in bringing to the public attention the Restavek as a common practice in Haiti and we are now getting proud of the growing attention that media pays to this problem.
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We all encourage to spread the word and I have set a public campaign to raise a small but important budget to support the project of giving back freedom and dignity to the Haitian children. Dear Daydreambeviva, unfortunately the ones that do not live in Haiti cannot understand how wide this practice is today! Our Church is trying to create a public registry of the young people that are affected in many ways by Restavek and I can guarantee that the numbers are huge.
Haiti has been on the receiving end of generous global monetary and other foreign aid for decades, peaking at times of natural disasters. Clinging to the morally irreproachable ground that slavery should be abolished does not address the issue of how it should be accomplished. For if, as I have demonstrated, the beneficiaries of slavery were a small group of wealthy in the North and the South, it cannot be reasonable to propose to economically and politically destroy the entire South for the sake of ending slavery.
I have shown that no Northerners ever purchased slaves out of slavery nor did the federal government use its tariffs on slave-produce to purchase slaves out of slavery. Yet these actions, in a generation, would have freed the slaves. Thus we prove that the real motives of the Northerners for prosecuting the Civil War were not moral but economic and political. In that context, Lincoln failed. By destroying the South he saved the South from slavery.
But he created at the same time a host of other evils that continue to haunt to the present day. There was an economic solution to slavery. The North did not attempt it nor even explore the possibility. For that reason we must say that the Civil War was an unjust war of aggression for economic and political reasons by one region upon another.
The issue of freeing the slaves, while being mindlessly ballyhooed by the ignorant and cynical as the casus belli for the Civil War, is an entirely separate issue. Most of those that would apply today's moral compass to George Washington would not dream of applying the same standard to their own lives. For example, how many Britons would sacrifice their economic well-being today in order to raise India up to the same economic level it was relative to Britain before the British invasion and conquest of India? Yet that is precisely the logical conclusion of the politically correct harpies attacking the legacy of America's Pater Patriae.
Perhaps the entire population of India should be invited without any preconditions to come to England. There is plenty of room in Scotland. Clearly, for the ignorant and cynical British exponents of PC, desiring to go back in a time machine to preach to Washington about the evils of slavery, and desiring to cleanse their own nation's historical sins, are two different things.
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In terms of owning at least one slave, the beneficiaries represented a non-trivial percentage of the populace. As in estimates like: "26 percent of Southern white families owned slaves. Hence things like the gag rule in Congress. Or one of the more intrusive pieces of legislation, the Fugitive Slave Act of As for morality, well preventing massive property thefts, notably in the way of land in a majority of the southern states, as well as confronting rebellion over the result of one election seems compelling.
You state my thesis. If the idea was to free the slaves, they could have been purchased out of bondage.