Serfs rights and responsibilities Essay

RESPONSIBILITIES
•The usual serf paid his fees and taxes in the form of seasonally labour. •Usually a portion of the week was devoted to ploughing his lord’s fields, harvesting crops, digging ditches, repairing fences, and often working in the manor house. •The remainder of the serf’s time was devoted to 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 harvest, the 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 oWhen the lord’s crops were ready to be harvested, so were his own. 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.

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In exchange for this work on the lord’s demesne, the serf had certain privileges and rights, including for example the right to gather deadwood from their lord’s forests, an essential fuel source.

•In addition to service, a serf was required to pay certain taxes and fees. oTaxes 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. oOn Easter Sunday the peasant family perhaps might owe an extra dozen eggs, and at Christmas a goose was perhaps required too. •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. •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. oIn the case of their lord’s defeat, their own fate might be uncertain, so the serf certainly had an interest in supporting his lord.

POLITICAL RIGHTS
•Serfs in the middle ages had some form of political rights and were allowed to form their own village courts, known as Halimotes. They created regulations and codes of conducts to be adhered by the village members. •Their laws pertained to every aspect of village life including: oIntermarriages,

oWorking in the fields
oFestivities and celebrations
•The courts typically compromised of 12 representatives who had responsibilities of enforcing the martial laws. •The common wisdom is that a serf owned “only his belly”
oEven 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 neighbors, although this was rare. oA well-to-do serf might even be able to buy his freedom.

•A serf could grow what crop he saw fit on his lands.
oAlthough 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.

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