Facts About Serfdom
Facts about Serfdoms.
Ahh, the medieval times! Such fun for all members of the feudal society that was ruled by kings, emperors, and rich land barons. What a delightful period of time it was for all!
But what is a feudal society? What are serfs? Why were they not happily obligated to those who were held in higher esteem then they were? Why were they dirty and poor and sad? What made the serfs of medieval Europe so ready to fight for more than the things they already were provided? Some facts about serfdoms are listed below.
What is a Serf
Serfs were the working class of medieval Europe. They labored in the fields, and if they were lucky they were given jobs within the royal families of their region. They were the peasants that you see in old movies; wearing the tunics and tights, carrying pitchforks and throwing bales of hay around. The serfs were the working members. They did all the work and reaped none of the benefits of their livelihoods. The royal class and the land barons ensured that they kept the submissiveness of their serfs by taking any extra money they may have collected through their work. They called this a duty or tax. Serfs paid their land barons for the privilege of working hard and giving all that they sowed to their ‘masters’.
What I refer to as land barons are the rich by default or by service to the king. If a strong and wise man could fight with the Emperor’s army against opposing forces they were many times paid for that loyalty with land. Once the land barons acquired the land, they would build their castle, build a wall around it, and then enslave the citizens who lived in proximity to their castle, taking their grains and meat and vegetables, leaving the hard working community members to struggle with what little was left behind by the greedy barons.
What was a Day of Serfdom?
Serfs did not own any of the land that they lived on and worked. Because they worked the land that was owned by those land barons, they paid for the use. Most of the duties paid to the land barons came in the form of services to those barons. Not only did the serfs work on the land they lived on, but they also gave many days of their week to work on their baron’s land as well. In addition to hard work, about half their time, they also were required to pay additional duties, either in money or goods from the land they worked for themselves.
When did Serfdom Begin?
Serfdom began during the rule of the Roman Empire and continued into the Middle Ages. Serfs were originally, in many cases, Roman slaves. An upgrade in position as it would seem, because they went from working completely for the Empire to working only half the time, and having fewer beatings by their rulers. In addition to these slaves who were freed, many free men were also introduced into serfdom for the protections that their ‘Lord’ could provide against robbers (other than the Lord himself).
There was a great deal of oppression during the serf’s time. Serfdom was a transitional period in European History, between outright slavery and free living by all citizens. Although slaves could be sold and treated as property, serfs were provided with land to work, and were not taken from the land they lived on. The serfs were a part of the land on which they lived and worked, as though they were a fixture of that area.
Freedom for the Serfs
Years went by before serfs were emancipated from their invisible shackles. The Black Death was a contributor to the freeing of these people from the rule of the ‘Lords’ of the land. After the Black Death, there were revolts from the peasants who desired to be free from the fists of tyrants who were taking advantage of their station. By the end of the Middle Ages, most serfs had secured their freedom from the tyrants who were stealing everything from them; their livelihoods, their ability to choose, and their freedom.
Information retrieved from http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-life/medieval-serfs.htm.