Relations of Servitude –

We continue on overstory reviewing the most significant features of the Middle Ages. As we worked in previous articles, within the framework of the feudal system There are two forms of social relations that are preponderant: the vassalage relations (which we talked about some time ago) and the bondage relationships which we will explain below.

As in each period of the history, forms of economic exploitation are established within society in which not only natural resources (land, animals, etc.) but also human resources are used: workers. So in the frame feudal system characteristic of the Middle Ages in Europe, the labor force –the workers- were obtained thanks to these “Bond Relations”. Let’s see what they consist of.

As we explained in the previous articles, the power was in the hands of the Feudal lords who were nobles who had received – from the king or another more powerful nobleman – a set of lands (called manor either fief) under a vassalage relations. What was he doing feudal lord with the lands he received? Well, he exploited them, mainly through agriculture. But it was not he or his family who worked the land.

Who did the work then? The work was done by farmers who lived inside the manor who were forced to do so. This was because when the feudal lord received the land, also received rights over its inhabitants. It is called, then, “bondage relationship” to the relationship established between each feudal lord and the peasants (servants) of their lands.

The bondage relationship implies that the feudal lord allows the servant the use of a parcel of land within your Manor to inhabit it and work it. In addition the feudal lord must provide the servant protection.

In exchange for land use and protection, the servant must give to feudal lord a retribution. To this retribution of the flame “tribute” or “rent”, and can be a tribute in kind (i.e. with products produced by the serf such as crops, animals, etc.), tribute in money either tribute at work (working on the lord’s own lands called “lordly reserve”). In addition to the taxes, the serf is obliged to use the mills, bridges and ovens of the feudal lordfor which he must pay a tax to his lord.


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1 and 2. illustrations in The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry, 1410. On wikipedia.

3. Illustration that shows what a medieval manor was like, in