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village with open fields stretching away on every side, and farm-houses grouped together in a single street round the manor-house and the church. But in the west of England we also find another type of settlement, the Celtic hamlet, with scattered homesteads covering the country-side; here the enclosure of the common fields proceeded more rapidly and at a much earlier period than in other parts of the kingdom. In the second place, a warning needs, perhaps, to be uttered against the undue stress that is apt to be laid upon the economic self-sufficiency of the mediaeval manor. Ministerial accounts showing frequent and extensive sales of surplus produce in markets, and manorial extents disclosing the large amounts of money often derived by the lord from his estate,1 conflict with the generalizations commonly made as to the isolation and self-sufficing character of the Old English village.

of the arable. Instead of the permanent allotment of the strips, we find shifting severalty. Further, the arable fields are apparently not used as common pasture after harvest or during a fallow year.

(iii.) The Mercian type (in the Midlands) appears as the blending of the Anglian and Celtic types. Hence there is permanent ownership of the strips as in (i.), while the three field system is attributed to the influence of (ii.) where after two crops the land reverted to pasture.


(iv.) The Wessex type: here the Celtic tradition is stronger. G. Slater, "The Inclosure of Common Fields Considered Geographically", in the Geographical Journal, xxix. 45-52.

1 Neilson, Customary Rents, 65; Vict. County Hist. Lincolnshire, ii. 296; Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, i. 167; H. L. Gray, "The Commutation of Villein Services", in English Hist. Review, xxix. 626. Cf. also the low rates of carriage, an indication of intercourse and trade. markets of London were supplied by Stratford Rot. Parl. i. 308 b.




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THE break-up of the manor was one of the most important Forces movements in the social and economic history of the later under Middle Ages. It transformed the character of rural society manorial and revolutionized the structure of agricultural labour. It covered the passage from a condition of natural husbandry, where services were rendered in kind, to a condition where money supplied the basis of all economic relationships. The essence of the manorial system was comprised, as we have already seen, in the intimate connexion established between the lord's demesne and the community of unfree tenants; and the fundamental purpose of serfdom was to provide labour for the cultivation of the home farm. Accordingly the forces which undermined the fabric of manorialism were twofold: commutation of services and the alienation of the demesne. In the one case the lord found it to his advantage, or was compelled, to release his tenants from their customary obligations and exact money wherewith to hire free labourers to work his estate. The acceptance of rent in lieu of services dissolved the links between the servile tenants and the home farm, and commutation was thus the most powerful agency and conspicuous factor in the process of manorial disintegration. In the other case. the lord initiated an entirely new departure. He gave up completely the system of direct exploitation of the land, and yielded the management of his demesne into other hands; he ceased to be a farmer and developed into a landlord, who leased his estate to tenants and lived on the income accruing from their rents. In both cases alike,

1. Commutation

whether he employed hired labour or abandoned farming altogether, the lord had no further need for compulsory labour; the villeins were allowed to buy out their services, and legal agreements on the basis of wage-contract and a cash nexus were substituted for the natural economy of mediaeval farm management. Every social system would appear to contain within itself the seeds of its own decay, and the tendencies endangering the preservation of the manorial order were already at work in the thirteenth century, though they were enormously accelerated in the century which followed.

The commutation of servile labour for money rents of services. began at an early date1, and a variety of motives combined to bring about the substitution of payments in money for services in kind. As the king preferred to employ mercenaries instead of feudal levies, which were difficult to manipulate, so the lord tended to prefer hired labour to services which were often grudgingly given and reluctantly performed. "Customary servants", observes Walter of Henley 2, "neglect their work and it is necessary to guard against their fraud". The payment of money enabled the lord to determine more freely his methods of estate management, while the system of forced labour was attended by many drawbacks. It was clumsy, inefficient, and an insurmountable obstacle to agricultural progress. At the same time, the commutation of services enabled the lord to dispense with a crowd of officials, and to reduce the charges of his demesne. On his part, the tenant had everything to gain by emancipation from the daily routine of the home farm. His time became his own to devote to the supervision of his own holding, and he was also freed from personal subjection to the officials of the manor, and from the pressure of numerous and exacting disabilities. In the long run the peasantry alone profited

1 There is an example of commutation at Harmondsworth before 1110: Vict. County Hist. Middlesex, ii. 73.

2 Husbandry, II. Thus at Erchfont (1307) one tenant was fined for bad harrowing, another for bad ploughing, a third for withdrawing his suit from the mill, and a fourth for not coming to mow the meadow: Pembroke Surveys, i. p. xci (n. 2).

by the change from services in kind to services in money. The commuted payments when permanent were fixed once and for all. Accordingly, when the purchasing power of money diminished in the sixteenth century, the income of the landlord fell, while the copyhold tenants were protected from a rise in rents corresponding to the new scale of values 1. It was difficult for the lords to reverse the old bargains, or revise the customary assessments on what would appear to them a more equitable basis. Hence the transition from a natural to a money economy did not, as it is sometimes supposed, straightway introduce an era of competitive prices, and rents often remained stationary for centuries.

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There were varying degrees of commutation, nor was it' The nature necessary that all the obligations demanded from a tenant in villeinage should be commuted at a single stroke. The tenant would endeavour to shake off the more oppressive services, while the lord would be inclined to release those dues with which he could most readily dispense. Rents in kind were generally commuted at the rate of twopence for every capon and one penny for fifteen eggs 2. Sometimes carriage duty was commuted, at another time week-work with its unwieldy ploughings and reapings, and finally boon-work performed at harvest-time. Boon-work ceased to be profitable when the charges of food and drink at the lord's expense exceeded the value of the services rendered. On the manor of Bernehorne in Sussex every villein was required to harrow for two days, receiving three meals a day; the value of the food was fivepence, the work was worth fourpence, and so the lord loses a penny'. But as a rule, though not invariably, the boon-services were commuted last of all. Week-work was done at fixed times in the year, but the precariae were exacted at the lord's will, and were therefore more adaptable to the changing conditions of the seasons; moreover, harvest work was less

1 Infra, p. 148.

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2 Vict. County Hist. Essex, ii. 317.

3 Custumals of Battle Abbey, 20. Similarly at Hutton in Essex (English Hist. Review, xxvi. 334, n. 12) the precariae were commuted because" valet cibus plus quam profectus operis : ideo nihil inde exigitur". Cf. also Vict. County Hist. Middlesex, ii. 74-75. 4 E.g. Hutton (see n. 3).

easily hired than ordinary rural labour. Not only were there different degrees of commutation, but commutation was often merely a temporary expedient favoured by the circumstances of the moment, and not intended as a permanent arrangement. Sometimes commutation did remain durable; at Greetham in Rutlandshire there were twentyfour virgates held in villeinage for each of which the tenant paid twenty shillings, and it is expressly stated that no labour services were due 1. A class of molmen 2 came into existence, tenants who held their land on villein tenure and retained the distinctive traits of villein status-for example, the liability to merchet fines-but who paid rent instead of labour service. It was, however, to the lord's interest to retain freedom of action, and one year accept money and another revert to labour rents. It is erroneous then to speak of a general movement towards commutation before the Black Death. There was no uniformity in the process; it was possible for a manor to waver between the two systems of payments in kind and payments in money, employing each alternately. The failure to take into account this important fact has been the source of misleading notions. An example of the irregular sale of 'works' is furnished by the manor of Wistowe, where the lord 'sold' nearly six hundred works in 1311, and less than three hundred five years later. The system of commutation was devised, in fact, not in order to improve the condition of the villein, but in the interests of the lord. Indeed, when employed merely as a temporary device it was often detrimental to the tenant; not only did he remain as before liable to compulsory labour, but he could now be called upon arbitrarily to provide money instead of service whenever it suited the lord's convenience. In 1278 the reeve of a manor belonging to Ramsey Abbey was charged with "taking bribes from the richer tenants as a

1 Vict. County Hist. Rutland, i. 215.

2 Vinogradoff, "Molmen ", in English Hist. Review, i. 734-737.

3 Neilson, Ramsey Manors, 72. At Teddington (Vict. County Hist. Middlesex, ii. 78) 98 works were sold in 1325; and 70 in 1326 and only 1 the year after the Black Death. At Bray (Vict. County Hist. Berkshire, ii. 181) the opera vendita brought in one year £3:15:1, and another year £3:59 (temp. Edw. II.).

4 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, i. 95.

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