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consideration for not turning them into tenants at money rents, and with obliging the poorer tenants to become payers of money rent". This seems to bear out the conjecture that in the earlier period the process of commutation was often disliked rather than welcomed by the tenants.

The money derived from commutation enabled the lords The growth to hire free labourers. The nucleus for a labour class was class. of a labour provided by the cottagers whose resources were too scanty to furnish the means of subsistence, and whose leisure afforded them an opportunity to assist their more opulent neighbours. They were joined by other elements, and the class of rural wage-earners rapidly grew in numbers during the fourteenth century. Among those who entered their ranks were villeins, who had thrown up their holdings and withdrawn from the manor. While technically tied to the soil, the villein was able in normal circumstances to escape from his servitude without serious difficulty, although he was sometimes required to pay substantial fines 1. The population of the manor was ordinarily sufficient to meet the demands of the lord, and no insuperable obstacle impeded the path of those whom a restless longing impelled to wander from their homes and fields. Hence in the occasional flight of serfs from the manor is to be found one source for the development of a class of hired labourers during the thirteenth century. A second source consisted of villeins who had secured enfranchisement from bondage by manumission 2. A grant of manumission was acquired either by purchase or as a gift from the lord. At the end of the twelfth century, for example, a villein at Staunton was manumitted to enable him to go on a crusade 3. Glanville insists that a villein cannot purchase freedom with his own money, since all his chattels are in his lord's power and could be taken without the asking. The transaction was therefore carried out through an intermediary, who acted on the villein's behalf

1 Supra, p. 39 (n. 2.)

The Mirror of Justices, 78, enumerates the modes of enfranchisement. 3 Stenton, "Early Manumissions at Staunton ", in English Hist. Review, xxvi. 95.

Glanville, v. c. 5.
For a case where the agent proved dishonest, sce
Select Cases in Chancery (Seld. Soc. Pub.), 154.

The older theory.

as his agent. A third source comprised villeins who had obtained emancipation from servitude by prescription 1. The younger sons and brothers of villeins, whose services the lord was unable to utilize on the estate from want of land with which to endow them, would be allowed to reside away from the manor. Their connexion with it would grow more and more faint, and their descendants would be gradually absorbed into the ranks of the free labourers. But while we can thus form some notion of the materials from which a wage-earning class was constituted, we have no means of determining its extent by the middle of the fourteenth century.

The Black Death is commonly regarded as a turningpoint in social development, a watershed dividing English economic history into two periods. It is at any rate a convenient point at which to register the degree of economic progress, and to determine the extent to which free labour had displaced servile labour in the cultivation of the manorial demesne. The theory which won its way into common acceptance among the older historians is that by the time of the great pestilence commutation was no longer the exception, but had become the general rule. It has even been said 2 that in 1381 "no memory went back to the more ancient custom", when tenants in villeinage paid rent in service. But as a result of the scarcity of labour occasioned by the Black Death wages rose 50 per cent. The landlords therefore found that the money rents of their tenants were no longer sufficient to hire the necessary quantity of labour, and accordingly attempted to revive the old manorial arrangements in their stead. They "tried to reverse the old bargains which they had made with their serfs for the commutation of labour rents" 3. Their attempt to compel the customary tenants by coercion to work once more on their demesnes is represented as the real cause of the insurrection of 1381. In spite of reactionary legislation, however, the protest of the villeins succeeded. “The

1 T. W. Page, The End of Villainage in England (1900), 41-42.
2 J. E. T. Rogers, Economic Interpretation of History (1888), 29.
• Rogers, Agriculture and Prices, iv. 116.

demands of the villeins were silently and effectually accorded . . . the dread of another servile war promoted the liberty of the serf" 1. The landlords had been taught a lesson, and were henceforth afraid to insist upon the exaction of labour dues, and villeinage died out as a result of the insurrection. These views appear untenable. The progress of the movement towards commutation and the causes and consequences of the Peasants' Revolt have alike been misconceived.

before the


The manorial system was essentially adapted to an age Comof natural husbandry. Where money was seldom used mutation save for purposes of foreign trade and exceptional emer- Black gencies, obligations were naturally discharged in other ways than through the medium of currency. The king raised an army, not by hiring mercenaries, but by the grant of land on the condition of military service, The lord cultivated his estate, not by hiring agricultural labourers, but by allotting tenements on the condition of predial service. This system could only break down when the supply of money became sufficiently great, and its circulation sufficiently rapid, to familiarize men with its efficiency as an economic instrument. Now the transition from a natural to a money economy was certainly accomplished earlier in England than in many other European countries. But the progress made by a money system can easily be exaggerated, and we have no real ground for assuming that by the middle of Edward III.'s reign a money economy had replaced natural husbandry to the extent which the complete commutation of personal services would necessarily presuppose. Accordingly, the scarcity of money would seem to have blocked the path along which England was slowly moving from a system of labour dues to money rents. On general grounds, then, we are led to question the progress of commutation 2, but fortunately we have abundant evidence that at the time of the Black Death the system of predial services was still in full operation. The manorial records of the fourteenth century show that in the year of the pestilence commutation 1 Rogers, Agriculture and Prices, i. 8 and 81. 2 Cf. Page, End of Villainage, 42 seq.

Valuation of services in money.

had not yet become general, and that free labour had made no marked progress in displacing servile labour. Dr. Page's analysis of the ministerial records of eighty-one manors spread over twenty counties has brought to light the following striking results 1:—

TABLE A (1350)

i. On 6 manors predial services were entirely abolished.
ii. On 9 manors villeins performed an insignificant part of the

iii. On 22 manors villeins performed about half the labour.
iv. On 44 manors villeins performed practically all the labour.
These figures, after allowing for their incompleteness, refute
the supposition that labour services were exceptional or
entirely unknown in the middle of the fourteenth century.

The error as to the disappearance of villeinage probably arose from the fact that, even as early as the thirteenth century, the services exacted from villeins were assessed on the account rolls of the manor in terms of money. The


1 Page, End of Villainage, 45-46. An article in the English Hist. Review (vol. xxix. Oct. 1914) by Mr. H. L. Gray holds that Thorold Rogers was 'correct in maintaining that the commutation of services had before the Black Death proceeded far". Dr. Page's tables were based upon bailiffs' accounts. He compared the opera vendita (works sold) with the opera actually performed by the tenants, and where the latter predominated he inferred that commutation was not far advanced. Mr. Gray's tables are based upon the inquisitions post-mortem for the years 1333-1342. He compares the value of the works (whether performed or temporarily sold) with the rents of assize, i.e. the fixed money rents paid by the tenants, and where the latter are much greater he assumes that commutation was far advanced. Accordingly he finds (1) that full services were performed on only one-sixth of the manors which he has examined-309. lay manors and 160 ecclesiastical manors; (2) that services were no longer rendered north and west of a line drawn from Boston to the mouth of the Severn; (3) and that south and east of this line services were still rendered on half the manors.

If we accept Mr. Gray's premises his conclusions might carry conviction, but his assumptions are debatable. The problem turns largely on what constitute the redditus assisae. If in the main they do actually represent relaxed predial services, then they would certainly furnish a fair basis for comparison between (a) works still performed on the lord's demesne, and (b) works permanently commuted. But when we take into account the freeholders' rents, the rents of pastures, essart land, and the like, it becomes questionable whether the fixed money rents can be regarded as a satisfactory basis. Cf. also the Battle Custumals (pp. 60-63, 79), where the rents of virgaters and cottagers are fixed in money, a circumstance which might very well suggest commutation. Yet a little later we read that if day-work were required (si praedicti operari debent) then their rents are to be reduced or remitted-showing that labour services still continued as their primary obligation.

practice was adopted from motives of convenience; it laid the basis for commutation, but it did not imply that the tenant invariably paid a money-equivalent in place of personal service 1. On the manor of Wilburton in Cambridgeshire all the 'works' (opera) exacted from the tenants were valued in money; every winter or summer work was worth a halfpenny, and every autumn work a penny 2. This was in the thirteenth century, but the permanent commutation of predial services did not take place until two centuries later. The advantages of a system of reckoning in which a money value was attached to every service were twofold: it established a scale of penalties in cases of default, and it enabled the lord to take money instead of labour dues whenever it served his purpose. Each year the lord sold a number of works at customary rates, offering the tenant whose services were not at the moment required the option, which may have been voluntary or compulsory, of paying money as a substitute. The extent of commutation, however, varied from year to year; at Wilburton 1183 winter and summer works and 93 autumn works were sold in 1393, while four years later only 8 works were commuted. This manor was not exceptional, and on other estates also the exaction of week-work and boon-work was protracted beyond the Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt. On the manor of Wistowe in 1368 only 456 works were sold, and no less than 2274 works were performed 3. At Harmondsworth in Middlesex the services rendered in the reign of Richard II. were those enumerated in the twelfthcentury custumal 4.

after the

The Black Death proved to be an economic catastrophe Comof supreme importance. How great an impetus it gave to mutation the process of commutation may be gauged from the con- Black dition of 126 manors within a generation following the pestilence 5 :

1 For an example of works estimated in terms of money, see Records of Cardiff, ed. J. H. Mathews (1898), i. 279.


2 F. W. Maitland, History of a Cambridgeshire Manor ", in English
Hist. Review, ix. 420 seq.
3 Neilson, Ramsey Manors, 73.

4 Vict. County Hist. Middlesex, ii. 74.
5 Page, End of Villainage, 60-64.


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