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8-08-2015, 14:26

Manorialism and the Agricultural Estate

The king and nobles, the bishops and abbots, all of whom operated within the feudal system of allegiances and loyalties, depended for their wealth on an agricultural system known as manorialism. The agricultural estate, or manor, varied in size and value but usually included productive fields and orchards, pasture land, and forests. Free peasants and serfs (people who were legally free but tied to the land) provided the labor in both their own fields and those belonging to the lord of the manor (who might be an individual or an entity such as a monastery). In most places people lived in villages. At the center of the manorial village stood the lord’s manor house, which might be fortified and have such necessities for a self-sufficient community as an oven, smithy, mill, and often a wine press—all of which belonged to the lord of the manor, and which the villagers paid to use. Since agricultural surpluses might be slim, nobles often held several manors and moved from manor to manor in order to oversee the estates, administer justice, and collect rents and taxes paid in goods. Brigandage was rampant, and the farmers also suffered from the destruction of their crops during wartime. Like the feudal system, manorialism reflected the unstable conditions of the early Middle Ages. Class distinctions created what is known today as a stratified society, with the clergy and the warrior/administrators at the top and the workers—peasants and serfs—at the bottom.