Difficulties of Adaptation

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Difficulties of Adaptation

Even in the Midlands, however, this process did not go on without resistance; and elsewhere the manor had to adapt itself considerably. In Kent the Normans never succeeded in imposing the "incidents" of villeinage - heriot, merchet, chevage and arbitrary ta1lageson the peasants. Labour services, too, remained exceedingly light compared with those in other parts of the country; and they were imposed not on the tenants personally but on the land - on the jugum, tenementum, or sulung, units already divided by the action of gavelkind among a large number of co-heirs. All that the Kentish manor amounted to was a means of levying tribute; it never took the place of the village in the lives of the people nor served as a means of enforcing communal methods of cultivation.

In Essex things were much the same; in Norfolk and Suffolk (whose pre-Conquest arrangements are still far from clear to us), village and manor could never be made to coincide, almost every village containing a number of manors. The existence of dispersed villages, as in Kent, may partly have accounted for this. Here, too, labour services were imposed not on persons but on the land units themselves, the tenementa. These, which were Danish in origin, had already been inextricably mixed up by the sale and purchase which were constant among the tenants in that part of the country. Perhaps the latter had inherited a commercial tradition from their Danish ancestors. Certainly they had a tradition of freedom, which died hard; it was only slowly that a large number of the "freemen" or "sokemen" whom Domesday Book reveals in the former Danelaw, were deprived of freedom before the law. In Devon and Cornwall, too, the manor of the lawyers' theories was never established; and in Northumberland, and probably much of the North and West, labour services were never imposed. They were, in any case, hardly necessary in a region largely given up to sheep-raising and cattle-stealing from across the Border. Their place seems, here, to have been taken by rents paid in food. The North and West, however, were, and until the eighteenth century remained, economically backward and unimportant.

To sum up, then; the general effect of the Norman Conquest on English rural organization varied, like that organization itself, from place to place. Over the greater part of England it suddenly speeded up tendencies which had already shown themselves; it moulded an untidy, tentative manorial structure into one far more rigid and logical, and capable of controlling more strictly the lives of its inhabitants. Over an area less in extent, but including those parts which were richest, most thickly peopled and in closest touch with the Continent, it imposed new and heavier burdens and attempted to introduce an alien and unwelcome element - the status of serfdom - into the course of social development. Here it was bound to fail, and the seeds of its failure we may find in the development of towns and of trade, that powerful solvent of feudalism all over the world.


For more information on - Towards Economic Unity: Finance, Trade Andfiscal Policy

Domesday Book

The Manor as Means of Exploitation.

Conformity "on paper ", as it were, they did achieve with remarkable speed.

Domesday Book, drawn up in 1086, divides the whole of England into" manors " - a word scarcely known twenty years before.

Many of these are very like the ideal type we have described, particularly in areas where the Midland field system prevailed.

A manor, in that area, more often than not corresponded to the old village settlement.

But even here, and more often else where, the word manor stands for many different things.

There were enormous manors containing... see: Domesday Book


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