Life in the medieval manor

Derling Salazar & Katie Papp.
"primarily an economic organization, it could maintain a
warrior, but it could equally well maintain a capitalist landlord.
It could be self-sufficient, yield produce for the market, or it
could yield a money rent.“
Andrew Jones, "The Rise and Fall of the Manorial System: A Critical
 A manor was the section of land over which
a lord had domain and could exercise
certain rights and privileges in medieval
Western Europe. A typical manor would
include a manor house which was built
apart from the village where the peasants
lived. Life in the medieval manors was
based upon the principles of manorialism
or seigneuralism.
 Manorialism was one of the foundations essential of
the feudal system in Medieval Europe. In
manorialism, the Lord of the manor exploited the
serfs or tenants who worked his estate; manorialism
involved a hierarchy of reciprocal obligations that
exchanged labor or rents for access to land.
Under feudalism, power was heavily
concentrated among the nobility,
while the vast majority of the
population (peasants/slaves) had no
power nor significant wealth
Everyday life.
 The manors themselves where almost completely self-
sufficient, and only needed to import occasional
finished goods like books, sewing needles, or imported
luxury goods. The manor consisted of a castle or manor
house, a village dependent on the castle, farmland, and
commons. The village had a church, houses, and basic
businesses such as a blacksmith’s shop. The commons
was an area from which people might cut grass for
winter feed, or on which they might allow their animals
to roam free to feed off of the cut stubble.
Land use.
 The largest amount of land on the manor would be used
by the peasants. Their house would be surrounded by a
yard called a 'toft' and a garden called a 'croft'. This land
would be used for growing crops and vegetables, a
percentage of which would be given to a knight as
'payment' for their land. Peasant's houses were oneroomed and the family shared the space with the animals.
Manor house.
 The manor house was typically a large fortified mansion (similar to
what we refer today as a chateau); the manor house[s] were the homes
of the lord, hence opulence was the norm. Arranged for defense against
robbers and thieves, it was often surrounded by a moat with a
drawbridge, and equipped with small gatehouses and watchtowers .
The primary feature of the manor-house was its great hall, to which
subsidiary apartments were added as the lessening of feudal warfare
permitted more peaceful domestic life.
Some manor-houses,
such as the Ightham
Mote were
considered modest
by medieval
while the
Washington Old
Home was an
example of ancestral
Life around the church.
 The church was the central institution during the
Middle Ages; the Catholic Church (as we refer to
it nowadays) controlled medieval life until the
Protestant Reformation. Every manor had a
church on its grounds, and all residents of the
manor, from the peasants to the nobles, had the
obligation of attending mass every Sunday.
Church, cont’d.
 The church was the
main protector of the
culture. In addition,
every person’s rite of
passage was centered
around the church
(birth, baptism,
marriage, and death).
 During the Middle Ages, farming was
the chief, and perhaps the only,
economic activity in Europe; the
sustenance of the manors depended on
the farming done by the peasants. By
today’s standards, medieval faming was
primitive, as only metal tipped ploughs
for turning over the soil and harrows to
cover up the soil were the only tools
available. The summer was the only
productive harvesting season; the
slightest of rain downpours could
destroy an entire crop, making it
difficult for farmers to pay their taxes. In
some manors, lords hired reeve
employees to keep peasants from
Decline of the manor.
The system of manorialism, which flourished during the 8th
century, quickly began to deteriorate by the 13th century (in
Easter Europe the system achieved strength during the 15th
century) in Western Europe; the Black Plague and the
Hundred Years’ War caused the down bringing of the
medieval manor . The bubonic plague caused Europe to lose
any sense of authority, up to the point where the Catholic
Church had to install a papacy in Avignon rather than Rome.
The Magna Carta was also a cornerstone in the decline of
feudalism; the Magna Carta re-established the balance of
power between the king and his subjects, thus reducing
feudalism & manorialism.
 Although manorialism was strictly a Western European institution,
several kingdoms across Europe developed their own standardized
systems of land partition; for example, the Forwarks were the giant
farms that operated in the Crown of Poland from the 14th century
until the early 20th century. The Spanish also developed the
encomienda system and built giant haciendas across New Spain
during the 16th and 17th centuries. Manorialism existed briefly in
North America under the title of a patroon, who was a landholder
with manorial rights to large tracts of land in the 17th century
Dutch colony of New Netherland in North America (notably along
the Hudson River in New York).
Effects of the manor on modern Europe.
 Although the classic system of manorialism perished by the time of the
Renaissance, it influenced Europe up until the time of WWII. Social
inequality was the norm for European society even after the Middle
Ages; while the nobility and business owners enjoyed a large portion of
the economy (especially during the Industrial Revolution) the vast
majority of the population worked as underpaid farmers or business
owners up until the 1960’s when social reforms made Europe a nearegalitarian society.
Manorialism also helped many monarchs develop the colonial system,
which transformed Europe into the world’s richest region during the
Modern Era. The principles of colonialism were based on feudalism, and
they included:
* The profits to be made.
* To expand the power of the metropole.
*To escape persecution in the metropole.
*To spread the colonists way of life including religious and political beliefs
 In Scotland, the system of land tenure was until recently
overwhelmingly feudal in nature. Unique in England, the village
of Laxton in Nottinghamshire continues to retain some vestiges
of the feudal system, where the land is still farmed using the
open field system. The feudal court now only meets annually,
with its authority now restricted to management of the farmland.
In contrast to Europe where feudalism created a strong central
power, it took a strong central power to develop feudalism in
Russia. A lack of true central power weakened and doomed
Russia' to outside domination. Russia developed its system of
land/lord/worker, loosely called feudalism, after it had created a
strong central power. Feudalism/manorialism in Russia
continued until the 20th century.
"manor house." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Aug. 2010
"manorialism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Aug. 2010
 Andrew Jones, "The Rise and Fall of the Manorial
System: A Critical Comment" The Journal of
Economic History 32.4 (December 1972:938-944) p.
938; a comment on D. North and R. Thomas, "The
rise and fall of the manorial system: a theoretical
model", The Journal of Economic History 31
(December 1971:777-803).
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