XVIII

THE MANOR

1 THE LORD’S ESTATE

THE relatively high social circles of which military homage was a characteristic feature were not the only ones where ‘men’ of other men were to be found. But at the lower level relationships of dependence found their natural setting in an arrangement which was much older than vassalage and which was for a long time to survive it. This was the manor (seigneurie). Neither the origins of the manorial régime nor its rôle in the economy fall within the scope of the present work: we are here concerned solely with its place in feudal society.

Whereas the authority deriving from vassal homage became a source of profit only belatedly and by an undoubted deviation from its original form, in the manor the economic aspect was of primary importance. There, from the beginning, the object—if not the exclusive, at least the principal object—of the powers enjoyed by the chief was to provide him with revenues by securing for him a portion of the produce of the soil. A manor was therefore first and foremost an estate (terre)—there was hardly any other word for it in spoken French—but an estate inhabited by the lord’s subjects. As a rule the area thus delimited was in its turn divided into two closely interdependent parts. On the one hand there was the ‘demesne’, known also to historians as the ‘reserve’, all the produce of which was taken directly by the lord; on the other there were the tenements (tenures), small or medium-sized peasant holdings, which, in varying numbers, were grouped round the lord’s ‘court’. The superior real property right which the lord claimed over the cottage, the arable, and the meadow of the villein was expressed by his demand for a new investiture (rarely granted free of charge) every time they changed hands; by the right to appropriate them in case of default of heirs or by lawful confiscation; finally and above all, by the right to impose taxes and demand services. The latter consisted for the most part in agricultural labour services performed on the demesne. Thus, at least at the beginning of the feudal era, when these compulsory labour services were particularly heavy, the tenements not only added their contribution in produce or money to the revenues of the fields directly exploited by the master; they were in addition a source of man-power in the absence of which those fields must have lain fallow.

-241-

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