They are rustics performing, as a rule, work services for their lords.
The shepherds are rustics of the Colin Clout type, and discuss the follies and corruptions around them.
Thus the terminology of Domesday takes note of two kinds of differences in the status of rustics: a legal one in connexion with the right to dispose of property in land, and an economic one reflecting the opposition between the holders of shares in the fields and the holders of auxiliary tenements.
It is also to be noticed that the Domesday Survey constantly mentions the terra villanorum as opposed to the demesne in the estates or manors of the time, and that the land of the rustics is taxed separately for the geld, so that the distinction between the property of the lord and that of the peasant dependent on him is clearly marked and by no means devoid of practical importance.
As early as 1505 one of Almeida's ships contained a crew of rustics unable to distinguish between port and starboard; soon afterwards it became necessary to recruit convicts and slaves, and in 1538 a royal pardon was granted to all prisoners who would serve in India, except criminals under sentence for treason and canonical offences.
But the same texts which draw the line between the two classes make it clear that there were no other guarantees to the maintenance of the rights of the superior rustics than the moral sense and the self-interest of their masters.
Finally, behind this bourgeoisie, and afar off, came the crowd of serfs, rustics whom the acquisition of land had gradually enfranchised, and who were the more eager to enjoy their definitive liberation because it was close at hand.