For the developments of the Middle Ages See Serfdom and Villenage.
The great beauty and fertility of the country, as well as the charm of its climate, undoubtedly attracted, even in early ages, successive swarms of invaders from the north, who sometimes drove out the previous occupants of the most favored districts, at others reduced them to a state of serfdom, or settled down in the midst of them, until the two races gradually coalesced.
The lay subjects of the Order consisted of two classes; on the one hand there were the conquered Prussians, in a position of serfdom, bound in time of war to serve with the brethren in foreign expeditions; on the other hand there were the German immigrants, both urban and rural, along with the free Prussians who had voluntarily submitted and remained faithful.
The influence of the Northern invasions on the change from slavery to serfdom was, in all probability, of little account.
Not very long after the disappearance of serfdom in the most advanced communities comes into sight the new system of colonial slavery, which, instead of being the spontaneous outgrowth of social necessities and subserving a temporary need of human development, was politically as well as morally a monstrous aberration.
The object he and his associates had then in view was gradual abolition by establishing something like a system of serfdom for existing slaves, and passing at the same time a measure emancipating all their children born after a certain day.
In Russia, a country which had not the same historical antecedents with the Western nations, properly so called, and which is in fact more correctly classed as Eastern, whilst slavery had disappeared, serfdom was in force down to our own days.
The government interpreted the application as implying a wish for the abolition of serfdom, and issued a rescript authorizing the formation of committees to prepare definite proposals for a gradual emancipation.
Accordingly during 1858 a committee was created in nearly every province in which serfdom existed.
The plan was formed, and, in spite of some opposition from the nobles, which was suppressed, it became law, and serfdom was abolished (19th February 3rd March 1861).
- On the several branches of the subject of slavery and serfdom information may be obtained from the following works :- On Ancient Slavery: H.
On Medieval Slavery and Serfdom: G.
On Russian Serfdom: D.
Tourmagne, entitled respectively Histoire de l'esclavage ancien et moderne (1880) and Histoire du servage ancien et moderne (1879), which bring together many facts relating to slavery and serfdom; but they are somewhat loose and uncritical; the author, too, repeats himself much, and dwells on many topics scarcely if at all connected with his main themes; see also H.
Later on serfdom, religious persecutions and conscription were the chief causes which led the peasants to make their escape to Siberia and build their villages in the most inaccessible forests, on the prairies and even on Chinese territory.
It always remained a characteristic feature of serfdom, but was limited and fixed, either by contracts or concessions from the lord (taille abonnee), or by the customs.
At Mile End the king met Wat Tyler; a lengthy and tumultuous conference, during which several persons were slain, took place, in which Tyler demanded the immediate abolition of serfdom and all feudal services, and the removal of all restrictions on freedom of labour and trade, as well as a general amnesty for the insurgents.
The abolition of serfdom without cancellation of the peasants' prerogatives as to pasturage and timber rights served to accentuate classantagonism.
Serfdom is against God's word, " since Christ has delivered and redeemed us all without exception, by the shedding of his precious blood, the lowly as well as the great."
Serfdom was mitigated, preparatorily to its entire abolition; absolute religious toleration was established, and every citizen declared equal before the law.
The nobles who dominated the diet did nothing to remove the most crying evil of the country - the miserable state of the peasants, who had been freed from personal serfdom by Napoleon in 1807, but were being steadily driven from their holdings by the landlords.
The object of this ordinance was to secure revenue, but it led to the institution of serfdom in its most grinding form.
Some of these were essays, such as his Baptized Property, an attack on serfdom; others were periodical publications, the Polyarnaya Zvyezda (or Polar Star), the Kolokol (or Bell), and the Golosa iz Rossii (or Voices from Russia).
In place of the old system of privileges and exemptions were set equality before the law, universal liability to taxation, abolition of serfdom, security of person and property, liberty of conscience and of the press.
Serfdom was abolished in 1807; but the liberated peasants received no allotments of land, and the old patrimonial jurisdictions were retained.
She abolished serfdom, granted municipal rights to the cities, established an admirable system of elementary and secondary education, and invited all classes to compete for civil offices; and ample means were provided for the approaching struggle by drastic military reform.
In Jutland, too, after the repression, in 1441, of a peasant rising, something very like serfdom was introduced.
On the 17th of September the burgesses introduced a bill proposing a new constitution, which was to include local self-government in the towns, the abolition of serfdom, and the formation of a national army.
In 1722 serfdom was abolished in the case of all peasants in the royal estates born after his accession.
He did much too for the economic development of Prussia, especially for agriculture; he established colonies, peopling them with immigrants, extended the canal system, drained and diked the great marshes of the Oderbruch, turning them into rich pasturage, encouraged the planting of fruit trees and of root crops; and, though in accordance with his ideas of discipline he maintained serfdom, he did much to lighten the burdens of the peasants.
VILLENAGE (VILLAINAGE, VILLANAGE, VILLEINAGE), a medieval term (from villa, villanus), pointing to serfdom, a condition of men intermediate between freedom and slavery.
The feature of personal serfdom is also noticeable, but it provides a basis only for the comparatively small group of servi, of whom only about 25,000 are enumerated in Domesday Book.
Merchet was regarded, as has been stated already, as a badge of serfdom in so far as it was said to imply a " buying of one's own blood " (serous de sanguine suo emando).
Still the tendency to treat merchet as a distinctive feature of serfdom has to be noted, and we find that the custom spread for this very reason in consequence of the encroachments of powerful lords: in the Hundred Rolls it is applied indiscriminately to the whole rustic population of certain hundreds in a way which can hardly be explained unless by artificial extension.
In no country is there such a clear grouping of the towns on geographical lines as in France, these geographical lines, of course, having in the first instance been drawn by historical causes Another feature is the extent to which, in the unruly times preceding the civic movement, serfdom had spread among the inhabitants even of the towns throughout the greater part of the country, and the application of feudal ideas to town government.
It was the principle of rural serfdom applied to social functions.
From that time for nearly six hundred years or more the Esthonians were practically reduced to a state of serfdom to the German landowners.
Serfdom was abolished in 1817 by Tsar Alexander I.; but the condition of the peasants was so little improved that they rose in open revolt in 1859.
After the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards in the 16th century the natives were subjected to much tyranny and oppression, though it must in fairness be said that much of it was carried out in defiance of the efforts and the wishes of the Spanish home government, whose legislative efforts to protect the Indians from serfdom and ill-usage met with scant respect at the hands of the distant settlers and mine-owners, who bid defiance to the humane and protective regulations of the council of the Indies, and treated the unhappy natives little better than beasts of burden.
A decree of 1 4 87 practically established serfdom in Bohemia, where it had hitherto been almost unknown.
The peasantry had ceased to be dangerous since the establishment of serfdom; the power of the cities was now thoroughly undermined.
The notion of serfdom is distinct from those of freedom and of slavery.
Serfdom is very often conceived as a perpetual adherence to the soil of an estate owned by a lord, but this praedial character is not a necessary feature of the condition.
Hereditary serfdom may sometimes assume the shape of a personal relation between servant and master.
Such being the general features of serfdom, it is sure to appear in very different ages and countries.
The regulation by the state of the duties and customary status of peasants on government domains turns out to be one of the roots of serfdom in the Roman world, which in this respect as in many others follows on the lines laid down by Hellenistic culture.
Xi., 48, 23), two classes of coloni are distinguished - the adscripticii, representing a more complete state of serfdom, and the free coloni, with property of their own.
And yet serfdom became the prevailing condition for the lower orders during the middle ages.
The direction of events towards the formation of serfdom is already clearly noticeable in Celtic communities.
In the eyes of a Roman observer, however, even downright slavery was turned into serfdom by the force of circumstances.
The dualism characteristic of medieval serfdom, its formation out of debased freedom and rising servitude, may be traced all through the history of the middle ages.
A very instructive example of the formation of serfdom is presented by the history of Russia..
But, in fact, serfdom naturally took the form of an ugly ownership of live chattels on the part of a privileged class, and all sorts of excesses, of cruelty, ruthless exploitation and wanton caprice, followed as a matter of course.
The fabric of a state built up on the basis of serfdom proved inadequate to meet the tasks of modern times.
If we turn back from this course of development to the history of serfdom and emancipation in the West striking contrasts appear.
As we have already noticed, medieval serfdom in the West was the result of a process of customary feudal growth hardly interfered with by central governments.
The evolution of serfdom in Germany was effected by the working of somewhat more complicated causes.
The serfdom which had sprung up in Russia in the 16th century, and became consecrated by law in 1609, taking, however, nearly one hundred and fifty years to attain its full growth, was abolished in 1861.
I.; Collection of Materials on Landholding, and Statistical Descriptions of Separate Governments, published by several zemstvos (Moscow, Tver, Nyzhniy-Novgorod, Tula, Ryazan, Tambov, Poltava, Saratov, &c.); Kawelin, The Peasant Question; Vasilchikov, Land Property and Agriculture (2 vols.), and Village Life and Agriculture; Ivanukov, The Fall of Serfdom in Russia; Shashkov, " Peasantry in the Baltic Provinces," in Russkaya Mysl.
The system of serfdom attained its fullest development in the reign of Catherine II.
Serfdom was abolished in 1819, but the peasants remained under the jurisdiction of their landlords.