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sailor

Serfdom

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There should be more info on feudal relations in regards to peasants. Just how disenfranchised and stomped down upon are they?

This is a feudal society after all, usually in similar circumstances the peasants were serfs tied down to the land, not allowed to migrate, not allowed to own land, forced to give up a part of their produce and forced to work a number of days in the year (sometimes as high as 100) on the land held by the castle directly, were not allowed to own a weapon and all that with their local noble opressor holding judiciary power over them.

How much of exploitation and repression is going on in the Westeroos? Are Starks really that noble or are they also on the other hand akin to slave owners?

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[quote name='sailor' post='1622046' date='Dec 17 2008, 12.10']There should be more info on feudal relations in regards to peasants. Just how disenfranchised and stomped down upon are they?

This is a feudal society after all, usually in similar circumstances the peasants were serfs tied down to the land, not allowed to migrate, not allowed to own land, forced to give up a part of their produce and forced to work a number of days in the year (sometimes as high as 100) on the land held by the castle directly, were not allowed to own a weapon and that the nobility held judiciary powers over them.

How much of exploitation and repression is going on in the Westeroos? Are Starks really that noble or are they also on the other hand akin to slave owners?[/quote]

I haven't seen any evidence of serfdom in Westeros, it looks more like a simplified version of W. European late middle ages feudalism, which wasn't as severe as Serfdom. By the 13th-14th century most Western European peasants had greater freedom to migrate and were not bound to one estate. Westerosi Peasants appear to have their own property and independent legal status, though I'm sure there are illiterate tenants getting screwed by their Lord's sharecropping contracts.

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What Horza says. We get hints of a relatively significant amount of mobility for smallfolk. It's much more reflect of the 14th-15th century than the 9th and 10th centuries.

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Well we had serfdom until 1848 so I really don`t know how fedualism without serfdom works.

Maybe the biggest hints we get are in the second Hedge Knight story. Didn`t the lord there just round up the peasants and told them they are going to have fight for him?

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Serfdom became more common in Eastern Europe and Russia and lasted until the 1800's out there, but in Western Europe, it became increasingly uncommon as we've said. :) It's true that many countries had it "on the books" until the 18th and 19th century, but that's not because there were any serfs; just a fact of old legal systems that it took ages for laws to be changed to match current realities.

Westeros, in any case, doesn't have slavery (with the exception of the thralls of the ironborn, who aren't quite slaves either, but get fairly close). So whatever notions one has associated with slavery, they don't do it. Yes, the lord can call on his smallfolk to defend his lands, but then again, a lord can call on any of his vassals to defend his lands. This doesn't make his vassals slaves.

We've examples of common folk discussing moving around, purchasing their own land and homes, etc. For example, Jack-Be-Lucky goes on about how Anguy should have used his winnings from the archery contest to buy some land and raise a family on it.

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[quote]It's true that many countries had it "on the books" until the 18th and 19th century, but that's not because there were any serfs; just a fact of old legal systems that it took ages for laws to be changed to match current realities.[/quote]

France had a significant number of serfs in 1789. A definite minority, though.

But Arya found in Riverlands a ruined village that was not a fresh ruin. Its lord had been a Targaryen loyalist in War of Usurper, and the lands had been looted by Tully. After the war, the lord came to terms with Tully, but the smallfolk stayed dead.

Those smallfolk of course stayed dead; but if the lord still owned the lands, he could have given the lands and ruined houses to landless peasants coming from elsewhere in Riverlands. Getting low rents for some years would have been better than getting no rent at all from an empty and unsettled village.

That he could not do so in fifteen years of peace indicates that there must have been few free farmers who could have become his tenants - that a great majority of the surviving peasants would have been serfs owned by other lords, and therefore not permitted to move in the empty village.

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[quote name='Jaak' post='1624145' date='Dec 18 2008, 16.19']France had a significant number of serfs in 1789. A definite minority, though.[/quote]


Complete bullshit. There wasn't any serfs in France in 1789. But some revolutionary propaganda did claim there was. France lost most of its serfs during 11th and 12th century. The massive clearing of woodlands that happened during those centuries made more lands available for peasants. And the Crusades, mostly the first ones (both 1096 and 1100) were made by common people, that includes serfs. Then the rise and growth of cities during the 13th century gave another opportunity for serfs to get free. And if there was any left by the 14th century the chaos brought by the 100 years war made serfdom history in the kingdom of France.
Anyway serfdom was never as widespread in France as 19th and early 20th centuries historians believed. That's one amongst many other false beliefs about Middle-Age that modern medieval historians following Marc Bloch and the best of all Jacques LeGoff discovered in the 2nd half of 20th century. Their ways of doing historical research is called "la nouvelle histoire" (the new history) in France. It was and still is a revolution that radically changed our view of those times.

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Waterdancer, August 11, 1789 was the day that serfdom was officially abolished in France. True the system was largely dead anyway and there were only a few pockets left that were serf in name and acted more like peasants than anything else but they existed.

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[quote name='Jaak' post='1624145' date='Dec 18 2008, 16.19']That he could not do so in fifteen years of peace indicates that there must have been few free farmers who could have become his tenants - that a great majority of the surviving peasants would have been serfs owned by other lords, and therefore not permitted to move in the empty village.[/quote]Or perhaps they just didn't want to give up the relative wealth and security they had on their old lord's land. In the war, there would have been a significant percentage of people killed from nearly every village - either because the village was raided or because some peasants were drafted into the army of their lord and never came back. I don't suppose there would have been much excess population that would have been tempted to accept the offer to move into a deserted village and start from scratch there. And perhaps the lord had other villages as well and decided to fill them up first.

But of course even with this degree of freedom, the smallfolk were knee-deep in shit. Having to die for your lord in some silly border war you don't really care about or having your daughter raped by some ill-tempered knight and his entourage on the way home from a tourney... pretty everyday life, no matter where you go, so the freedom to leave your lord's land for some other place doesn't avail you much.

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What I always thought was weird about the series was, indeed, the treatment of the landed serfs. Why, if many can wield what appears to be a longbow, can they still be treated as trash? In actual Wars of the Roses period England, anyone who could use a longbow would generally be a yoeman, and they would be treated with a great deal of respect, sometimes even put in a permanent retinue.

Cheers!

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Bear in mind that the role of yeomen as longbowmen was unique to England and Wales, and that on the continent, use of the longbow (which France, at least, adopted) was less tied to any particular class or social status.

We don't really ever see if we've met any "yeoman-class" smallfolk up to now. Perhaps we have, and they're ones who've not suffered so much as the poorer tenant farmers and crofters.

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The peasants in the North seem to have more freedom than their counterparts in the south. Perhaps it has to do with the huge but sparsely populated land area of the North, perhaps the Starks were more benevolent than the Tullys and Lannisters.

Whatever the case, the peasants in the New Gift were free to move around (I think they all moved to Umber's land when the wildling raids increased).

There are references to "crofters" and very few to northern "smallfolk" (which sounds serf-like), and it also says that "even in the dark depths of the wolfswood, crofters and hunters made their homes". A crofter is an independent peasant who buys land and farms it.

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Bear in mind that the role of yeomen as longbowmen was unique to England and Wales, and that on the continent, use of the longbow (which France, at least, adopted) was less tied to any particular class or social status.

We don't really ever see if we've met any "yeoman-class" smallfolk up to now. Perhaps we have, and they're ones who've not suffered so much as the poorer tenant farmers and crofters.

I don't know of any French longbowmen during this, or any time period (other than the scots guard). There were French archers, but they were predominantly poorly trained and equipped crossbowmen, and men with hunting bows.

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Jean Juvenal des Ursins wrote that the French kings attempted to raise their own force of longbow archers, actually. They did eventually decide that so many peasants trained to use the longbow would be a threat to the king and aristocracy, and scuttled it.

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The peasants in the North seem to have more freedom than their counterparts in the south. Perhaps it has to do with the huge but sparsely populated land area of the North, perhaps the Starks were more benevolent than the Tullys and Lannisters.

Or perhaps it has to do with the lack of knights in the North.

Whatever the case, the peasants in the New Gift were free to move around (I think they all moved to Umber's land when the wildling raids increased).

There are references to "crofters" and very few to northern "smallfolk" (which sounds serf-like), and it also says that "even in the dark depths of the wolfswood, crofters and hunters made their homes". A crofter is an independent peasant who buys land and farms it.

Not in Scotland. The crofters in Scotland were and still are tenants leasing from landlords. Used to be tenants at will - which is why Highland Clearances were possible.

If you look at the smallest nobles we meet in the South, like lord Baelish of Littlefinger and ser Eustace Osgrey of Standfast, they only hire a few servants, but they still do have a clear social line between them and smallfolk. Lords do exist in North, and chiefs of mountain clans are recognized as Lords, too; but for example Starks seem to own quite substantial lands not given to any lords bannermen. There is the holdfast near which Gared was caught, and the holdfasts that legitimate Stark boys (Bran and Rickon) would govern.

Are there any people who have an acknowledged ownership of their land but who in peacetime work on the land alongside their servants and family?

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It seems to me that the peasants have it pretty good in Westeros. They get brought to court as eyewitness's, and get to meet the hand. If they have the urge to go on pilgrimage, well heck, no one seems to care. There not forcibly relocated to repopulate tracts of lands. I mean yea sure they have to fight for there lords. But at least one house(The Lannisters) seems to draw there levies from the slums. So all in all I wouldn't call the small folk of westeros, either serfs or thralls. They seem to be a cross between peasant's and yeoman.

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I have speculated elsewhere that the upcoming winter, Grey Plague and Pale Mare (Essos and perhaps Dorne only) will have the same effect that the Black Death had in Europe. Which was ending feudalism.

Of course if the Dunk and Egg stories (which I haven't yet read) show Peasants being treated way worse than they are in ASOIAF then it is possible that the Spring Sickness took the place of the Black Death, by reducing population the status of the smallfolk increased by driving wages up.

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Yep, Voodooqueen, let's take the discussion over here.

In another thread, I strongly objected to that theory - the Black Death did not end serfdom in Europe. As a matter of fact, what remained of it was abolished only in 1848 in the Habsburg monarchy. While in the monarchy's Western provinces peasants' living conditions had vastly improved, serfdom existed pretty much in its old form in provinces like Hungary until the onset of the 19th century.

Also, don't mix up feudalism and serfdom. Yes, they are closely related. But feudalism pretty much ended with the development of territorial states - the territory over which a lord had power through his vassals having their holding their was replaced by the territorial state as we now know it, through reforms of administration. In most of Europe this happened in the course of the 17th to 18th century, at a time when the huge wave known as the Black Death had been over for centuries already, taking place int he 14th century.

Yes, Vienna actually had an epidemic in 1679, but the true reorganisiation of the Habsburg monarchy began under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia, with the elimination of the intermediate powers (that is, the vassals of the crown) and replacement by a bureaucracy responsible only to her. There is no correlation.

Serfdom, or what remained of it (in German we distinguish between "Leibeigenschaft", which is serfdom, and mere "Grundherrschaft", which can probably be translated as "manorialism" - I'm hoping Liliedhe will join us here, since she's a scarily knowledgeable person), remained even after the end of feudalism, in Russia until 1861, pretty much in the form of serfdom (and the European part of Russia was hit by the Black Death in 1353 btw - check out this pretty animated map here). In part of the Habsburg monarchy it was abolished in 1848 (though with peasants' payment for the original landowners' losses lasting for twenty years, or even longer), in some provinces like Hungary this process began only in 1854.

(Yep, I'm a professional wiseass - as in, I'm a university employee. ;) As a matter of fact, I'm expected to give a lecture to students on feudalism next Friday, and I'm gonna use a very pretty feudal pyramid PowerPoint file with lots of ASoIaF crests in it. :cool4:)

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Yep, Voodooqueen, let's take the discussion over here.

In another thread, I strongly objected to that theory - the Black Death did not end serfdom in Europe. As a matter of fact, what remained of it was abolished only in 1848 in the Habsburg monarchy. While in the monarchy's Western provinces peasants' living conditions had vastly improved, serfdom existed pretty much in its old form in provinces like Hungary until the onset of the 19th century.

Also, don't mix up feudalism and serfdom. Yes, they are closely related. But feudalism pretty much ended with the development of territorial states - the territory over which a lord had power through his vassals having their holding their was replaced by the territorial state as we now know it, through reforms of administration. In most of Europe this happened in the course of the 17th to 18th century, at a time when the huge wave known as the Black Death had been over for centuries already, taking place int he 14th century.

Yes, Vienna actually had an epidemic in 1679, but the true reorganisiation of the Habsburg monarchy began under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia, with the elimination of the intermediate powers (that is, the vassals of the crown) and replacement by a bureaucracy responsible only to her. There is no correlation.

Serfdom, or what remained of it (in German we distinguish between "Leibeigenschaft", which is serfdom, and mere "Grundherrschaft", which can probably be translated as "manorialism" - I'm hoping Liliedhe will join us here, since she's a scarily knowledgeable person), remained even after the end of feudalism, in Russia until 1861, pretty much in the form of serfdom (and the European part of Russia was hit by the Black Death in 1353 btw - check out this pretty animated map here). In part of the Habsburg monarchy it was abolished in 1848 (though with peasants' payment for the original landowners' losses lasting for twenty years, or even longer), in some provinces like Hungary this process began only in 1854.

(Yep, I'm a professional wiseass - as in, I'm a university employee. ;) As a matter of fact, I'm expected to give a lecture to students on feudalism next Friday, and I'm gonna use a very pretty feudal pyramid PowerPoint file with lots of ASoIaF crests in it. :cool4:)

It's interesting how the black death is thought largely responsible for the demise of feudalism in England. But this model did not apply to mainland Europe.

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I don't think it is as clear cut as all that. Even in the 17th century there were complaints in England about the existence of serfdom but equally there is a shift away from some ascepts of serfdom already occuring before the black death.

There does seem to be a European turning point in the 14th century with serfdom becoming rarer or less extreme in western Europe while at the same time becoming more common and more extreme in form in Eastern Europe. The key I suspect is less the black death, but more the pattern of economic development (though this obviously effected by the plague). In Russia as Bad Dog mentions serfdom is only abolished in 1861, but then some right to personal mobility is only lost and serfdom completely imposed only in the 17th century.

On the whole I think one of the strengths of ASOIAF is its vagueness about the small folk. If you know something about pre-modern land tenure and agricultural systems that inform the way you read the books but if you don't you're not burdened by having to understand complex legal forms and relationships.

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