Ch 02 The Growth of Feudalism

Ch.2 -The Growth of Feudalism-Sect.2-The Township

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CHAPTER II: THE GROWTH OF FEUDALISM

SECTION 2:  THE TOWNSHIP

SETTLEMENTS CONSISTED OF HIDES, HUNDREDS AND TOWNSHIPS. THEY HAD NO CONNECTION WITH KINSHIP.

IT IS THE GROWTH OF TOWNS AND SOCIAL CLASSES WITHIN THEM THAT FORMS THE INTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE ENGLISH AND THE NORMAN CONQUESTS.

THE HIDE, LIKE THE WELSH GWELY, WAS THE HOLDING OF A FAMILY.

ITS SIZE WAS BASED ON CULTIVATION WITH AN EIGHT OXEN PLOUGH AND WAS ROUGHLY 120 ACRES, DEPENDING ON SOIL AND TYPE.

BUT, ALTHOUGH THE GWELY WAS BOTH AN ECONOMIC AND A SOCIAL UNIT, THE HIDE WAS NOT AN ECONOMIC UNIT. FOR THE ENGLISH, THE TOWNSHIP COMPRISED THE ECONOMIC UNIT.

THE TOWNSHIP WAS A LARGE COMPACT VILLAGE AND HIDES WERE IN SINGLE ACRE PLOTS SCATTERED OVER THE ENTIRE EXTENT OF THE TOWNSHIP’S COMMON FIELDS.

THE FIELDS WERE WORKED IN STRICT ROTATION. IF THERE WERE THREE TOGETHER, ONE WOULD BE SOWN IN WINTER WITH WHEAT AND BARLEY, ONE WITH OATS, BEANS OR PEAS IN SPRING AND THE THIRD LEFT FALLOW.

FIELDS WERE UNFENCED AND, AFTER HARVEST, WERE COMMONLY GRAZED BY THE TOWN’S SHEEP AND CATTLE.

COMMON GRAZING WAS STANDARD AND, BESIDES THE 120 STRIPS OF ARABLE LAND, THE HOLDERS SHARED RIGHTS OVER COMMON MEADOWS AND A TOWNSHIP’S WASTE.

THESE LANDS WERE EXTENSIVE, AS A TOWNSHIP WAS OFTEN NO MORE THAN A CLEARING IN THE MIDDLE OF A LARGE TRACT OF WOOD OR HEATH LAND.

COMMON LAND WAS VALUED FOR ITS TIMBER AND ACORNS THAT THE PIGS FED ON.

A HIDE WAS REALLY A HOLDING. IT WAS NOT YET PRIVATE LAND AND COULD NOT BE SOLD BECAUSE ITS USE WAS RESTRICTED BY LOCAL CUSTOM. HOWEVER, THE HIDE WAS THE BASIS FOR THE FUTURE PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF LAND.

THE HIDE WAS ORIGINALLY A MILITARY HOLDING CARRYING AN OBLIGATION TO PUT ONE FULLY ARMED MAN INTO THE FYRD (ARMY) IN THE TIME OF WAR, THOUGH IN THEORY HE WAS A FREE WARRIOR.

WHEN WARS WERE FREQUENT, THE HIDE WAS NOT SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT ONE WARRIOR.

THE COERL, THE HOLDER OF THE HIDE, WAS LORDED OVER BY A THANE. HE WAS A PROFESSIONAL WAR MAN. HIS STATUS WAS GRANTED BY THE KING. THE THANE HAD CARVED OUT FIVE HIDES (600 ACRES) FOR HIMSELF.

THE COERL MIGHT SERVE THE KING IN A TIME OF A WAR, BUT, AT OTHER TIMES, THE FIGHTING WAS DONE BY THE THANE AND HIS PERSONAL FOLLOWERS.

HERE BEGINS THE ROUGH DIVISION OF LABOUR BETWEEN THE MAN WHO FIGHTS WARS AND THE MAN WHO TOILS IN THE FIELDS.

THIS LIES AT THE ROOT OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.

THE THANE SOON GAINED POSITION OVER WEAKER NEIGHBOURS.

THESE TIMES WERE UNSETTLED AND CENTRAL AUTHORITY WAS IN ITS INFANCY.

THE CULTIVATORS WOULD UNDERTAKE TO PERFORM DUTIES OR PAY RENT IN PRODUCE IN RETURN FOR PROTECTION.

WITHIN THE RANKS OF THE COERLS, SOCIAL CHANGE OCCURRED WITH SOME PEOPLE BECOMING PROSPEROUS AND OTHERS FALLING INTO DECLINE. THE SIZE OF HOLDINGS WERE AFFECTED ACCORDINGLY.

THE COMMON HOLDING OF A PEASANT CULTIVATOR BY SAXON TIMES WAS NOT A HIDE BUT A VIRGATE, OR TWO OXEN SHARE: 30 ACRES. THERE WAS ALSO THE BORATE: A ONE MAN OXEN SHARE COMPRISING 15 ACRES.

THERE WERE ALSO THOSE WITH TWO TO FIVE ACRES, BUT THESE PEOPLE LOST OUT ON COMMON LAND RIGHTS BECAUSE THEIR LAND WAS TOO SMALL TO SHARE IN COMMUNAL PLOUGHING.

WE SHALL COME ACROSS THESE IN THE DOMESDAY BOOK AS COTTARS AND BORDERS. THEY WERE ALSO SMITHS AND WHEELWRIGHTS AND COMPRISED OTHER CRAFTSMEN OF THE VILLAGE.

THE HIDE SOON DISAPPEARED, FOLLOWED BY NEW LAND DIVISIONS. THIS OCCURRED EVEN BEFORE THE NORMAN INVASION. BUT OLD TERMS WERE RETAINED FOR TAXATION AND ADMINISTRATION PURPOSES

IN THE SAME WAY, THE HUNDREDS, ONCE A GROUP OF 100 HIDES, BECAME A VAGUE TERM FOR A SHIRE OR PART OF IT AND FORMED THE BASIS FOR THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT OF JUSTICE.

AS EARLY AS 600 AD, THE THANE WAS WELL ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A FEUDAL LORD AND THE COERL A SERF.

PRIVATE PROPERTY IN LAND WAS TAKING SHAPE.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE STATE WAS GROWING OUT OF MILITARY CONQUEST AND THE KING WAS DEVELOPING AS A PERMANENT LEADER AT THE CENTRE.

SPECIAL POWERS HELD BY THE MINORITY, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE MASS OF THE POPULATION, WAS IN FACT THE ONLY WAY BY WHICH SOCIETY COULD ADVANCE BEYOND THE TRIBAL STAGE. FOR ALL THE HARSHNESS INVOLVED, IT HAS TO BE REGARDED AS PROGRESSIVE.

CHRISTIANITY PROVIDED A PRECISE LEGAL UNDERPINNING. IT BROUGHT ABOUT ANOTHER LAYER OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION. THERE WAS NOT ONLY THE DIVISION BETWEEN FIGHTER AND CULTIVATOR, BUT ALSO THE DIVISION BETWEEN THE PREACHER/MAN OF LEARNING AND THE REST.

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