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Old 09-27-2017, 09:56 PM   #19
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, New York
Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
It's not unlikely that those transactions had values measured in money, though. While many forms of service and many benefits were paid in various goods and rights/obligations, many also had a money value attached. They generally weren't paid for in actual coin, but rather accounts were kept and every so often they were settled up (likely annually, after the harvest), sometimes with actual coin, sometimes with goods to the value of the net debt. This is also how fines tended to be managed.
When using HARN MANOR, (which I used to generate the sample village above), if a serf was reaching a point where they (by random die roll of course, but player characters would follow the same route!!!) had sufficient surplus to invest in the use of more land, they would simply petition the lord for more land, and agree to certain obligations to match what they agreed upon with the lord. For instance, many of the contracts were for a set duration (generally speaking, about 7 years). A lord might agree to let a tenant farm 15 acres for the annual fee of say (pulling numbers out of thin air here!) 15 shillings. So for 7 years, the tenant pays 15 shillings regardless of how good or bad the harvests were. Then, at the end of the contracted time, the tenant might want an additional 10 acres. So he contracts out for that, and pays the new agreed upon stipend for the land that is held by the Lord. Only this time, the tenant might only want a three year contract (or the Lord might only want 3 years). Maybe this time, the rents are only 14 shillings a year, etc.

As for real life? If a serf decided they wanted to purchase land, and could find someone willing to sell them land, what happened was that they'd agree to the transaction with the other serf, and BOTH had to approach the lord to ratify the agreement. This usually involved a court fee on the lord's part, and both parties to the transaction not only had to make their transaction occur with the blessing of the lord, but had to agree to the contractual obligations to the Lord himself.

For example, Old Widow Gisele holds 15 acres of land. She agrees to sell 10 rods of land to her neighbor for the sum of 2 shillings. She owes a given service to her Lord for the 15 acres of land, but if she separates 10 rods of land forever (as far as her children and grandchildren etc car concerned) then she's essentially modifying her contract with the Lord. If she still owes the same labor and obligations as before, she's got less land to show for it. If on the other hand, her neighbor agrees to assume some form of obligation - then THEIR contract with the lord is amended as well as hers, and now they owe not only the money paid to Gisele herself, but also to the Lord. This is in addition to the fee they paid to have the Lord ratify the change in contract.

So, can you purchase land per se? Sort of. Can you purchase land from a free holder who doesn't OWN land, but rents it from his Lord? Nope. All he can do is sub-rent the land at best, paying the renter some money to use the land he's willing to let him use at a high enough fee that the renter who originally held the rent agreement with his lord, isn't losing money.

Note too - that the custom of the manor in one manor might say X, but the custom of the manor at a manor located a mere 5 miles away might have a subtle variation. Some laws weren't even standardized - which is why "custom of the manor" has weight. It has a form of "unwritten law code" if you will that was no less and no more binding than written laws might be. Maybe the custom of the manor specifies that before a contract can be finalized, not only does the Widow have to agree, but her first born son also has to agree, as he is the one who stands to suffer (or gain) by the transaction. In yet another, the custom may be that a woman may not sell any portion of her holdings at all, while in yet another manor, it could be something odder yet. Who knows... ;)
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