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Old 09-25-2017, 05:47 AM   #1
fifiste
 
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Default historically becoming landed as a small fry

Hi,
I was wondering if history buffs could speak some stuff here.
During middle ages and up - how would becoming a landed peasant look like for an artisan, mercenary or other-such look like in places.

I know that depending on place and time the number of free peasants could be quite high (or pretty much non-existent) as well as the number of yeomen and other-such who had minimal obligations.
I know that serfs could gather money and with amicable or profit minded landlords could buy themselves free in some cases. But what if the one keen on owning a plot of land and doing some farming wasn't a serf?
The sales rent and other deals on land can be mired with many complicated aspects in pre-modern times. I guess in some cases you could just buy some land from aristocrat owning it, in some cases you'd also have to have a title or step into a feudal relationship - swear an oath etc?
I guess it could have been posted in general RP too but I'm looking for this tangentially for my GURPS play, so also talk about how things like this are organized in GURPS by what rules etc. is welcome.
The most "standard" GURPS game as I understand has the status 0 as a free-farmer or tradesman and assumes this be one of the most common part of the society. I guess in that a small adventure (acquiring wealth or favours) and maybe some skill rolls could make an axe-for-hire or other such drifter a respectable farm-owner.
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Old 09-25-2017, 06:31 AM   #2
DanHoward
 
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

You either buy a title, which comes with a parcel of land, or you marry the right girl.
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Old 09-25-2017, 07:04 AM   #3
sir_pudding
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

Historically if you land small fry you are supposed to throw them back, as this is the legal definition of small fry...
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Old 09-25-2017, 07:56 AM   #4
a humble lich
 
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

I'd say it varies by quite a bit. When you say the middle ages, you are talking about a continent sized area over a time frame of a thousand years. There were regions with a strong feudal structure like France and England. There were republics and free cities like Venice, Hamburg, and Switzerland. There were border regions like Prussia, Ukraine, or Spain. There were remnants of old Roman law. And there was also variation over with time. Acquiring land in 1500 was very different from acquiring land in 600 (when to become landed you needed to get some troops, take some land, and fight anyone who wanted to take it from you).

I would imagine at some times and places to acquire land one would need for a noble to give it to you in exchange for feudal oaths. In more republican areas one might be able to just buy it. In some lightly populated areas one might be able to just go out and find unused land. Another common method is being useful in a war and being given a title for newly conquered land.

It also depends on what you mean by owning land. In a strongly feudal area, the only one who owns land is God. God then grants the king rights to administer the land, who then gives rights to dukes, who then give rights to lesser nobles, who then let commoners use the land. In theory, at each level there are taxes, fees, and rents which must be paid as well as privileges, responsibilities, and duties.
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Old 09-25-2017, 08:30 AM   #5
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

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Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
It also depends on what you mean by owning land.
This is a major issue. "Owning" something is a legal relationship, how it works, or if it is even considered possible, varies a lot. For most places and most of history, it *isn't* possible to "own" land as an individual, and indeed even in the modern Western model it's still hedged with a vast range of restrictions on what you can do with it, and requirements to pay a regular fee (which we now generally label "property tax") to retain your "ownership".

One significant feature is that a lot of medieval places will have different kinds of land, much of it right next to some kind governed by entirely different laws. Some of it will be allodal, some held by feudal oaths, some rented, some "rented" on terms fixed for longer than anybody will be alive, some held by villages but assigned to the same family for generations, some saleable but only to certain people (e.g. you can sell, but only to other members of your family or clan), or on certain terms (you can sell, but only if the rest of the village approves the buyer), some of it theoretically private property but entailed so it cannot be "sold", but nevertheless administered by somebody else for generations since it was put up as collateral for a "loan" that hasn't been repaid.... It's a complicated subject. By and large if you have money and want to be a farmer, somebody will sell you the right to do so, but you may not necessarily "own" the land you will be farming for the rest of your life, and you probably *will* need to enter into a long-term social relationship, whether that's an oath of fealty or just proving to the other villagers you can be trusted to be a decent neighbor.
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Old 09-25-2017, 08:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
By and large if you have money and want to be a farmer, somebody will sell you the right to do so, but you may not necessarily "own" the land you will be farming for the rest of your life, and you probably *will* need to enter into a long-term social relationship, whether that's an oath of fealty or just proving to the other villagers you can be trusted to be a decent neighbor.
Sounds about right and is very suitable for gaming purposes also.
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Old 09-25-2017, 08:51 AM   #7
fifiste
 
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

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Originally Posted by DanHoward View Post
You either buy a title, which comes with a parcel of land, or you marry the right girl.
The title thing is that is interesting to me personally - as long as I know "freeman" is a common "title" though in actuality it has not much to do with being an aristocrat. So i was thinking - I know that serf have been granted freedom or have bought themselves free but could a burgher or somesuch become a landed "freeman" not a landed small-aristocrat. A burgher or somesuch paying to become a a knight or even more is nothing unheard of but just becoming a farmer -- I guess marrying the right girl and getting some land out of the deal works. Can even be combined with "buying" a title - old time people being practical folks that is -- might be weird giving your lands under the care of a towny or worse a wanderer of somesuch but if he shows enough wealth to take care of it and your daughter then why not.
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Old 09-25-2017, 09:13 AM   #8
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

For much of pre-modern history land was the primary source of wealth and was something you got however you could.

Land in return for Service was normal - either military (for the upper classes) or agricultural labour (for everyone else), although there were also serjeanties ... a sort of "middle class" tenure which could also be military (the yeoman was form of serjeant) or non-military (duties varied from supplying a given castle with fuel to the famous "Ranulph the Farter" ... a jester who was given tenure of a manor in return for entertaining the court). A serf, or unfree peasant held a plot of land to which they were extensively bound by contract and basically unable to leave ... but then they were pretty hard to dispossess as well. The terms of your land grant and service were the foedus (lat. agreement) that gave feudalism its name. At the higher levels you could also have the right to create tenants of your own.

The alternative to service was generally rent - often called a "farm" - is more intuitive to modern minds: you pay your landlord a set sum of money every year and get the use of a given thing. This could be tax collection for an area, it could be a mining concession or a plot of land - this was present at all levels if not always common. This is why we often think of someone who engages in agriculture as a "farmer" - a freeman who rents his land (even if that happens to be directly from the Crown).
Note that being "free" (usually called a husbandman at peasant level) delivered you from a lot of annoying duties and restrictions but was not that much of a gain in status - a serf could well be materially better off than many of the freemen in his village.

So yes, everyone would try to get land wherever they could - whether by a noble's estate, a knight's fee or a plot rented from some noble or town. That said, all of the "rules" above are more like guidelines - for every general example you can probably find someone or somewhere that did things completely differently. The middle ages in particular are like that...
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Old 09-25-2017, 01:38 PM   #9
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

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Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
Note that being "free" (usually called a husbandman at peasant level) delivered you from a lot of annoying duties and restrictions but was not that much of a gain in status - a serf could well be materially better off than many of the freemen in his village.
It could also mean that you were of lower status than some of the unfree. They might have certain posts and duties that brought status and wealth and which only an unfree person could hold while you, although free, might have only a tiny piece of land that you had to pay excessive rent to continue to hold (and without which you'd be landless and free mostly to starve...).
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Old 09-25-2017, 06:17 PM   #10
hal
 
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Default Re: historically becoming landed as a small fry

Quote:
Originally Posted by fifiste View Post
The title thing is that is interesting to me personally - as long as I know "freeman" is a common "title" though in actuality it has not much to do with being an aristocrat. So i was thinking - I know that serf have been granted freedom or have bought themselves free but could a burgher or somesuch become a landed "freeman" not a landed small-aristocrat. A burgher or somesuch paying to become a a knight or even more is nothing unheard of but just becoming a farmer -- I guess marrying the right girl and getting some land out of the deal works. Can even be combined with "buying" a title - old time people being practical folks that is -- might be weird giving your lands under the care of a towny or worse a wanderer of somesuch but if he shows enough wealth to take care of it and your daughter then why not.
Instead of thinking "Freeman" as a title, think of it as a status if you will. If you didn't owe service, and you didn't have a binding contract upon you because your father made a contract with a Noble where the contract was not only binding on the original signatories, but also upon the descendants of the signatories - then you were "free".

If your father or grandfather agreed to harvest your fields, pay tallage fees, pannage rights, sheepshearing silver, etc - then you as a descendant of your father, also owed those same duties and fees. in return however, you were given the right to farm a given amount of land, and that land would be granted to your descendants through time. As mentioned above, "Farming" or the rent of land from a lord, meant that the "Free" didn't have the rights to land like the unfree did.

Then there were the names associated with the classes who held land. There are various terms used to describe the number of acres an ox could plow within a given time period. That the Acre was not always a standardized unit of measure, and you get to see where and how it may be difficult to reconcile what was standard in one area, might not be standard as far as "actual acreage" by today's standards. See my next post showing a "village" generated using HARN MANOR in my program I've been working on over the years...
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