The Significance and Distribution of Free Tenures

  • R. H. Hilton
Part of the Studies in Economic History book series


THE historical development of customary tenure into servile villeinage, which we have briefly sketched, is, of course, only one aspect of the history of the English peasantry before the end of the thirteenth century. Another aspect was the development at the same time of free tenures. This was partly a consequence of the expansion of cultivation in areas of wood, waste and marsh. New holdings were often held in free tenure, a measure taken by landowners to attract new settlers. This relationship between the assarting of wood and waste and free tenure is a commonplace in western European agrarian history. The growth of free tenures was also partly a continuation of the effort we have already noted in the twelfth century by some of the wealthier tenants to convert their customary holdings and their own personal status.2


Labour Service Thirteenth Century Fourteenth Century Twelfth Century Manorialised Estate 
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  1. 1.
    R. H. Hilton, ‘Freedom and Villeinage in England’, Past and Present, 31 (1965).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. H. Hilton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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