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Old 08-13-2013, 04:20 PM
Location: Cushing OK
14,545 posts, read 18,690,108 times
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Originally Posted by pgm123 View Post
Please read this so you can be careful how you use the term "Serf."
Feudalism - The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism

Most of what you've learned is wrong, so it's important to break down the myths. Many peasants owned property and they often sued knights for property violations.
In limited areas and limited eras. The reign of feudalism and medieveal culture is by no means the same from beginning to end.

The medieval time encompassed many centuries, and within that there were numerous things which changed. The first serfs were those who chose to give fealty and contol to a lord since if they didn't they'd probably die from raiders. After Rome collapsed, anarchy reigned. Serfdom and indeed the whole medieval balance came about because it was a reasonably fair exchange. The lord had a safe place to run when attacked. The serf toiled and entered into psudo ownership but lived. The lord had a dependable way of the fields being tended so they all didn't starve.

And people were very local. If you grew up in one village and traveled fifty miles, its likely nobody would understand what you said. Early medieval europe, after the truely 'dark' ages where there was no law and no security but the local lord, worked in a balance.

But all things change. The weather got better. Crops grew abundantly and the population grew exponentially. There was constant war but it was for central control and kings began to mean something. There was a great surplus of serfs. Along with them there were also slaves and those with varying degrees of 'ownership'. There were many terms not often reference which defined the exact state of a laboror, from slave to landowner of a strip or two of land. There were also local differences. To be a serf in Russia, even far back, was to virtually be a slave. It is the origion of the word. In more western areas it differed.

This was ended by the Black Death. Europe became a largely empty place, abandoned villages and untended fields. Those pesants left were desperately needed. But while serfs and most of the pesant class had been tied to their strips before by law and could not go, there hadn't really been much reason to. You could be a bandit or starve or serve your lord. At least you lived longer with the lord. But the Black death gave birth to modern economics. A peasant could sell his services to the highest bidder. Many did and gained rights in the deal. It was during this period that courts first appeared to rule in business matters. So yes, some serfs would have sued and some would have won.

But the later part of that era, crops began to fail. Foreign invasions changed things, largely invasions from the east this time. A lord was required to feed a serf but not a freedman. Many ended up 'bowing the head' (this was the actual jesture, placing one's head in the lords arms) and entering what was effecively slavery. It required absolute obedience to the lord. The strips worked were not owned by the labor but the lord. It meant the same for the family and for those to come, being heritary. It was a step backwards, but then if it was that or starvation it was an easy choice.

As we entered the 'modern era' these were the serfs who when no longer needed were 'freed' to work in mills or live off the street in East London. They did NOT have the right to sue anyone while serfs and were generally considered 'excess people' and in the end many ended up shipped under indenture to the Americas and later Australia as convicts (which could be found if needed to fill the ship).

And every one of these rights won and lost were won with grim determination and much loss. For a man to 'bow his head' meant utter failure to his family and his grandchildren's as well, and would never have been done lightly. But the memory did not die and the attitude that servants and general labor were little more than animals at the best which came across the seas is what shaped the minds of those who came to be in power in the early American colonies.
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Old 08-13-2013, 07:40 PM
Location: El Sereno, Los Angeles, CA
733 posts, read 798,256 times
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Originally Posted by nightbird47 View Post
The Arab trade in slaves and anything else tradeable began centuries before the Europeans became involved, and it never ended, just extended its reach by working with Europeans. The Arabs had been taking slaves from Africa in trades with locals offering up their own long before European countries became consumers and merchants.

Back when the Vikings also traded in slaves, they traded with the Arabs. Europe was entirely wrapped up in its own miseries then and largely contributed to the trade through the crusades as they sent new merchandise.
I'm not talking about Arabs, I'm talking about Sub Saharan Africa, when I'm talking about the gold trade I'm talking Timbuktu.
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