Re: [S-R] Re: Hospes
- Dear Vlad,
Is it not the case that a certain number of small free-holders were present?
These are people that would be described as yeoman farmers in the English
speaking world. I think you have to allow for some fine gradations of
social status among the lower classes. People of serf status held urbarial
(feudal tenure) lands, which Maria Theresa took pains to define with some
exactitude when she was pushing for reforms. These lands belonged to the
serf by status, not contract. See Hilaire Belloc for a masterly exposition
of this topic.
In a system not unlike our own today, where we owe the government about a
third of "our" wealth, the serf had to pay his personal form of local
government, the big shot up at the castle, with forced labor and portions of
his crop. Most people preferred to make these payments with money when they
were allowed to do so.
On the other hand some number of free-holders owned small parcels of land
outright. Some were impoverished nobility who lived like peasants, the
"nobles with twelve plum trees" type.
Towards the end of the 18th century when wine and grains became profitable
cash crops, the money-starved nobility started farming more of their own
lands, for which purpose they rented out parcels to their own serfs, who
worked this land in addition to their urbarial holdings.
Other agricultural workers, as Vlad has mentioned, owned only their own
house, or in some cases no real property. They were mere renters or
share-croppers, working directly for the big guy in some cases or for
smaller freeholders or for people (serfs, peasants) with urbarial holdings
and rented land.
The rented land was not part of the urbarial holdings, and led to all kind
of grief and difficulty when the Austrian government decided to end the
peasant system circa 1848, paying off the landowners in order to grant
peasants their urbarial holdings. The peasants found that they were awarded
a much smaller amount of property than they expected. They were still
fighting about these land grants up to the formation of the Dual Monarchy.
Apologies to the list, and fondest hopes that the discussion may prove
helpful to someone. It's a fascinating subject (well, I think so, anyway).