The Fifteenth Century: Peasant Landholding and Struggles

Part of the Studies in Historical Sociology book series (SHS)


Brenner suggests that the crucial difference between English and French agrarian development after the feudal crisis lay in the fact that, whereas in England peasant landholding was eroded away and land released for capitalist development, in France there was consolidation of peasant proprietorship.1 In the latter, the state confirmed the heritability of peasant tenure (so that landlords could not appropriate vacant peasant land into their demesnes), and began to organise peasant communities as a tax base. In England, landlords were able to appropriate vacant holdings and thereby transfer much land from the customary to the expanding leasehold sector, preventing the dorninance of peasant freehold in the agrarian economy. The increasingly commercially oriented landed class was also often able to transform customary land into leasehold by raising rents and entry fines. Meanwhile peasant landtenure in the form of copyhold became increasingly insecure, so that overall the peasant sector was of decreasing significance.


Thirteenth Century Fifteenth Century Customary Practice Customary Land Peasant Community 
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  1. 8.
    8. B. J. Harris, ‘Landlords and Tenants in England in the later Middle Ages: the Buckingham Estates’, ibid., no. 43 (1969).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    11. Ibid., p. 48; W. G. Hoskins, The Midland Peasant: The Economic and Social History of a Leicestershire Village (London: Macmillan, 1965) pp. 104–10.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    14. M. W. Beresford, The Lost Villages of England (London: Lutterworth, 1954) p. 148.Google Scholar
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    18. Hilton, ‘A Study in the Pre-history of English Enclosure’, The English Peasantry; C. Dyer, ‘Population and Agriculture on a Warwickshire Manor in the Later Middle Ages’, University of Birmingham Historical Journal, vol. 11 (1968).Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    21. N. W. Alcock, ‘Enclosure and Depopulation in Burton Dassett: a Sixteenth Century View’, Warwickshire History, vol. 3, no. 5 (1977).Google Scholar

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© John E. Martin 1986

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