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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

13 - Establishing Custom

from Part VI - In the World of the Manor


This chapter questions whether FitzNigel’s account of negotiated agreements is a credible description of the situation of peasants vis-à-vis their lords. It does so by looking at estate policies. Pre-Conquest surveys show categories of people whose livelihood depended on their working on a landowner’s inland and whose forebears and descendants were similarly dependent. Twelfth-century surveys show landowners beginning to require a record of what they could expect from named individuals among the rest of the peasantry. These documents were frequently headed by the names of jurors who had sworn to their veracity so obligations were now legalised. The detail in which they were recorded show that ‘custom’ was not what had been the case ‘from time immemorial’, but what had been negotiated and agreed to be owed from what was now a ‘tenement’.