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villein

villein (vĬl´ən) [O.Fr.,=village dweller], peasant under the manorial system of medieval Western Europe. The term applies especially to serfs in England, where by the 13th cent. the entire unfree peasant population came to be called villein. The localism of medieval economy has made a general definition of villein status exceedingly difficult. The villein was a person who was attached to the manor and who performed the servile work of the lord and in some respects was considered the property of the lord. Various distinctions of villeinage, or serfdom, were sometimes made. In privileged villeinage the services to be rendered to the lord were certain and determined; in pure villeinage the services were unspecified, and the villein was, in effect, subject to the whim of the lord. The villein was theoretically distinguished from the freeholder by the services and duties he owed to the lord; these included week-work (a specified number of days' work on the lord's demesne each week throughout the year) and boon days (work required at busy periods during the seasonal year, as at plowing or harvesting time), payment on the marriage of the villein's daughter, payment of tallage on demand, and the like. In practice, however, distinctions blurred, and all land tenure on the manor tended to approach a common level. The villein in England was protected by law against all except his lord, and some guarantee against the lord's power was gradually extended by the royal courts. In the 14th cent. English villeinage began to disappear. A contributing factor in its decline was the increasing substitution of money payments for manual services; rents replaced labor dues. The Black Death of 1349 (see plague), by greatly reducing the population and thus making labor scarce, made the demands of villeins more difficult to refuse and thus hastened the decline. The growth of towns also influenced the breakdown of the older class distinctions and the building up of new.

For bibliography, see manorial system; feudalism.

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"villein." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"villein." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/villein

"villein." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/villein

villein

villein was the term used to describe a peasant in a state of serfdom—i.e. subject to a lord and under obligation to perform labour services. The term ‘villanus’ was used in Domesday Book without any derogatory flavour to indicate persons who lived in ‘vills’—and therefore formed the largest social class. Though not free men, they were above the bordars and cottars who held less land, and well above the slaves, who had been numerous in Saxon England. But the term is not precise and status and duties varied from manor to manor, region to region, and over time. There was very little villeinage in Kent, in the old Danelaw, most of the north, and parts of the west. Villeins on crown estates were likely to have more privileges. As royal justice developed, the status of villeins sank, since they had no access to royal courts and could not serve as jurors. There were several ways in which they could escape from villeinage—by purchasing freedom from the lord (commutation); by escaping to a town for one year and one day; by taking holy orders (with the lord's permission). By the end of the 14th cent. villeinage was clearly disintegrating, villeins changing their status to that of copyholders.

J. A. Cannon

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"villein." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"villein." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/villein

"villein." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/villein

villein

villein in medieval England, a feudal tenant entirely subject to a lord or manor to whom he paid dues and services in return for land. The word is recorded from Middle English, and is a variant of villain.

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"villein." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"villein." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/villein

villein

vil·lein / ˈvilən; -ˌān/ • n. (in medieval England) a feudal tenant entirely subject to a lord or manor to whom he paid dues and services in return for land.

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"villein." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"villein." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/villein-1

"villein." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/villein-1

villein

villein (hist.) see VILLAIN.
So villeinage XIV. — AN., OF. vilenage, medL. villenagium.

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"villein." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"villein." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/villein-2

villein

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"villein." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"villein." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/villein-0