Property Rights in the English Manor in the 16th — Beginning of the 17th Centuries
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Property Rights in the English Manor in the 16th — Beginning of the 17th Centuries
Publication type
Marina Vinokurova 
Affiliation: Institute of World History. State Academiс University for the Humanities
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
The article deals with the problem of property rights in the English manor of the 16th — beginning of the 17th centuries. It’s based on the data of the manorial surveys (about 50 of them) in the counties of Wiltshire and Lancashire. The analysis of the surveys testifies that it’s hardly possible to search purely allodia character of landed property, correlating with the notion «full ownership» both in upper and lower levels of the manor. The surveys represent the world of manorial hierarchies, based on the feudal rule of the land to land’s subjection. The lands, represented by the surveys and belonging to manorial lords, may be defined as fee tail if take into consideration the super property rights of the King of England, for these lands belonged to the owners of the manors on the condition of feudal military and administrative service. That is to say — manorial lords were so called tenants in chief (vassals in chief). Their property rights in the general hierarchy of feudal class appeared to be conditional, for it was linked with the specificity of the military (administrative) service. At the same time the very same property rights inside the manor (towards the dependent tenants) appeared to be fee simple: unconditional possession of land with a full freedom of its alienation. If take into consideration estate in law of the manorial lords towards dependent levels of the manor (in particular — to copyholders), it has an absolute character, for in this sense manorial lords were the possessors of free, unconditional and indivisible property inside the manor; and their property right was a specific form of the landed monopoly of the ruling class in general. The provement is concluded in the simple fact: manorial lords were the persons who accepted (but didn’t pay) the rent, which was a material form of their property rights. As for copyholders, who represented the majority of the peasantry in the manors, they were not the owners of their plots, for the superior owner of all lands in the manor (including the tenements of the peasantry) was the lord of the manor. Nevertheless the specificity of feudal property (including feudal possessions) was concluded in the fact of means of productions’ disposal (plot of land, inventory and tools) by the peasantry. Thus, in the texts of the manorial surveys the peasants reveal themselves as «tenants» or «holders» of the plots, possessing of a more or less wide sphere of disposal; but they are not «owners». They are divided by the manorial clerks into categories, the main of which are freeholders and copyholders (tenants on the lord’s will and according to the custom of the manor, who held land on the basis of the manorial court indenture’s copy). The article deals with legal rights (in some cases — with the absence of legal rights) of the freeholders and copyholders from the point of view of both manorial custom and common law courts. A number of the English peasantry expropriation’s factors of so called agrarian revolution are also shown in the article.
property, property rights, possession, manor, manorial surveys, manorial custom, freehold, copyhold, annual rent, manorial hierarchy in the property rights
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