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Serfs were bound to the land, but they were not sold like slaves.

A serf lived on a manor, and was not permitted to move away from the manor except with the agreement of the lord of that manor. But that was the extent of the serf's lack of freedom.

The serf owed a portion of the crop, or the value of it, to the lord, which is how the lord got his income. In exchange for this, the lord provided the serf with a place to live on the manor, land to work, and protection.

The lord was really as much bound as the serf was. Not only could he not sell the serf, he could not evict him from his property and was bound to protect him. The serf had a right to be on the property and to farm it. If the lord sold the property, neither he nor the new owner could force the serf off the land.

The serf could run away if he wanted to, and many did. If he was gone for a year, he was considered free. The reason more serfs did not run away was not fear of the law or of retribution so much as the loss of the right to live and farm on the land and the security that provided.

In the end, the lords went through a phase after the Black Death when many found it necessary to steal serfs from others in order to make up for losses of workers. When this happened, a large number of serfs became free. But also important was the fact that the lords wanted to make more money, and having serfs who had a right to farm limited the flexibility of the lord in management of the property.

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Q: Were serfs bound to the land and sold like slaves in the middle ages?
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