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Free peasants in the middle ages rented land to farm and only owed rent... But peasants who weren't free (serfs) owed labor to the lords and had to harvest crops in the fields and were given small pieces of land to farm on their own for themselves. However they couldn't leave the lord's estate and the lord had custody over them and the only way out of it was to marry a free person, buy freedom for you and sometimes your family, or breaking the oath and not serving in war when your needed.

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11y ago
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11y ago

Each person did something different, depending on their status, their feudal obligations and the "customaries" of their manor if they were tied to a manorial area.

Just to take one example of a 12th century manorial peasant working near Glastonbury in Somerset, England, his legal obligations were set out in a charter which survives today. It states:

"John Pese of Lympsham holds a virgate of land for 30 pence plus work on the lord's demesne land from Michaelmas to Martinmas, to plough one acre for winter corn and half an acre for spring corn when required, and to harrow every Monday in the year one hand-work except on annual Holy Days. To carry loads 3 times to Glastonbury (by cart or sumpter horse), to mow and carry 3 boon-days and to work in the vineyard. He can elect to perform additional work instead of paying his 30 pence rent, ploughing and harrowing, harvesting and carrying extra loads."

"Corn" is used in the correct English sense of "any cereal crop including wheat, barley, rye, oats".

A virgate was a theoretical land unit sufficient to support one family for a year - many peasants survived on far less.

A sumpter was a poor-quality pack horse also used for harrowing.

The demesne was land held for the lord of the manor but worked by his peasants as part of their rent.

John Pese not only had to do all of that (simply to satisfy his legal obligations) but he also had to work on his own scattered strips of land to grow food for himself and his family - and no work was permitted on Sundays or the feast days of the saints, or at Christmas and other Holy Days.

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Q: What did peasants do in the middle ages?
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