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A cottager is a medieval peasant who held a house, i.e. a cottage, thus the name, and "toft and croft", meaning a barnyard enclosure of outbuildings where some animals would have been kept (the toft) and an area behind the house that was used for gardening (the croft). The size of the croft varied by location, but half an acre to an acre was typical. The croft was small enough that it was worked by hand, with a spade, rather than being plowed.

The thing that a cottager lacked that separated him from his better off neighbors was any significant land in the village fields. As a result the cottager could not support himself just by their own agriculture, and would have to hire themselves out to others as day labor to make ends meet. The wife of a cottager might raise a small amount of money by spinning, brewing, or other such crafts, as well as also hiring out for labor. Women rarely did the heaviest labor such as plowing, but might be employed for tasks such as weeding, and during the harvest of August and September all able bodies persons of the village would be working in the fields.

A cottagers is also sometimes called a "cotter."

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