Further Development of the Feudal Relations in the 10th-11th CenturiesCategory: 11th century
The Danish invasions during the 9th and 10th centuries hastened the process of the development of feudal relations in England. The peasantry which made up the bulk of the population suffered very much from the raids of the Danes.
The peasants were robbed and murdered and their crops destroyed. The peasants could not sow their land and harvest their crops at the proper time as every year they had to give up farming to serve in the levy or to build forts, bridges and roads. It was the peasants who paid the heavy Danegeld which kept increasing.
The wars and heavy taxes collected by the government impoverished many peasants. In the 10th-11th centuries the peasants lived in individual families (parents and their children), and such a small family had not more than one- fourth of the former hide. But many impoverished peasants had much smaller plots of arable land. After a Danish raid thousands of peasants were ruined and most of them had to give their arable land away in payments for debts. They could never again become as independent as they had been before.
During the wars with the Danes many peasants lost their land and became the landlord’s men and bound themselves to work for him in return for protection.
In the 10th-11th centuries the nobility was seizing the peasants’ land by force on a large scale. A considerable part of the peasants’ lands fell into the hands of the big landlords and many peasants lost their freedom.
The class of feudal landlords grew in number too. Large feudal estates grew at the expense of the peasants who were deprived of their land either by force, or in payment for debts or for protection. The landlord class grew also as a result of the formation of the new army of military nobles, who were granted landed estates in return for their military service. The Church, the importance of which increased greatly in the 10th-11th centuries, became a great landlord too.
Anglo-Saxon kings supported the big landlords. In 930 a law was passed that said, “Each man must have a lord.” Anglo-Saxon kings granted the nobles special charters which gave them the right of private ownership of the land they had seized from the free peasants. The big landlords gradually became very powerful and quite independent in their domains. They had their own armed forces and their own courts on their estates. The rich, powerful earls became so independent that quite often they did not obey the king of England himself.