Did peasants in middle age Europe have so bad life like slaves in America till civil war?

honoratus 08/22/2017. 13 answers
Arts & Humanities History

13 Answers

Caoedhen 08/01/2017.

A serf had it much worse in general... slaves were given housing, food, and even medical care. Serfs were given orders, and that was about it. They had no medical care, housing was mud floor/thatch roof, and the lord took what he pleased and left the serfs to fend for themselves.

"Freedom to leave"? No, not so much. Serfs were not bought and sold, but other than that were pretty close to slaves. Slaves had value, serfs did not.

poornakumar b 08/08/2017.

Yes. The worse part is that the peasants in middle age Europe were responsible for their farms, families & income. Slaves needn't think about these things.

Athena 08/08/2017.

Actually, "surfs" in Europe had laws limiting the amount they could be taxed. That amount is half of what most Americans are taxed today.

Lomax 08/01/2017.

This is a big subject - I can only answer for England, though the situation there was typical.

The Serfs (aka the Villeins or the Unfree) were tied to the land. They couldn't be bought or sold, so they weren't technically slaves, though the distinction is marginal. They were obliged to work for a certain number of days each week on the lands of their overlord, and to work on their own plots in between times. They were also forbidden from leaving the masters' land for more than a day without permission, so most of them spent their whole lives within ten miles or so of the place where they were born.

This was a time when agriculture was the bedrock of society - and very labour intensive. It was absolutely necessary for three quarters of the population to till the fields and mind the flocks, or the whole country would starve. If the harvest was bad, a lot of people would starve anyway - and there are no prizes for guessing who was first in line for short rations when times were hard. On the other hand, if there weren't enough people to work the land, the landowner suffered (land was wealth in those days - but only when it was producing food), and there was no external source of new manpower (in the way that there were always new slaves been transported to the Americas in the nineteenth century), so it was good policy to be just a LITTLE careful with your serfs.

Serfdom was finished by the Black Death (bubonic plague) of the 1340's. This killed half the population, which meant that there was a HUGE labour shortage. The surviving serfs worked out that they possessed a scarce asset - and it made sense for them to offer to work for the highest bidder. This caused a lot of ill feeling and some attempts at repression, but the economic forces won through. The laws of Serfdom were never abolished though - but that's England for you. When a law becomes unworkable we don't bother to repeal it, we just ignore it en masse.

Arian 08/01/2017.


Anonymous 08/01/2017.

The Brothers Grimm thought it horrid

Bill Nye 08/01/2017.

i mean serfs were intentionally taxed by the church and the landowners as high as possible, forcing a level of servitude. in the event war were to break out, they were expected to take up arms for their nobles. they also had this thing called the black plague. But they did have their freedom, in a sense. They could walk away from their property/lives/and exist at their own free will. Slaves could not.

Elaine M 08/01/2017.

Average lifespan was under 35 years. Women often died in childbirth. There were no hospitals. Peasants were beholden to the nobels in the area whose land they farmed, if the noble went to war the male peasants had to go too.

ProfGene.Togolot 08/01/2017.

they had hard lives and some were worse than others depending on who their Lord or King or ruler was. But they had more freedom of movement than slaves had.

megalomaniac 08/01/2017.

They had a hard life, and had to work hard, but despite being "owned" by the nobility as per feudal laws, they had a degree of freedom that American slaves never had. If I had the choice I would rather be a peasant in Europe in the middle ages than a slave in America at any time.

As a feudal peasant as long as you grew your crops, gave a portion to your overlord, and maybe gave up a son or two to the military, you were pretty much free to do what you like (as long as you didn't want to move up in the social order, that was fixed). The problems came when there were wars or bad growing seasons, that's when the peasants suffered greatly. Other than that, and depending on the location, they actually had pretty good lives.

Doc 08/08/2017.

It was not pleasant to be a peasant.

Tom 08/01/2017.

Almost the same thing. One type of shīt or another?

Sir Caustic 08/01/2017.

More like slaves in America after the civil war.