- Jan 15, 2013
- United Kingdom
But those conditions /did/ apply. Almost across the board, in some late-Middle-Age European societies. You can't just say "if these scenarios didn't exist it wouldn't be X, therefore it isn't X", when those scenarios categorically /did exist/. That's the reality we're dealing with.The main argument is that in 13th century feudalism your situation is primarily defined by who all your contacts and your family are, what kind of obligations and privileges each of these connections exactly entail. That is exceedingly more important than your "class". And as a direct result there is not much class consciousness or class struggle. Conflict lines were generally not drawn along class borders, it was generally between groups that formed when individuals called upon those obligations.
Without those personal bonds you are just some drifter/vagrant and there isn't even a difference between serf, commoner and noble. Because everything meaningful about your status is your connections.
You can't be a serf wihout the right to work a specific piece of land and a set of rights/obligations to one or several persons who have the rights to this land. You can't be a noble without either having gotten a fief from someone, being your own independent souvereign or being a vassal to someone else. As soon as those conditions don't apply, you are no longer your "class".
And as long as they /did/ apply, you were indeed stuck in your economic, social and political role, determined largely by birth. Unless you got fucking massively lucky.
Class consciousness and class conflict are not required in order for there to be class itself. That's just a bit absurd. Most conflict throughout most of history has not been class-based either-- largely because the ruling classes have been the ones with the ability to levy/conscript/go to war, and make others fight for them.
Yep, and occasionally working class people become millionaires in today's society. Guess we live in a society without class, then!As for serfs deciding to no longer being serfs, there were ways (especially if we exclude Eastern Europe and the detoriation of the serf situation for a moment). And it happened often enough. But the choice between continue to be a serf and having a peace of land to work and all your connections nearby and being free any having none of that is not that easy. Especially if all you know is farmwork. Without land you only can become free landless farmhand, which is kinda bad and often can't support a family. Or doing something reckless and try to enter a new carrier without any contacts or knowledge.
But that touches inheritance again and what happens to children who can't continue to work the same land as their parents.
Pull the other one.
I'm not "Dismissing the unfree nobles". I'm pointing out that the obligations and limitations of an average noble's life were inarguably incomparable to those of the average serf. This is not seriously disputed in historical study whatsoever.I know you try to dismiss the unfree nobles, but ministerialis were not only technically serfs, originally their ranks were filled from the regular serfs*, not from freeman or nobles. Though later children of ministerials got priority or one could become ministerial by marriage or in some cases by submission. You can find many instances where those nobles still had at least part of the duties of regular serfs, including corvée or in cases of woman household chores. In most cases that was replaced by military duties though.
*and also from a group named liberi that was technically free but still bound to a piece of land and with limited property rights and with martial duties