A Contract Between a Villein 
& His Lord, 1307

          During the Middle Ages, economic life centered on the manor.  Lords received manors from kings and other lords in return for military service.  A manor consisted of the lord's house; cottages for his tenants; a church, mill, and workshops; and woodlands, fields, and pastures.  Most of the tenants were serfs bound to the manor for life.  Other tenants, called villeins, were legally free but subject to the authority of the lord.
          Each villein had a contract with his lord spelling out his rights and duties.  Eventually lords wrote these contracts down in account books so that everyone would know what the duties were.  An example of such an account book follows:

          John of Cayworth [villein] holds from his lord one house and thirty acres of land.  For his right to this land, he must pay the lord two shillings a year at Easter and Michaelmas.  At Christmas he must give the lord one cock and two hens worth four shillings.
          He must harrow [cultivate] the lord's land for two days during Lent at sowing time with his own horse and harrow.  He receives from the lord each day that he harrows three meals.
          He must carry the manure of the lord's animals for two days using his own two oxen.  He receives from the lord three meals each day that he carries the manure.
          He must carry wood from the lord's forest to the manor house for two days in summer.  He receives from the lord three meals each day that he carries wood.
          John of Cayworth may not allow his daughters to marry without the consent of the lord or the lord's bailiff.  Neither may he permit his sons to enter the clergy without the lord's consent.  He may not cut the timber growing on his land without the consent of his lord or the bailiff, and then only for the purpose of building.
          After his death, his survivors will pay to the lord the best animal that he had, unless he has no living beast, and then the lord will receive no payment.
          And if his sons or daughters wish to continue holding his house and thirty acres after his death, they must make a payment to the lord equal to the entire rent for one year, and continue paying the rent as set down in this contract.