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Former good article nominee Serfdom was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
January 14, 2006 Good article nominee Not listed


This article needs to be integrated with the article Villein, which covers the same ground.........................


There are now references to exploding cows in the first paragraph, the out of context "retarded". The sidebar caption also seems to be vandalized. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:17, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

It appears someone has attempted to do a buffer overflow on this page on May 18, 2005. including this statement

A serf is a noble who is bound to the land. Serfs formed the highest social class of the feudal society.

--Prunetucky 04:12, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

Serfs were slaves, not nobles in any sense of the contemporary and/or modern word. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:46, 25 August 2016 (UTC)

Don't expect every editor to have an IQ of 1000. Many people who don't know much will add to articles, but they do no real harm in the long run. If we all become afraid of making mistakes and no one adds anything, Wikipedia will fall apart rapidly. These edits do not look as vandalism as vandals would rather edit more often viewed article, or make some sort of unrelated point in the vandalizing. (talk) 08:01, 4 December 2010 (UTC)

I'd settle for 100 or higher. That would at least address the "retarded exploding cows might not have been inserted by vandals theory", I would hope. Perhaps an on-line test would be appropriate before granting admin status. An IQ of 1000, though, really? Is that even possible? Garth of the Forest (talk) 16:07, 3 April 2012 (UTC)

Old talk[edit]

Hi, I updated this page because the term serf is back in use in some circles (programmers, webmasters, etc.). I sincerely hope I didn't make an infringement on some copyrights, because I used the Microsoft bj... Flamethrowers!!

... But Russia retained the practice until February 19, 1861. ...

Is this date Julian or Gregorian ?

what about serfs in england there's little mention of them?--SPOC 03:18, 12 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I changed "Queen of England" because there is no such person. Not for hundreds of years, anyway. Skyring 10:50, 28 Feb 2005 (UTC)

what??? no mention of slavery in america? what about the current situation on many citrus orchards in florida?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:43, 5 June 2008 (UTC) If they're slaves unrelated to serfs, it's hard to add it. (talk) 08:03, 4 December 2010 (UTC)


I think this article needs to be labelled as a stub. Done. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 21:18, 16 May 2005 (UTC)

Moved to serfdom[edit]

I moved the article from Serf to Serfdom, it is more common on Wiki to have articles named like that. Besides, 90% of what links here links to serfdom, not serf. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 15:39, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

Failed Good Article[edit]

This article did not become a good article because there are no references. joturner 11:24, 14 January 2006 (UTC)


Some parts of our article appear to be controversial - I moved them here, as they are unreferenced either way. Please use references to support or oppose them.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 01:48, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

PS. Please note that the comments were made by User:Ben-Velvel on 11th January 2006.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 01:49, 15 January 2006 (UTC)
  • "The last European country to abolish serfdom was Russia, in 1861." False. The Balkan europian countries abolished serfdom later
  • "The Russian system of serfdom was based on the principle that the lord owned the peasant under his control, so he could dispose of his serfs as he wished: he could even separate them from their land." It occured not only in Russia, but also in the European countries
Two citations from the charter of Barons for serfs (Leibeigene), Schleswig-Holstein (North Germany), 1740. Nichts gehoret euch zu, die Seele gehoret Gott, eure Leiber, Guter und alles was ihr habt, ist mein (2, S.109). Translation:"Nothing belongs to you, the soul belongs to the God, but all that you have, your bodies, property, is mine". Der Bauer muss sein Bett nicht vor Abend zurecht machen, weil er am Tage nicht wissen kann, ob er noch die nachste Nacht in demselben schlaft "(1, S.17). Translation: " The peasant should not lay the bed till the evening as he cannot know in the afternoon, whether he sleeps the next night in the same bed " Ben-Velvel 14:01, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
  • "Serfdom persisted longest in Russia, where it" Longest?? The serfdom has come to Russia later than in other European countries and has been abolished earlier than in the Balkan countries.
Prior to the beginning of 17th century Russian peasants remain "free plowmen" who have the right of transition from one landowner to another annually during the so-called period "Yuriev day". A cancellation of this right is carried out in the code of laws from 1649 (Sudebnik). In Russian North, in Siberia, in Ural, in the Cossack regions in the south of Russia the serfdom never existed. (It is the most part of territory of Russia. ) On the contrary in many European countries the serfdom has arisen at 10-11 centuries.Ben-Velvel 14:01, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
  • "It's worth to mention, though, that de-facto serfdom was fully extinguished in Russia as late as in 1974 (Changes to Passport system, decree #677 by the USSR government), when peasants were for the first time granted identification documents, together with an unrestricted right to move within the country." The nonsense. After 1861 tens millions of Russian peasants moved from villages to cities... Before 1861 serfs made only third of Russian population
The serfdom is a feudal phenomenon when the landlords had complete power over their peasants . Stalin bureaucratic restrictions on movement of collective farmers in 1933-1956 it not the serfdom. Please don't politize a theme of a feudal serfdom by so arbitrary interpretations. These restrictions concern more likely to a theme of totalitarianism and excessively centralized state. By the way, restriction of movement even in days of feudalism was not the attribute of serfdom... By the way, persons receiving the welfare (Sozialhilfe) in modern Germany have no right to change a residence from one federal land in another. Is it a serfdom too? Ben-Velvel 00:43, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
I do agree this particular example is inappopriate here. What about the above point?--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 04:58, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
  • "In prerevolutionary Russia a landowner's estate was often measured by the number of "souls" he owned" - how this correlates with the fact that serfdom has been cancelled in 1861 in Russia? Sorry, I am not really specialist... -- ABV
You're right, serfdom has been canceled in 1861. "Prerevolutionary Russia" corresponds to Russian Revolution of 1905 or Russian Revolution of 1917.--Vihljun 09:09, 19 February 2007 (UTC)


We need better pictures. What do you think about that one?--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 03:35, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Found something better: a gallery] of Polish woodcarvings :) --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 03:46, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Days a week, or year?[edit]

"in the 13th century it was few days a year; in the 14th century, one day per week; 4 days in the 17th century and 6 days in the 18th century" Do these latter values represent days a week, or a year? 6 days a week seems an awfully high amount… The Jade Knight 00:56, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

A week. But IIRC it was per family (house?), not per person.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 05:50, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
The article needs to clarify this, then. The Jade Knight 05:43, 30 March 2006 (UTC)


has no one noticed the informal and personal website-ish style of the article? It doesn't sound like a wikipedia article at all- especially the heavy usage of parentheses and attempts at humor. 16:12, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

I worked on it some, but I've just added a cleanup tag because I think it does indeed need more work. The Jade Knight 23:40, 1 April 2006 (UTC)
I second this sentiment. One major flaw is that it speaks of serfdom as a single, unified thing, when in fact it was a very broad category of relationships, all of which had individual 'rules' and customs. It's almost like a book report instead of a piece of academic writing. 23:06, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

Serfdom in England[edit]

I think the statement that serfdom lasted in England until the 1600s is flat wrong.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Dear anon, please elaborate and cite your sources.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 15:07, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

I agree that it is flat wrong. What is needed is a source for the statement that serfdom (called in English villeinage) lasted to the 1600s.

It isn't completely wrong. I do not have a reference at hand but my memory is that formal law abolishing villianage didn't occur until the 168os and the Glorious Revolution. By which time serfdom was largely non-existent in England. The Black Death & The Peasants Revolt lead to a partial collapse in the system, afterwhich it merely declined with the rise of Free Labour. but these were not complete breaks. Jalipa —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:53, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

Copyhold tenancy (land in return for customary service)was around into the C19, so some aspects of serfdom hung around really quite a long time. IIRC the enclosure acts also did quite a bit to kill off bonded labour - and it seems that various servile forms of tenancy hung around on the books for quite a long time after they ceased to be likely, let alone normal practice. (talk) 15:55, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

The statement that serfdom continued in England until the 1600s is, indeed, "flat wrong". In England after 1215, the class of peasant was partly defined in law by what it was not-- "liberi homines" (Latin, "free men") as defined by Magna Carta. Studies of English constitutional history point to a multitude of factors for the emancipation of peasants in England centuries before their European counterparts: the Black Death and its subsequent economic impact on labour, the emergence of the British longbow as an effective knight-killing weapon of war by the 14th Century among the lower classes that defeated the military logic of feudalism, Magna Carta's legal status of "free men" as an aspirational status for villeins. Thus, for example, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Victor Windeyer KC, states that Magna Carta had been effectively extended to all English subjects "within two hundred years" of Magna Carta's enactment in 1215. [1] One of the defining political features of the early Tudor period (beginning 1485) was the unsuccessful attempt by reactionary nobles-- typically also opposed to Tudor rule-- to reverse the decline of mediaeval control of peasants by the landed families.[2] At the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) there remained a small number of anomalous villeins or "bondmen" remaining in England that still had legal constraints imposed upon them tying them to lands. Contemporaneous with a "universal English revulsion agains serfdom",[3] Elizabeth manumitted them in 1575 and also instituted the Poor Law for parish-based relief for the poor.

Similarly, this Wikipedia article (and some of the preceding comments) confuse longer-lasting residual institutions, such as tenancy, as conferring some sort of legal status as peasants. It is absurd to suggest that the survival of the concept of tenancy, whereby a condition of living in a cottage also involves some sort of payment in kind as well as payment of rent money, implied a survival of serfdom. If I have a "granny flat" in my back garden and let someone live there provided he does a bit of gardening as well as pay rent, that does not make him a serf; nor would it have done three centuries ago. Similarly the article's sentences on Elizabethan legislation on cottages are completely irrelevant, as their inhabitants were not serfs, regardless of whether or not they were poor. (talk) 09:49, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:21, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Here [1] suggests 1574 as the end date for serfdom in England (and 'I recall reading somewhere' that the last serf was called Pigg). Jackiespeel (talk) 14:01, 11 November 2013 (UTC)


  1. ^ Windeyer WJV, Lectures on Legal History, (2nd ed.) Law Book Company of Australasia, Australia 1949, pp.66-69, pp.87-91.
  2. ^ Seward D., The Last White Rose, Constable, London 2010
  3. ^ Cross C., Loades D., Scarisbrick JJ. (ed.), Law and Government Under the Tudors: Essays Presented to Sir Geoffrey Elton, Cambridge University Press 2002.

Serf Disambiguation Page[edit]

Serf is currently a disambiguation page with two items - one link to this article, and one to Saint Serf. Seems rather silly, since Saint Serf seems likely to always be refereed to as such - not many people are on a first name basis with any sixth-century Scotts, so the likelihood that any of the 160-odd links to serf relate to him is pretty low. I'm changing Serf into a redirect here, and adding an "X redirects here" disambiguation notice at the top of the page linking to Saint Serf. Hope that's okay w/everyone, if not, apologies! -- Vary | Talk 02:06, 27 July 2006 (UTC) disambiguation notice at the top of the page linking to Saint Serf. Hope that's okay w/everyone, if not, apologies! -- Vary | Talk 02:06, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

Not sure if it should go above or below the cleanup tag, so I put it above. -- Vary | Talk 02:09, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

Serfdom Abolishment[edit]

The dates need to be checked. The one for Austria (1848) was plain wrong, it was abolished on 1. November 1781 by Joseph II in the so-called Untertanenpatent.

There is problem when comparing with Sweden. Sweden did not formally abolish thraldom in all regions until the mid 14 th century. Because of this lagging behind, the comparisons are not really valid. Thus, when France abolished serfdom Sweden still had thrals, i.e. outright slaves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:30, 2 April 2010 (UTC)


Lat. servus means slave, not servant. The Latin term for serf was colonus. With the gradual disappearence of slavery into "colonate" serf and servant appeared with their modern meanings. I've edited consequently and added my reference (Dhont) to the list. --Sugaar 23:40, 20 October 2006 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

Oppose Serfdom seems to be a general article, whereas villein is largely about its application in England. However there is a need for integration between the two articles by measn of cross-reference. Peterkingiron 00:13, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Soviet Union[edit]

Can anybody provide a document that farmers were restricted from movement from their lands?-- 19:30, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

I second that-- (talk) 08:50, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Just added a dispute warning to the article-- (talk) 08:54, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
The article cites (in text) two sources - a 1944 book and a USSR decree. In order to dispute this, you need to address the content of the book or quote accurate sources of your own. Applying a tag of your own is WP:OR. It would not surprise me if, in a state as heavily controlled as USSR, it was impossible to leave a collective farm without permission, giving rise to a state of quasi-serfdom. But I know little of the matter. It helps if people log in so that the rest of us know who you are. Peterkingiron (talk) 09:43, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

The 1944 book, by Hayek, is an attack on the British welfare state, not an analysis of the Soviet Union. Hayek is clearly using serfdom as an image for the unfreedom of many totaliarian governments, including the USSR and Nazi Germany. The decree cited is one ending alleged serfdom. I am going to delete this section. While the crimes of the Soviet Union are important to note, they shouldn't be allowed to confuse the important topic of serfdom. Zimmermana (talk) 13:58, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

I am not an expert on the Soviet Union, but The Road to Serfdom is described in its article as a very important book. I have not read it, but it can hardly be an attack on the (present) British welfare state, which was essentially the creation of the post-1945 Labour government. Hayek expressed a view which appears to be regarded as an important one; otherwise he would not have got a Nobel Prize. The subject is properly included in this article and at a proper length. His POV may be one that you do disagree with, but it is a legitimate subject for an article or (in this case) a short section. When I finsih writing this, I propose to remove the tags. Peterkingiron (talk) 16:14, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Results of merge of villein[edit]

I have looked at the former article on villein: this seems to have contained considerable material that has not adequately been merged inot the presetn article and is accoprding now effectively lost. The redirect from the former article was incorrectly written and I ahve corrected that, but I am not at all convinced tha the merge was done properly. However I would like to see other views before I consider reverting the old article. Peterkingiron 09:09, 22 April 2007 (UTC)


England 13th century?[edit]

What's the deal with this? I mean, it's not as though England was any exception to the rule by having serfdom become gradually more unpopular. In Wallachia, many peasants actually existed as free peasants since the inception of the independent Wallachian state. To say that England was more progressive in this field, when it abided by the same feudal codes as other Western states, is a simple Anglo-centric distortion of the truth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:40, 21 September 2007 (UTC)


that was great —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:51, 10 October 2007 (UTC)


In the section "becoming a serf" it says a freeman becomes a serf by ...... But then in the following section "Serfdoms class system" it seems to list freemen as a type of serf.

In the middle ages, it seems kings were the only true freemen. Even the nobility owed services to their king. Each level of the nobility owed their service to their higher level and expected service from those below them. This heirarchy also included people who owned no land, the only service they could provide was their labor. These people were not considered part of the nobility and had few if any rights or personal property. They were tied to the land. The question is, were there any people who existed outside this heirarchy? Did they have any legal status?

If a member of the nobility lost their land, through incompetence, not being willing to provide their service, or by conquest. What status are they? Do they become serfs automatically, or are they let loose into society?

If a noble didn't regulate their affairs properly and didn't fufill their obligations to their serfs, not protecting them from raiders, etc could the serfs attain somekind of free status? Would the higher level of nobility simply take over and rule directly or give it to some one else. In such situations would the former nobleman and his family become serfs or would they retain some level of freedom serfs didn't enjoy? Would they have land to farm, or would they keep their manor house?

How did traders and people who owned ships fit into this system? were they free people? Did they have a system like serfdom? They might not own any land, but they have wagon(s) or ship(s) which provides them with income/independence. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:09, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

In England you had the King

The you had Nobles (only those individuals with Titles)

Then you had Commoners -- which consisted of :

                                              Franklins & Yeomen (free peasants owning land)
                                              Burghers -- Free townsmen (inc Ship owning Merchants)

Under these free Commoners you had the unfree:


And then you had the masterless men

                                              Vagabonds  (Tinkers & Roma??)

Bluntly "Freemen" by the very definition were not Serfs, had a legel & social status.

Nobles frequently cited failure of protection to remove Kings, and Kings nobles. Failures of Lords to live up to their duties were often the subject of Law Disputes. Jalipa —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:17, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

Regarding the question: "Were there any people who existed outside this heirarchy? Did they have any legal status?" Burgers (i.e., burgesses by OED def. 1) were nearly outside the system. They were citizens of cities and town in the original sense of "citizen." A city of 80,000 might have 4,000 citizens. They still have this type of citizenship in parts of Switzerland. Becoming a burger was a bit like buying into a co-op apartment building in New York City, expensive, and you had to be approved by a committee. Once you got in, you owned one share of the municipal corporation, worth about as much as a share of Berkshire-Hathaway Class A stock, even if it was just some village in Switzerland. To get in, you needed to be sponsored by a guild or other powerful organization. One reason towns were outside the system is because in the early middle ages they were run by merchants, many if not most of whom were Jews, Greeks, and Syrians, who were the only non-Catholics allowed in Catholic Europe. They couldn't swear the Christian oaths required to become part of the system. Also, the church had its own system. In Bavaria, nearly all farmland was owned by the church. Zyxwv99 (talk) 20:43, 3 June 2012 (UTC)


Hi there. The infobox on slavery caught my eye. I think there is a distinction between serf and slave, at least at a conceptual level. Shouldn't we remove the "Slavery" infobox? Dr Benway (talk) 15:24, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Needs to be reworked as a whole article[edit]

I am no expert on this topic, but ran across through a link from another page. IMHO, this article contains a lot of good information, but it's organization is poor. There is a lot of repetition of material, and seemingly contradictory information. Terms change in usage throughout. A timeline of some sort would be very helpful in understanding the sequence of events and migration of the feudal system. The small edits and contributions from a lot of people, while I'm sure very helpful, are apparent and have made the article hard to read. It would be good for someone to do a wholesale rework of this article. Tjamison (talk) 19:45, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

China and household registration[edit]

Technically a similar system of household registration still exists in rural China, but it no longer works effectively on account of the expansion and opening of the Chinese economy, and the advance of technologies in China.

The system of household registration is very different from anything that has been mentioned in the article. Having a household registration in the city allows you to get governmental services, but there is no regulation preventing you from moving from rural to urban areas.

Roadrunner (talk) 13:55, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Seprerate Villeinage from Serfdom[edit]

Or at least split up the article. Serfdom in Eastern Europe (particularly Russia -- where serfs could be bought & sold) is very different to the Anglo-Norman institution of Villeinage. Likewise , Scandinavia, Germany, Italy & Spain all had their differences. Let alone the Non-European forms of Serfdom.

This article incorrectly gives the impression that Serfdom was a uniform system -- it concentrates on Anglo-Norman Serfdom with clunky add-ons that discuss Germany & Eastern Europe.

Slavery in England was abolished for "Christians" in circa 1090 CE, but was later re-introduced (via African Slavery) in the 1600s.

Also the dates of emancipation -- For England it gives the date for the abolition of Copyhold Tenure?? (1925). There were no Serfs in Twentieth Centaury Britain!!?!

This is not when Villeinage/Serfdom was abolished. Nor is it even the abolition of feudal Manor Courts (I know of at least two that are still surviving in England). As I have stated above -- In England, Villianage went into sharp decline after the 14th Centaury (Black Death, Peasant Revolt, Land Enclosure etc..) and was finally abolished in the 1680s, by which time it was virtually non-existent.

Copyhold refers to a property owner having a "copy" of the Manorial Rolls indicating that they (or someone in the past) owned a parcel of land. Freeman were/are subject to the authority of Manor courts -- most of which fell into abeyance with Land Enclosure 1400s to 1700s.

Jalipa —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:47, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

As a matter of fact copyhold was a tenure by which a person held land. The "copy" was an extract from the manor rolls provided to the copyhold owner as evidence of his rights, rather as a leaseholer has a lease (though not quite like it). Peterkingiron (talk) 21:38, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
As to "slavery in England (being) re-introduced (via African Slavery) in the 1600s" Somersett's case seems to indicate that (as of 1772) there was no evidence that slavery had any legal basis in English law (anything in the pre-1090 era would be considered as "time immemorial") ... so it appears that we were spared that. Slavery in the colonies was another matter altogether. (talk) 16:05, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Merge with Villein (feudal)[edit]

Villein (feudal) needs to be merged with this article in the "Villeins" section. It does not contain enough information to stand on its own. Neelix (talk) 15:49, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

The other article certainly says rather little. Unless its author intends to expand it, I would support merger. However, the present article has become unfocused through trying to cover too much ground, and I wonder whether forking off some of the content into separate articles on serfdom in particular countries might not be desirable. Peterkingiron (talk) 15:33, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
Oppose. I believe we need a stand-alone article on villeins, which are a specific type of the wider phenomenon of serfdom. Obviously the stub needs expansion, but we should allow indefinite time for that to materialise. Even as it stands, the stub provides a quick definition for readers who simply want to know what villein means, without having to plough through the entire article on serfdom. EraNavigator (talk) 08:09, 10 May 2008 (UTC)
On reconsideration, I think we need articles on serfdom/villeinage or each country or region. The present Villein (feudal) article, might usefully be transformed into one on England or England and western Europe, leaving this article to provide worldwide coverage. Unforatunately, I lack the detailed knoweldge to deal with this. Peterkingiron (talk) 21:44, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Oppose Any major social group or occupation rightly tends to have its own article. Mowsbury (talk) 10:26, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Removal of Laogai reference[edit]

I removed the China Laogai reference at the end of this article as the webpage referenced is just a news release without further sources to back up its claim. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Lucidus (talkcontribs) 19:24, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

"Return to serfdom"[edit]

In fact before 1932 nobody (even in cities) in the USSR had passports. There were certificetes of identity and other documents. Starting at that time passports were gradually given to deffrent categories of population, beginning from city population and ending with villagers. So the villagers were a nothing special case. They of course had identification documents and were not restricted from moving around the country, you can for example evaluate the rate of urbanization (movement of population to cities) in 1930s-1950s. If a person moved to a city, he had granted a passport - that was the rule. So I suggest to remove obvious lies from this article.--Dojarca (talk) 12:39, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Also search for "1975 667 колхоз" returns nothing related to the decree or something. It is known that the farmers received passports by 1959. I suggest to remove this information from the article as a hoax.--Dojarca (talk) 12:51, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Bad use of "both"[edit]

The article currently reads "However, both half-villeins, cottars or cottagers, and slaves made up a small percentage of workers." I don't understand how the word both could be used in a list of three, or does perhaps the comma imply that cottars or cottagers are another word for half-villeins, and the slaves are the other group referenced by the word both? This needs rewording to make some type of sense. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:17, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

Good point. I do not recall the term "half-villein", but I wonder whether the article is here pretending to cover much of Europe, while in fact referring to Domesday England. I think that slaves disappeared soon after. I suspect that half-villeins is intended as a synonym for cottars. Peterkingiron (talk) 10:16, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Definition of Western Europe[edit]

Instead of using the blanket term Western Europe could we have more of a breakdown of regions. While France and England are mentioned specifically, I'm curious about the situation in Italy, Switzerland, the Low Countries, Western Germany, Iberia, and Scandanavia, all of which may or may not be included in the definition of Western Europe, which is why I think that term should be more restricted in use. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:59, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

please change at Moldavia practiced not practuiced! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:32, 18 August 2009 (UTC)


The following was added to the bibliography by a new editor (probably the work's author), but without any amendment to the text. The subject is obviously an important one, but bonded labour is a redirect to debt bondage. This article is mainly about serfdom in medieval Europe, but that does not sit well alongside modern debt bondage in south Asia and so so. What should we do? Peterkingiron (talk) 10:29, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Rahi, Shujaat Ali, The State of Bonded Labor in Pakistan, National Coalition Against Bonded Labor (NCABL), Islamabad, Pakistan


why the srfs could not leave their land? [1]


  1. ^

Why make the comparison at all?[edit]

Why, in the lead, are we comparing serfdom to slavery at all? To quote the source used for Russia's figure[2]: However paradoxical the statement may seem to those who are in the habit of regarding all forms of slavery from the sentimental point of view, it is unquestionable that the condition of serfs under such a proprietor as I have supposed was more enviable than that of the majority of English agricultural labourers. Each family had a house of its own, with a cabbage-garden, one or more horses, one or two cows, several sheep, poultry, agricultural implements, a share of the Communal land, and everything else necessary for carrying on its small farming operations; and in return for this it had to supply the proprietor with an amount of labour which was by no means oppressive.

Is there any reason I shouldn't remove this number comparison of American/English slaves and Russian serfs from the lead? It's comparing apples and oranges. Slavery has its own article. LokiiT (talk) 07:58, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

Why is this page locked for editors?[edit]

Any reasons why this page is locked for people with no login? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:55, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

  • Seconded. Why? Stupid errors such as this are the result: "The United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery also prohibits serfdom as a form of slavery.[citation needed]" Citation needed? The linked wikipedia page mentions the fact twice already by the time I have finished reading its summary of point 1 of the cited convention. I will type no more about this, please unblock the page for editing, and remove (or expand until actually relevant) the request for citation.
Also, why is this talk page built of cruft dating back to at least 2005? Please tidy up. I won't, because I feel my contribution is unwanted for the reason mentioned by OP. Wikipedia ought to live up to its own claims, the Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:55, 20 January 2018 (UTC)

General Comment[edit]

Teh merger of a section on bordars, a term that I only know in Domesday book, raises a question in my mind as to whether this aritcle is not trying to do too many things. This may be the result of villein having been merged here. The article is covering the general concept of serfdom (in many different lands) with the particular way in which it operated in England. Do these not need to be split? Peterkingiron (talk) 16:24, 3 April 2010 (UTC)


Is there a citation to support that "cottier" was a form of serf? With particular respect to Ireland:

"Cairnes goes so far as to compare the Irish cotter with the European serf, the difference being to the advantage of the latter. The serf 'is bound to the soil by law and custom: the Irish are bound by necessity only. He can leave of his own free will or be turned out by that of his landlord. The serf is safe. The rent of the Irish is determined by competition and paid by labour at rates determined by competition.'

"A similar comparison with the serfs of Russia has been made in regard to the English peasant of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but with far less justice; for he lived on a cash basis, and enjoyed a mixed dietary. The Irish cotter lived on, and by, and, one might also say for, his potato, thus binding himself hand and foot to the fortunes of this enigmatical root. As Cairnes shows, he was not a serf - he was much nearer akin to a slave." -RN Salaman, et al., 2000, The History and Social Influence of the Potato, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge


"Unlike the peasant proprietor, and also unlike the medieval serf, the cotter had no permanent interest in the soil, and no security for his future position. Unlike the farmer, he was not a capitalist, who selects land as one of the many forms of profitable investment that are open to him." - WEH Lecky, 1913, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Volume 1, Longmans, Green and Co: London

A "cottier" was a a very different thing to a serf. Indeed talking about feudalism in Ireland at all is a bit of a non-starter as it (fudalism) never really took of the ground there (unlike in England and Scotland) - though there were like classes to the serf. --RA (talk) 22:19, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Pending changes[edit]

This article is one of a number selected for the early stage of the trial of the Wikipedia:Pending Changes system on the English language Wikipedia. All the articles listed at Wikipedia:Pending changes/Queue are being considered for level 1 pending changes protection.

The following request appears on that page:

Comments on the suitability of theis page for "Pending changes" would be appreciated.

Please update the Queue page as appropriate.

Note that I am not involved in this project any much more than any other editor, just posting these notes since it is quite a big change, potentially

Regards, Rich Farmbrough, 23:59, 16 June 2010 (UTC).

In 2010, this article was protected by User:OhanaUnited with the summary "pending changes trial ended". My insubstantial impression is that pending changes is working well; can we re-institute it for this article? — Sebastian 06:09, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Benefits of Serfdom[edit]

I disagree that citation is needed for the opening paragraph of this section. It seems to me that the author is attempting to describe the general modern impression of serfdom, a thing which in all likelihood cannot be sourced. I would recommend, however, reworking and breaking apart the sentence.

Obviously the author picked up the phrase "only his belly" from some source and it ought to be dropped from the rewrite.

Also, I do believe the statement about "some serfs became wealthier than their free neighbors" does call for some citation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tryanmax (talkcontribs) 05:03, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

The decline of serfdom - image caption[edit]

"Freilassungsbrief" translates to English as "Letter of Release", which I feel would be more appropriate than the currently stated "Letter of the End of Serfdom". Any objections to changing this? George Adam Horváth (talk) 08:29, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Feudalism = serfdom?[edit]

Why is serfdom equated with feudalism in this article? These are two different concepts, there were societies that were not fedal but had serfdom, and other societies that had serfdom but were not feudal.--Jidu Boite (talk) 11:51, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

I completely agree. Serfdom existed in societies that were not feudal. In the article, if a society had serfdom, it is assumed to also have feudalism. I think that is incorrectClio90808 (talk) 20:38, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

Edit request from, 29 March 2011[edit]

Article say black death hit Europe in 1337. It was 1347. (talk) 13:08, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

DoneBility (talk) 16:06, 29 March 2011 (UTC)


In the subsection on villeins, it's stated that the villein was the most common type of serf. However, one section down under Bordars, it's said that the bordar ranked below the villein and above the serf. This is confusing and misleading: the article is claiming that bordars ranked below serfs and above serfs.

I originally thought that the word "serfs" in that section was a mistake for "slaves", but I realized that this was a contentious issue so I reverted and brought it here instead.

So: is the intended meaning "bordars ranked below villeins but above other serfs", or "bordars ranked below villeins but above slaves"? --NellieBly (talk) 05:33, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

Edit request on 30 December 2011[edit]

Please change

"Although serfdom is believed to exist in all these regions,"


"Although serfdom was believed to exist in all these regions,"

i.e. "is" to "was"

because, obviously, it is a grammatical error (and serfdom doesn't presently exist in those countries now).

Shibingeorge (talk) 08:23, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

 Done, sort of. I've changed it to "Although serfdom is believed to have existed in all these regions", since it's still believed to be existed, but you're right it wasn't clear before. Thanks for pointing it out--Jac16888 Talk 13:42, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

Reinsertion of relationship to Villain/Villan's etymology.[edit]

The last line of the section of Villeins was removed on October 11th, 2011, with the reason: (Some copy edits to first half of text, removal of erroneous statements, obvious statements, wikilinking, clarifications)"

I think the line is not erroneous, or obvious. I was not aware, partly because although still similar, villan is the spelling here in America and pronounced differently. Can we please reinsert this line? It is certainly noteworthy to me.

Villeins newly arrived in the city in some cases took to crime for survival, which gave the alternate spelling "villain" its modern meaning. (talk) 05:55, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

End of serfdom in Scotland[edit]

The introduction states that "there were native-born Scottish serfs until 1799" (information which I have heard elsewhere). However, in the dates of emancipation section, it is stated that "neyfs (serfs) disappeared by late 14th century". Which of these is correct? Or, were the coal miners a separate category from these "neyfs"? If so, I think clarification is needed. Warofdreams talk 12:44, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

Add 'esne'[edit]

'esne' is an Old English equivalent to 'serf'; I suggest adding this term to this 'serfdom' article and changing the redirect. (Currently 'esne' redirects to the article on the Egyptian city of Esna.)Penelope Gordon (talk) 08:24, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 25 February 2014[edit]

Serfdom. Needs discussion about how/why serfdom ended. What social and economic factors changed? (talk) 17:19, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Not done: please make your request in a "change X to Y" format. Jackmcbarn (talk) 18:22, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Hayek is a complete red herring here[edit]

Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (1944) was not a scholarly study of serfdom but a polemic against the welfare state proposed by the Labour Party in Britain in the second half of World War II. Hayek argued that the welfare state would lead to loss of individual freedom and to totalitarism. He used the word serfdom in a purely figurative sense, meaning bondage. The book is of no relevance whatsoever to this article. Norvo (talk) 22:49, 2 June 2014 (UTC)

quite so. I agree with Norvo. Rjensen (talk) 23:11, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
Is there anything about Hayek in the article though? Volunteer Marek (talk) 00:16, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

"Second serfdom" redirect[edit]

I got to this page by clicking on "second serfdom", which redirected to this page. However, this page doesn't use the phrase at all, which makes me think that the redirection was done by somebody overzealous. Or, maybe at one point this article did have a section about that phrase, which has since been removed. Or maybe, at some point, there used to be an article about "second serfdom". It seems to me that EITHER the "second serfdom" article (or section of this article) should be recreated, OR the link to "second serfdom" should be removed altogether from the "Slavery in Poland" article. As it stands, it is just confusing (click on a link which redirects you to an article that says nothing about the link that you clicked on). Ifdef (talk) 19:43, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing this out. This got moved to History of serfdom in this edit - ironically by the same user who created the redirect, Piotrus. I'm fixing it now. — Sebastian 04:12, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
Good fix. I guess I created the redirect before the history of, and forgot to updated the redirect. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 08:57, 15 April 2015 (UTC)

2014 Belarus[edit]

Alexander Lukashenko neither did enact 'serfdom legislation' in 2014, nor intended to. He did actually use the term 'serfdom' ("крепостное право") in his speech, but in a quite different meaning. As a 2012 precedence, according to Lukashenko's decree №9 ( )the employees of several state-owned woodworking plants had to be payed better, but could not quit without permission of ruling authorities, even if their job contracts would end, for as long as it takes to accomplish the plant's modernization plan, being almost failed to that moment. As of the same decree there were means to challenge the "non-quit" restricions, and as the matter of fact many peolpe actually quit even with that decree enacted. Such an approach proved somewhat effective against irresponsible attitude among both the workers and the management of the plants in question, that's why the same idea was speculated to be implemented in a vastly ineffective belarusian agricultural sector, but wasn't actually realized, despite of lots of newspaper headlines citing the "serfdom" word. So, the whole topic mostly adheres to the planned and command economy's way of doing things, not to the "serfdom" as itself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:18, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

obvious bias[edit]

Obvious bias here, made all the more so by proscribing changes. If serfs were slaves, as is intimated, how did people migrate to cities, become merchants, wandering scholars, etc? There wasn't any Dred Scott decision. They were tenant farmers, that's all. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:51, 3 August 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 6 September 2015[edit]

Request that the Slavery box in the upper right corner of the article be removed. Serfdom is not a form of Slavery. Slavery is the ownership of a person as a piece of property. Serfdom is an arrangement where a peasant is tied to the land; i.e., not owned by another person. The following article is one example that makes that distinction Alanmoll (talk) 23:58, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Red information icon with gradient background.svg Not done: The purpose of the navigation box is to list articles about similar topics, in this case, any kind of involuntary labor. And in some countries, serfdom came pretty close to being a form of slavery. William C. Hine writes in this article compares the conditions of American slaves and Russian serfs: "It appears that the two groups of bondsmen experienced similar treatment and conditions despite the disparity between the two societies...By the nineteenth century when both institutions were fully developed, neither serfs nor slaves had any civil or legal rights." Altamel (talk) 01:52, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 22 November 2017[edit]

Remove or change "security of tenure" link: this phrase in the "Freeman" subsection is linked to an irrelevant page on "a constitutional or legal guarantee that a political office-holder cannot be removed from office", not a land tenancy right: (talk) 15:54, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

 Done I just removed the link although it seems like one could be useful, even if it's not that one. Do you have any better ideas? CityOfSilver 19:27, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

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Most of the French were freemen not serfs, and serfdom was abolished by Louix X in 1315 not in 1789. In 1789, it is German and Italian serfdom who were abolished(serfdom still existed in newly conquered lands like Alsace). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:13, 13 December 2017 (UTC)