At the bottom of the feudal system social hierarchy are the peasants and the serfs. They were the poorest and had an extremely hard and difficult lifestyle. Most of the people on a feudal manor were peasants who spent their entire lives as farmers working in the fields. The responsibility of peasants was to farm the land and provide food supplies to the whole kingdom. In return of land they were either required to serve the knight or pay rent for the land. They had no rights and they were also not allowed to marry without the permission of their Lords.
The peasants on a manor had several fields for their own use, sometimes by being tenant farmers—an arrangement in which they leased land from their lords. They usually worked together in these fields, particularly on jobs such as plowing. The peasants divided the land in narrow strips for each family. This way, everyone got a share of the good land and the poor land. A fief typically needed dozens of peasant families to maintain it, grow crops, and raise livestock. The life of a peasant was filled with arduous, monotonous work: planting and harvesting, raising and slaughtering live stock. Considering the amount of profits a fief produced, the peasants found it hard to get by.
Peasants had hard lives and not many privileges, but they were still not the lowest class. Below the peasants were menial workers called serfs. Although a serf had some freedoms, they were close to being slaves. Many of the peasants were serfs—that is, they were not free. Serfs belonged to the estates and in which they were born and were totally dependent upon their lords. Lords did not simply give away their serfs; if a serf was to marry a serf from another manor, the lord usually demanded payment for his loss.
The serfs worked a few days a week on the lord’s fields. They also did various chores for the lord, such as cutting firewood, fixing the castle’s walls, and cleaning the moat. The serf was also required to give payments, on top of the payments of crops the lord already receives at harvest time, at special times of the year—Christmas, Easter, ECT. Being a peasant or a serf was typically hereditary. When a serf died, his son had to make a payment to the lord of the manor.
Serfs led extremely difficult lives. They barely had access to or knew about the outside world, and they rarely met anyone from outside of their village. They couldn’couldn't travel or read and write.
The position of a serfs and peasants were made clear when Jean Froissart, a French medieval writer, wrote:
“It is the custom in England, as with other countries, for the nobility to have great power over the common people, who are serfs. This means that they are bound by law and custom to plough the field of their masters, harvest the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the grain; they must also mow and carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of tasks of this kind.”