The Economic History Review

Villeinage in England: a regional case study, c.1250–c.13491

Volume 62 Issue 2
Home > The Economic History Review > Villeinage in England: a regional case study, c.1250–c.13491
Pages: 430-457Authors: MARK BAILEY
Published online: April 1, 2009DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2008.00452.x

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Between 1200 and 1349, villeinage was not prominent in Suffolk, and, even in those places where it was locally significant, many of its exactions were lightly enforced. The gap between the theory and practice of villeinage was maintained by custom, although this article emphasizes both the importance of regional custom and its mutability. The relative insignificance of villeinage here has two main implications: first, villeinage cannot have caused any crisis of agrarian productivity before the Black Death; and second, its subsequent dissolution cannot have been the prime mover behind the transformation of the landholding structure and the emergence of agrarian capitalism.