LAND TENURE: ECONOMIC AND AGRARIAN ASPECTS. The word "tenure" (Latin, tenere, to hold) de rives, probably, from the feudal system, the basis of which was that all land was "held" by one individual from another and none was absolutely owned. The system was established in its strictest form by William the Conqueror and in its gradual modification throughout nearly a thousand years may be traced the develop ment of modern land tenure in England.
The terms of tenure were various and the classes of tenants of the manor numerous. There has been much controversy among economic historians as to the precise status of the individuals forming the manorial community and there appear to have been differences between one district and another and, indeed, between one manor and another. For the present purpose it is sufficient to note the existence from the outset of three classes—"free" ten ants, villeins and cottars. Towards the end of the 14th century another class termed "copyholders" appeared.
"Free tenants" held their land on condition of liability to military service, and, in many cases, as time went on, commuted their liability for a quit-rent. They formed the class of "yeomen" which played so large a part in English history. Sometimes their land was in a separate holding exclusively occupied but fre quently it was a part of the great manorial farm. "Copyholders" although less independent, frequently had, like them, a status akin to ownership as they held their land subject to the payment of certain "fines" and "heriots" on specified occasions and had usually the right of demising the holding.
"Cottars" were occupiers of a cottage and garden and perhaps from 2 to 5 acres of arable land in the common-field, but they had to depend for their livelihood mainly on labour for the lord— in addition to their obligatory service—or for the tenants.
Much the most numerous class were the villeins. By them prac tically the whole of the agricultural land was occupied except the lord's demesne, which was a separate and self-contained "home farm." The status of the villeins was at the outset one of modi fied servitude. They were "unfree," in that they were tied to the manor and were subject to the will of the lord. But each held an allotment in the common-field with rights over the common pasture and on the waste or woodland surrounding the manor. He paid rent to the lord, mainly in the form of labour, being under obligation to give so many days' service on the lord's demesne during the year. The arable land of the manor was divided into strips of an acre, or in some cases, half an acre, separated by "balks" of turf, but otherwise unfenced and open in one large field. Every villein held a number of these "strips" distributed in various parts of the field, and not adjoining. The extent of the holding differed but the "hide" of 120 ac. appears to have been the normal economic unit, although many had no more than 30 or 6o acres. Each villein had a number of working oxen propor tionate to his holding, eight being regarded as forming a plough team for a "hide" of land.
The manorial organisation had no sooner been constructed on these apparently rigid lines than it began to be modified. The villeins struggled continually to secure greater freedom. The "cus tom of the manor" became established and eventually became binding on the lord as well as the tenants. Individuals more enter prising than their fellows not only acquired larger holdings but in many cases secured a commutation of their services for pay ment in cash or kind.