peasantry

There is a massive literature on the peasantry; only the most important items are noted here, roughly in order of publication. Despite its age, Frederic Seebohm, The English village community (fourth edition, 1915), has not been entirely superseded by later work and makes some points much more clearly than other writers; F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond, though corrected on some points by later research, is still the supreme work; and Paul Vinogradoff, Villeinage in England (1892), The growth of the manor (1905), and English society in the eleventh century (1908), remain valuable, despite their age. H.C. Darby, Domesday England (1977), provides a scrupulous analysis of the problems of the Domesday record of the peasant classes and reliable statistics on their numbers.

On the 'free peasantry' of the eastern counties, F.M. Stenton, Types of manorial structure in the northern Danelaw (1910), and D.C. Douglas, The social structure of medieval East Anglia (1927), are the standard works; to which Barbara Dodwell, 'The free peasantry of East Anglia in Domesday', Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society Original Papers 28/i (1939), pages 147-57; R.W. Finn, Domesday studies: the eastern counties (1967); and the essays by R.H.C. Davis, 'East Anglia and the Danelaw', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol. 5 (1955), pages 23-39, and Peter H. Sawyer, 'The wealth of England in the eleventh century', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol. 15 (1965), pages 145-64, make important contributions. Dawn M. Hadley, The northern Danelaw: its social structure, c.800-1100 (Leicester, 2000), provides a balanced recent review of the topic.

Some of the most valuable statistical analyses since Maitland's work have been done by Reginald Lennard, 'The economic position of the Domesday villani', Economic Journal, vol. 56 (1946), pages 244-64; 'The economic position of the Domesday sokemen', Economic Journal, vol. 57 (1947), pages 179-95; and 'The economic position of the bordars and cottars of Domesday Book' Economic Journal, vol. 61 (1951), pages 342-71. The difficulties of using the Domesday evidence to analyse the social, legal and economic situation of the peasantry are outlined by Lennard in Rural England, 1086-1135: a study of social and agrarian conditions (1959).
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