Latin, cotarius, coterus.
The cottagers were the smallest of the four major groups among the peasantry. They occurred in most of the counties of circuits 1, 2, 3 and 5; but only in significant numbers in Berkshire in circuit 1 and in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex in circuit 3. They did not occur at all in circuit 4, and in circuit 6 only on a single manor in Yorkshire. The peculiarities of this distribution suggests that the Domesday jurors sometimes had difficulty in distinguishing them from bordar, or smallholder and that, therefore, there might often be little real difference between the two groups, or between either of them and the Cottagers.
Although Cottagers are itemised among the lower ranks of the rural population, it has been suggested that their distribution may indicate areas of economic opportunity and expansion, either in land clearance or urban development.
For more detail, see F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond (1897); Reginald Lennard, Rural England, 1086-1135: a study of social and agrarian conditions (1959); H.C. Darby, Domesday England (1977); and Christopher C. Dyer, 'Towns and cottages in eleventh-century England', Studies in medieval history presented to R.H.C. Davis (1985), pages 91-106, reprinted in his Everyday life in medieval England (2000).