Impediments to expropriation: Peasant property rights in medieval England and Marcher Wales

Phillipp R. Schofield*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper, an attempt will be made to discuss the likely context for pre-plague indications of expropriation and its limits. There is plentiful evidence of an active land market in medieval villages by the end of the thirteenth century, and most likely for some time earlier. Fluctuation in the rate of buying and selling coincided with difficult harvest years and suggests a link between impecunious peasant sellers and wealthier peasant buyers. There is also some association between the selling of land and pre-existing indebtedness. In a period of partial commercial and market development, the extent to which exchange of land or of moveables proceeded to a significant structural redistribution of land and resources was constrained, and even in those parts of the country where an early peasant land market was well-established, significant adjustment is not evident. Instead, impediments to expropriation, such as seigneurial control of peasant land and limited capacity for extensive capital accumulation, acted as constraints on significant accumulation and redistribution. That said, there is limited suggestion in our sources of a redistribution of property rights associable with inequality of dealing and the advantage of wealthier landholders and creditors. In exploring this last point, particular use is made of the court records for the Welsh marcher lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-232
Number of pages22
JournalContinuity and Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2021


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