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Villein

VILLEIN or VILLAIN.  Villeins were so called because they lived chiefly in villages, and were employed in the rustic works of the most sordid kind there.  They chiefly belonged to the lords of the Manors, and were of two kinds - Villeins regardant, that is, annexed to the land or the Manor, and villeins in gross or at large, that is, annexed to the person of the lord, and transferable by deed from one person to another.  They could not leave their lord without his permission; and if they ran away they could be reclaimed and removed by action, like rent or other chattels.  They held small portions of land by way of sustaining themselves and their families, but it was at the arbitrary will of the lord of the Manor, who might dispossess them of their holdings whenever he pleased; and for the privilege they had to lead the manure from his farm to his lands, plough, sow, reap, to do his hedging and ditching; and, in short, all other kinds of the meanest offices.  Their services were also uncertain as to kind, quantity, and time.  A villein could aquire no propertyin either land or goods;  everything he possessed in the world, including his wife and family, belonged like himself wholly to his lord.  The children of villeins were called nativi.  The villeins of England were emancipated from this degrading condition during the confusion and war between the two houses of York and Lancaster, nearly 400 years ago, in order that they might become soldiers, their previous low condition in life not fitting them to be the companions of men in arms.

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