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Are serfs and slaves the same?

Otis Mayfield

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A serf was owned by a master. If a serf ran away, the law would return a serf to his master. A serf had to work for his master and wasn't paid.

You couldn't break up a serf's family but in Catholic countries you couldn't break up slave families.

They say that if you bought a farm, it might come with some serfs. I'm sure that's true of slavery too. You could buy a plantation with X amount of slaves for example.

Do you think serfs and slaves are similar?
 

westwall

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A serf was owned by a master. If a serf ran away, the law would return a serf to his master. A serf had to work for his master and wasn't paid.

You couldn't break up a serf's family but in Catholic countries you couldn't break up slave families.

They say that if you bought a farm, it might come with some serfs. I'm sure that's true of slavery too. You could buy a plantation with X amount of slaves for example.

Do you think serfs and slaves are similar?




Of course. Have you never taken a history class?
 

MarathonMike

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Serfs typically entered into an agreement with their master to work in exchange for protection and basic needs being met. Some contracts involved a time period and some sort of compensation at the end of the contract period. No such contracts for slaves.
 
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Otis Mayfield

Otis Mayfield

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Serfs typically entered into an agreement with their master to work in exchange for protection and basic needs being met. Some contracts involved a time period and some sort of compensation at the end of the contract period. No such contracts for slaves.

If you were a serf and you ran away from your master, the law would return you to your master. That's the same as a slave.
 

TNHarley

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Otis Mayfield

Otis Mayfield

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Though the common wisdom is that a serf owned "only his belly" – even his clothes were the property, in law, of his lord

 

Relative Ethics

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In Russia and East Europe, serfs were legally owned like slaves. They could be subject to cruelty.

In practice, Russian serfs were much better off then American slaves. Most Russian serfs either paid extra taxes to their owners taxes (about 25% of their net production) or had extra labor obligations (about 35% of their net production). American slaves had much higher obligations.
 

rupol2000

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Both words are somehow related to the name of the Slavs and Serbs. I think that this appeared during the enslavement of the east by the Germans around the 13-14 century. And that meant different things. Servants are court servants, from which the nobility emerged, which replaced the Military aristocracy, and the Slavs were probably enslaved and used as a labor force. This is just a version. But these ethnonyms are connected.
 

rupol2000

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As far as I know, the word Slavs did not occur before the late Middle Ages and was not applied to these peoples. There was only a Sklavin tribe, but this tribe apparently did not even speak Slavic.
 
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Otis Mayfield

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In 1861, Alexander II of Russia freed the serfs almost two years before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Kolchin writes that the Russian nobles “invented many of the same kinds of racial arguments to defend serfdom that American slave-owners used to justify” slavery. Some nobles went so far as to say they had white bones, while the serfs had black bones.

The fact that serfs were Russian peasants went a long way in helping to breaking up this system; they[serfs] were seen as members of society, albeit at the lowest level.

Southerners doubled down on defending slavery. For them, blacks were inherently alien and could never be a part of American society.




That's interesting. Even though serfs were essentially slaves, they were still seen as part of society. The bottom rung, sure but still part of the country.
 

DudleySmith

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Serfs had more rights than slaves, especially property rights. Serfdom was essentially a labor contract, and not paying the labor debt was no different than not paying back a loan or any other debt. A serf could forgo their labor obligations by paying fees to cover the replacement labor. They could hold free acreage same as freemen and yeomen as well by paying cash rents or crop shares and keep any profits. In a cash poor society paying rents with labor was the preferred arrangement.
 

DudleySmith

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All land was owned by the Crown; nobles owned none themselves, with few exceptions; there were a few 'Palatinates' but not many, and that changed with the results of wars and marriages. The serfs' labor contracts were also technically owned by the king since their contracts were tied to acres held and other services. If a peasant were to get rich enough, he had the option of living anywhere he pleased, as long as he made up the labor costs to replace his own, subject to legal approval, or manumission. In any case, all persons on the fiefs were liable to assist with the harvest, of both their own and the lords' demesne, There are plenty of instances, at least in England, of rich peasants leasing entire fiefs, which included other serfs, for a number of years, which wouldn't have been cheap.
 

themirrorthief

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In 1861, Alexander II of Russia freed the serfs almost two years before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Kolchin writes that the Russian nobles “invented many of the same kinds of racial arguments to defend serfdom that American slave-owners used to justify” slavery. Some nobles went so far as to say they had white bones, while the serfs had black bones.

The fact that serfs were Russian peasants went a long way in helping to breaking up this system; they[serfs] were seen as members of society, albeit at the lowest level.

Southerners doubled down on defending slavery. For them, blacks were inherently alien and could never be a part of American society.




That's interesting. Even though serfs were essentially slaves, they were still seen as part of society. The bottom rung, sure but still part of the country.
people in the north had slaves for many decades
 

Mushroom

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Though the common wisdom is that a serf owned "only his belly" – even his clothes were the property, in law, of his lord


Classic cherry-picking, as you cut off half of the quote.

Though the common wisdom is that a serf owned "only his belly" – even his clothes were the property, in law, of his lord – a serf might still accumulate personal property and wealth, and some serfs became wealthier than their free neighbours, although this happened rarely.

And you also keep returning to Russia over and over again. Russia was very unlike Europe, where it was not the same at all.

In almost all of Europe, they were freemen, and could depart as they wished. However, many entered into contracts where they were in a form of debt-bondage, not unlike indenture. Most notably when the lord would pay to have them trained in a trade, and they had to return a set amount of work in exchange for this training. Once again, not unlike most guilds and apprenticeships of the era.

In most of them, it was akin to tenant farmers or a sharecropper. And part of the agreement is that they provide a certain number of days labor per month on the lord's fields. What they owned was theirs, that goes all the way back to the Roman Republic.
 

Mushroom

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All land was owned by the Crown; nobles owned none themselves

Exactly. Especially as this was an era of low wealth, and almost all transactions were done by barter. Even taxes.

As well as the labor. All owed work to the lord above them. The serf to the Knight or Man at Arms over them. They to their Baron, who was in turn obligated to his Count. All the way up to the King. All levels were mandated to provide services to the rung above them, payment for things like road maintenance, canal repair, military service, and the like. But typically until you reached the level of Count, all such transactions were in labor.

This is known as Noblesse oblige. As each tier owed those above them, so did those above owe services in return to those below them.
 

rupol2000

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Serfs had more rights than slaves, especially property rights. Serfdom was essentially a labor contract, and not paying the labor debt was no different than not paying back a loan or any other debt. A serf could forgo their labor obligations by paying fees to cover the replacement labor. They could hold free acreage same as freemen and yeomen as well by paying cash rents or crop shares and keep any profits. In a cash poor society paying rents with labor was the preferred arrangement.
None of this happened, they lived like pigs and could not move, they were in the personal possession of the landlords. Ancient slaves had more rights than they did.
 

rupol2000

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And you also keep returning to Russia over and over again. Russia was very unlike Europe, where it was not the same at all.

In almost all of Europe, they were freemen, and could depart as they wished. However, many entered into contracts where they were in a form of debt-bondage, not unlike indenture. Most notably when the lord would pay to have them trained in a trade, and they had to return a set amount of work in exchange for this training. Once again, not unlike most guilds and apprenticeships of the era.
That's bullshit. Firstly, slavery was only in the northwestern part of European Russia, and precisely after the European Holstein-Gottorp Prussians took the throne.
In the steppes, slavery has never existed at all.

Secondly, the European and Middle Eastern tradition of agriculture is slavery. It was there already in the Neolithic. In European long houses, slaves were kept along with cattle, and they were used in the same way as cattle, including the fact that they were sent to the refectory of the priests.

Almost the entire history of agriculture is slavery.
The only exception is the time of the patricians and knights, but this is just not traditional Europe, but Eastern influence.
 

rupol2000

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The whole essence of slavery is precisely in agriculture. Slaves land on the ground, multiply, gain an increase in numbers, then a primitive infantry is formed from them and they seize new lands, and all this is repeated constantly cycle after cycle.
It is the backbone of any agricultural empire.
 

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