From Regia Anglorum:
It is important to remember, when talking about Norman social organisation, that both in Normandy and in Britain after The Conquest the ‘Normans’ as we think of them ie. cavalry bound mail clad warriors, tended to form the ruling elite. It wasn’t that they were somehow a whole people separate and above the native population who were known as the ‘commoners’. It is largely because of the top heavy nature of Norman social reportage that the lower classes were ignored. The ‘fleeting’ supremacy of the Normans left little time to dwell in literature on the people who supported the system. To enable such a professional warrior class, there had to be a culture where their none productivity had to catered for by excess production of food. A situation that applies to all societies that possess a standing army that needs feeding. They had their own terms for these lower ranks. In broad terms they are: The lowest of these ranks were the landless Serfs, bondsmen who laboured or looked after animals, approximately equivalent to a Saxon theow. Above the serfs were the Villeins, freemen who were tied to their lord’s land, equivalent to the Saxon gebur. Next came the Cottars, men not tied to the land but expected to work for a local lord for one day a week, equivalent to the Saxon kotsetla. The highest of the ‘non-military’ ranks were the Freeholders who were not tied to a lord, much like the Saxon geneat.
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