A History of Polish Serfdom. Theses and Antitheses

The author speaks to the increasingly popular thesis that equates the status of a peasant in the era of serfdom with that of a slave. In the sixteenth century, Poland was the most important exporter of grain in Europe. A consequence of this fact was refeudalization, leading to the almost complete dependence of the peasantry on their lords, including their being bound to the land. The economic and cultural category of the “churl” arose, which was degrading in both a social and moral sense. However, there was no homogeneous peasant mass, subject to uniforms laws. The peasant in manorial serfdom was not a slave; he was not subject to commodification or deprived of his original identity. He was rather a subject who was forced to work, a client of a landowner, and not a slave.