Serfdom in Europe
- The late Roman Empire led big farms to convert themselves into self-sufficient estates, due to a trade crisis and labor shortage.
- Tenant farmer status became hereditary, as the result of changes in Roman labor law that tried to freeze existing social structures in place.
- As the Western Roman Empire collapsed, landholders gradually transitioned from outright slavery to serfdom, a system in which unfree laborers were tied to the land.
- In the absence of powerful regional authorities after the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in 888, local manorial lords held sway in Western Europe, collecting rents and labor from unfree serfs and tenant farmers.