Those living in the village had various degrees of freedom. There were
serfs and free peasants. But even if a peasant was nominally free, he was
still bound to his lord in many ways; he held a life tenure on this farm,
and could owe his lord labor and goods, so-called tallage.
Many medieval villages would be older than the seigneurial rights that
would dominate its life in the Middle Ages; many villages were celtic in
origin, or sprang up around a Roman villa (estate). Out of the need for
protection in the early Middle Ages, many freedmen hurdled around the
local lord, offering labor or goods, in return for protection. The
distinction between freedmen and serfs could be very subtle; personal
slaves as chattel were no longer current in the Middle Ages, but,
conversely, many freedmen were now basically unfree, and legally bound to
the ground they rented.