Peasants were either free or unfree, with the latter category known as serfs or villeins
Villein was a term used in the feudal system to denote a peasant (tenant farmer) who was legally tied to a lord of the manor – a villein in gross – or in the case of a villein regardant to a manor. Villeins occupied the social space between a free peasant (or "freeman") and a slave.
Serfs were often harshly treated and had little legal redress against the actions of their lords. A serf could become a freedman only through manumission, enfranchisement, or escape. The greatest achievement of the era was the liberation of peasants. It paved the way for all other reforms...
The responsibility of peasants was to farm the land and provide food supplies to the whole kingdom. In return of land they were either required to serve the knight or pay rent for the land. They had no rights and they were also not allowed to marry without the permission of their Lords.
Like the Roman coloni before them, medieval peasants or serfs could own property and marry, but there were restrictions on their rights. Under a rule known as merchet or formariage, a serf had to pay a fee in order to marry outside their lord's domain, as they were depriving him of a labor source by leaving.
Most farmers were not free, but rather were serfs. They were required to stay with the land and had to work several days a week for the lord of the manor. There were some free peasants, but most did not leave their lord. Because they were poor, their clothing was usually rough wool or linen.
Peasants worked the land to yield food, fuel, wool and other resources. The countryside was divided into estates, run by a lord or an institution, such as a monastery or college. A social hierarchy divided the peasantry: at the bottom of the structure were the serfs, who were legally tied to the land they worked.
The peasants were at the bottom of the Feudal System and had to obey their local lord to whom they had sworn an oath of obedience on the Bible. Because they had sworn an oath to their lord, it was taken for granted that they had sworn a similar oath to the duke, earl or baron who owned that lord's property.
Serfs were the poorest of the peasant class, and were a type of slave. Lords owned the serfs who lived on their lands. In exchange for a place to live, serfs worked the land to grow crops for themselves and their lord.
A well-to-do serf might even be able to buy his freedom. A serf could grow what crop he saw fit on his lands, although a serf's taxes often had to be paid in wheat. The surplus he would sell at market.
Daily life for peasants consisted of working the land. Life was harsh, with a limited diet and little comfort. Women were subordinate to men, in both the peasant and noble classes, and were expected to ensure the smooth running of the household.
What was the difference between free peasants and serf?
The main difference between serf and peasant is that peasants were free to move from fief to fief or manor to manor to look for work. Serfs, on the other hand, were like slaves except that they couldn't be bought or sold. Above peasants were knights whose job it was to be the police force of the manor.
Despite not having modern medicine, technology, or science, peasants still had many forms of entertainment: wrestling, shin-kicking, cock-fighting, among others. However, sometimes, entertainment could be certainly weird and downright bizarre.
If a serf ran away to another part of the country there may have been no proof of their status. However serfdom could end legitimately. In 1470 Sir Gerrard Widdrington manumitted or freed his native serf William Atkinson, and gave him the manorial office of bailiff for Woodhorn manor.
But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations. Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays.
We don't refer to people as peasants anymore because our economic system doesn't include this class of people. In modern capitalism, land can be bought and sold by any class of people, and land ownership is common.
Most peasants lived in tiny one- or two-room thatched cottages with walls made of wattle and daub (woven strips of wood covered with a mixture of dung, straw, and clay). They owned nothing themselves. Everything, including their animals, their homes, their clothes, and even their food, belonged to the lord.
In Medieval Europe, the life of a peasant was very difficult and grueling due to the Feudal system. Medieval peasants were forced to work a certain job due to this system. Peasants were also frowned upon by commoners and forced to serve under nobles or their lords.
It was gradually replaced by individual ownership and management of land. The relative position of peasants in Western Europe improved greatly after the Black Death had reduced the population of medieval Europe in the mid-14th century, resulting in more land for the survivors and making labor more scarce.
To me, a peasants face is rugged, stereotypically somewhat chubby and yet showing signs of chronic malnutrition, such as weak jaws, wonky teeth, or skin conditions. Field-workers whose diet is primarily grain, and who aren't necessarily the healthiest due to various living conditions.
Peasant in medieval England: eight hours a day, 150 days a year. Sunday was the day of rest, but peasants also had plenty of time off to celebrate or mark Christian festivals. Economist Juliet Schor estimates that in the period following the Plague they worked no more than 150 days a year.
Consider a typical working day in the medieval period. It stretched from dawn to dusk (sixteen hours in summer and eight in winter), but, as the Bishop Pilkington has noted, work was intermittent - called to a halt for breakfast, lunch, the customary afternoon nap, and dinner.