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demesne

demesne was a legal term to describe land and property worked for the direct benefit of the owner. During the Middle Ages the importance of such holdings varied: at times it was more valuable for owners to work the land themselves, whilst at others it was more profitable to rent the land to tenants. When demand for agricultural produce was high and profits good, demesnes expanded. For example, during the 13th cent., when a growing population made ever-increasing demands for agricultural produce, many landlords reserved the best land for themselves. In areas such as the Somerset levels, Pevensey marshes by the coasts of Kent and east Sussex, and the Fens in East Anglia, landowners undertook schemes to drain wet lands to increase the available fertile arable, since good yields and the low costs of working the land justified the capital investment in digging ditches and erecting flood defences. When the costs of production rose, as after the repeated visits of plague during the 14th cent., many magnates leased demesnes to tenants for cash rent, keeping the demesne next to residences to meet the immediate needs of the household.

Ian John Ernest Keil

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demesne

demesne (dĬmān´), land under feudalism kept by the lord for his own use and occupation as distinguished from that granted to tenants. Initially the demesne lands were worked by the serfs in payment of the feudal debt. As the serfs' labor service came to be commuted to money payments, the demesne lands were often cultivated by paid laborers. Eventually many of the demesne lands were leased out either on a perpetual, and therefore hereditary, or a temporary, and therefore renewable, basis so that many peasants functioned virtually as free proprietors after having paid their fixed rents. In England the term ancient demesne, sometimes shortened to demesne, referred to those lands that were held by the crown at the time (1066) of William the Conqueror and were recorded in the Domesday Book. The term demesne also referred to the demesne of the crown, or royal demesne, which consisted of those lands reserved for the crown at the time of the original distribution of landed property. The royal demesne could be increased, for example, as a result of forfeiture. The lands were managed by stewards of the crown and were not given out in fief.

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demesne

de·mesne / diˈmān/ • n. hist. 1. land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use. ∎  the lands of an estate. ∎ archaic a region or domain. 2. hist. Law possession of real property in one's own right. PHRASES: held in demesne (of an estate) occupied by the owner, not by tenants.

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demesne

demesneabstain, appertain, arcane, arraign, ascertain, attain, Bahrain, bane, blain, brain, Braine, Cain, Caine, campaign, cane, chain, champagne, champaign, Champlain, Charmaine, chicane, chow mein, cocaine, Coleraine, Coltrane, complain, constrain, contain, crane, Dane, deign, demesne, demi-mondaine, detain, disdain, domain, domaine, drain, Duane, Dwane, Elaine, entertain, entrain, explain, fain, fane, feign, gain, Germaine, germane, grain, humane, Hussein, inane, Jain, Jane, Jermaine, Kane, La Fontaine, lain, lane, legerdemain, Lorraine, main, Maine, maintain, mane, mise en scène, Montaigne, moraine, mundane, obtain, ordain, pain, Paine, pane, pertain, plain, plane, Port-of-Spain, profane, rain, Raine, refrain, reign, rein, retain, romaine, sane, Seine, Shane, Sinn Fein, skein, slain, Spain, Spillane, sprain, stain, strain, sustain, swain, terrain, thane, train, twain, Ujjain, Ukraine, underlain, urbane, vain, vane, vein, Verlaine, vicereine, wain, wane, Wayne •watch chain • mondaine • Haldane •ultramundane • Cellophane •novocaine • sugar cane • marocain

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