AskDefine | Define socage

Dictionary Definition

socage n : land tenure by agricultural service or payment of rent; not burdened with military service

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • /ˈsɒkɪʤ/


  1. In the Middle Ages, a system whereby a tenant would pay a rent or do some agricultural work for the landlord.
    • 1990: John Updike, Rabbit at Rest, pUnknown
    • …this quiz with all the strange old terms in it, curtilage and messuage and socage and fee simple and fee tail and feoffee and copyhold and customary freehold and mortmain and devises and lex loci rei sitae.


A system in the Middle Ages

Extensive Definition

Socage was one of the feudal duties and hence land tenure forms in the feudal system. A farmer, for example, held the land in exchange for a clearly-defined, fixed payment to be made at specified intervals to his feudal lord, who in turn had his own feudal obligations to the Crown. In theory this might involve supplying the lord with produce but most usually it meant a straightforward payment of cash, i.e., rent.
In this respect it contrasted with other forms of tenure including serjeanty (the farmer paid no rent but had to perform some personal/official service on behalf of his lord, including in times of war) and frankalmoin (some form of religious service). For those higher up the feudal pyramid, there was also knight-service (military service) as a condition of land tenure.
The statute of Quia Emptores (1290) established that socage tenure passed automatically from one generation to the next (unlike leases). As feudalism declined socage tenure increased until it became the normal form of tenure in England. In 1660, the Statute of Tenures ended the remaining forms of military service and all free tenures were converted into socage.
The holder of a socage tenure was referred to as a socager or socman.

External links

socage in German: Frondienst
socage in Dutch: Herendienst
socage in Russian: Барщина
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