Tenure - Encyclopedia

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TENURE (Fr. tenure, from Lat. tenere, to hold), in law, the holding or possession of land. The holding of land in England was originally either allodial or feudal. Allodial land was land held not of a superior lord, but of the king and people. Such ownership was absolute. It possibly took its origin from the view that the land was the possession of the clan; that the chief was the leader but not the owner, and was no doubt strengthened by the temporary and partial occupation by the Romans. Their withdrawal, followed by the Saxon invasion, tended, without doubt, to re-establish the principle of common village ownership which formed the basis of both Celtic and German tenure. In the later Saxon period, however, private ownership became gradually more extended. Then the feudal idea began to make progress in England, much as it did about the same time on the continent of Europe, and it received a great impetus from the Norman conquest. When English law began to settle down into a system, the principle of feudalism was taken as the basis, and it gradually became the undisputed maxim of English law that the sovereign was the supreme lord of all the land and that every one held under him as tenant, that there was no such thing as an absolute private right of property in land, but that the state alone as personified by the sovereign was vested with that right, and conceded to the individual possessor only a strictly defined subordinate right, subject to conditions from time to time enacted by the community (see also Feudalism). Feudal tenure was divided into free and non-free. Free tenures were frankalmoign, knight service, serjeanty and free socage. These tenures are dealt with under their separate headings. Base or non-free tenure was tenure in villenage and copyhold, and see also Manor.

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