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Topic – The Seigneurial System

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The Seigneurial System

What Was the Seigneurial System?

Seigneurial System

The seigneurial system was a way of dividing up land that would be used mostly for farming. This system was used in the part of Canada that was known as New France.

The land was divided into sections called seigneuries. The French king gave each seigneury to an important person in New France. Many of these people came from noble families in France. Some people did not come from noble families but had become very successful in New France. A person who owned a seigneury was called a seigneur.

The seigneur divided his seigneury into smaller strips of land and rented them out to farmers. These farmers were known as habitants. One end of a habitant’s strip of land usually ended at a river. The seigneur kept part of the seigneury for himself and built a house on it.

Who Were the Habitants?

Habitants were mainly settlers from France. They moved to New France to find a better life. On the seigneuries of New France, habitants could create larger farms than they could in France.

What Were the Duties of Seigneurs and Habitants?

There were certain things that seigneurs and habitants were expected to do.

Duties of Seigneurs

Duties of Habitants

  • stay loyal to the French king
  • build and run on their land a mill to grind the grain grown by habitants
  • settle disagreements among habitants
  • make sure habitants followed French laws
  • build a house and other buildings needed, such as a barn
  • pay (in food or money) a small rent to the seigneur for the land they farmed
  • give the seigneur a small part of the grain they harvested each year
  • grind their grain only at the seigneur’s mill (at a cost)
  • work for free for the seigneur a few days each year, often building roads

What Was the Purpose of the Seigneurial System?

France wanted to encourage the settlement of New France. The seigneurial system was a way to organize the settlement of the land. It was also a way to encourage settlers to come to New France. Farmers and other types of workers from France found they could have better lives as habitants in New France.


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