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a principal form of feudal land tenure by peas-ants in late medieval and early Renaissance England.

Copyhold arose out of villein tenure about 1400 and became widespread in the 15th century. A copy of an excerpt from the manor’s court roll was given to the peasant, attesting to his right to own a plot. Copyhold reflected the emancipation of villeins from serfdom, the actual and legal strengthening of the peasant economy, and the replacement of the lord’s arbitrary power with customary law. However, copyholders did not have legal protection under common law and were burdened with many obligations. In most cases copyhold tenure was for life, but it was not hereditary. During the agrarian revolution that began in the 16th century, an enormous number of copyholders were deprived of their land.

The English bourgeois revolution in the 17th century kept the copyholders in the position of landholders whose rights were not recognized by common law. Copyhold tenure became obsolete as a result of parliamentary enclosures, but it was not legally abolished until 1925.


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