Anne DeWindt


The fifteenth century is often given credit for the death of English serfdom. This case study of the son of a serf demonstrates the powerful role family ties and ocher social networks could play in providing male serfs with alternatives to the lifestyle of their forefathers. Richard Berenger was the son of a Huntingdonshire serf who emigrated to London, where he made his living as a chaplain. Richard Berenger's will, composed in 1455, and manorial records from Ramsey Abbey encourage speculation regarding his career path, social networks, and motivations for entering the priesthood. A sample of other London wills enables comparisons with a group of men whose specific life stories are less accessible than is Richard's.