LECTURER Dr David Moon

Stage 3 Special Subject 30 + 30 credits 1997-8


Introduction and aims
Teaching methods
Required Assignments
Assessment methods
Weekly seminar topics
Key texts
Key journals
Written work and seminar assignments with related reading


From the late sixteenth century until 1861, very roughly half the population of Russia consisted of peasants who were bound to the estates of noble landowners. Serfdom did not just involve the enserfed peasants and their owners, but was at the heart of the social, economic and political systems of tsarist Russia. Russian serfdom was not unique and can be compared and contrasted with other systems of unfree labour, e.g. American slavery, serfdom in east-central Europe.

The aims of this Special Subject are:

1) to gain an understanding of (a) importance of serfdom in the broader context of Russian political, economic, social and cultural history and (b) how serfdom worked in the villages;

2) to read and critically assess primary sources (in translation) and secondary literature.

TEACHING 20 x 2-hour seminars (Thurday, 2.00-4.00pm)

Each seminar has a particular theme. I will give out reading lists for each seminar in advance, and assign items to each student in the group. At each seminar, everyone should be prepared to speak about what they have read (but not read out written reports). I see my role as making a contribution to the discussion and coordinating the various perspectives.

We do not need to reach a consensus.

There are no formal tutorials, but I will set aside time to discuss students' written work.

ASSIGNMENTS 2 x 10 reading assignments;

2 x 2 essays (1 of which in each semester may be a book review [*]). Recommended deadlines:

1st essay - Friday, 14 Nov 1997 (end/week 1:7)

2nd essay - Friday, 19 Dec 1997 (end/week 1:12)

3rd essay - Friday, 20 Mar 1998 (end/week 2:8)

4th essay - Friday, 15 May 1998 (end/week 2:12)

2 x 2 document exercises:

1st - in class in week 1:6

2nd - own time by Friday, 5 Dec (end/week 1:10)

3rd - own time by Friday, 6 Mar (end/week 2:6) 4th - own time by Friday, 1 May (end/week 2:10)

ASSESSMENT 33.33% continuous assessment (30% for the 4 essays and 10% for the 4 documents exercises) +

66.67% written examination (2 x 3-hour papers:

1 document paper - comment on 2 extracts from choice of 5 in each of 6 questions, i.e. comment on 12 extracts from choice of 30 AND

1 essay paper - 3 essays from choice of c.12)

Exam period: 18 May - 19 June 1998



I 1st Semester: The Rise, and Persistence, of Russian Serfdom

1:1 Introduction/Organisational meeting

1:2 Origins and Consolidation of Serfdom

1:3 Nobles and State Service

1:4 Noble Estates and the Servile Economy

1:5 Discussion of Document Exercise

1:6 1st Document Exercise (in class)

1:7 Village Communes

1:8 Serf Households and Families

1:9 Social Control

1:10 Serf Protest and Rebellions

1:11 Serfdom in Russian Literature and Thought

1:12 The Persistence of Russian Serfdom to 1861, including `Protection' and Limited Reforms (1797-1848)

II 2nd Semester: The Fall of Russian Serfdom

The Causes of the Abolition of Serfdom in 1861:

2:1 Moral Objections; The Role of Protest and Rebellions

2:2 Decay from Within; Economic Failure?

2:3 Defeat in Crimean War and Military Reform

2:4 The Growth of State Power at the Expense of Nobility;

`Enlightened Bureaucrats'

2:5 The Politics of Abolition: Preparation of the Reform

2:6 The Terms of Abolition

2:7 The Impact of Abolition: Peasant Protests

2:8 Politics, Economy and Society in Russia 1861-1917

2:9 Serfdom and Soviet Collective Farms: a comparison

2:10 Conclusion

2:11-12 Completion of written work and preparation for exams

The list of seminar topics is not set in stone: within the framework of the course, we can change it and add other topics on request, as long as there is sufficient reading matter.

Students who have not already taken the course HIS 254 `The Making of the Russian Empire 1547-1796' are welcome, if they wish to, to attend some of the lectures (Wednesdays at 12.00 and Fridays at 10.00 in Room A).


A/ Russian Serfdom

J. Blum Lord and Peasant in Russia from the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century (1961)

R. Hellie Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy (1971)

S. Hoch Serfdom and Social Control in Russia: Petrovskoe, a Village in Tambov (1986)

D. Moon `Reassessing Russian Serfdom', European History Quarterly, vol.26, no.4 (1996), pp.483-526.

(This article is useful as it includes references to some of the extensive secondary literature and attempts to produce a synthesis: it is NOT, and is not intended to be, a `definitive' study of Russian Serfdom.)

B/ Comparative Perspectives

M. Bush, ed Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage (1996)

P. Kolchin Unfree Labour: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (1987)

J. Blum The End of the Old Order in Rural Europe (1978)

J. Hatcher `English Serfdom and Villeinage: Towards a Reassessment', Past and Present, vol.90 (1981), pp.3-39

C/ General Books on Russian History

R. Pipes Russia under the Old Regime

P. Dukes The Making of Russian Absolutism 1613-1801

D. Saunders Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform 1801-1881

H. Rogger Russia in Age of Modernisation and Revolution 1881-1917

N. Riasanovsky History of Russia

and many others...

LIBRARIES Most, but not all, of the books and journals on the reading lists are in the Robinson Library. Copies of some books are also in the History Department Seminar Library. In addition, Northumbria University library (5 mins walk from our library) has some books and journals that are not in our library, as does Durham University library. I have photocopies of some journal articles and Ph.D. dissertations that are not in our library which I can lend for you to copy (and then return to me!).



AHR American Historical Review

ARSH Articles on Russian and Soviet History, 1500-1991

CSSH Comparative Studies in Society and History

CSP Canadian Slavonic Papers (Northumbria)

EAS Europe-Asia Studies (formerly Soviet Studies)

EcHR Economic History Review

EEH Explorations in Entrepreneurial History/Economic History

EHQ European History Quarterly

FOG Forschungen fur Osteuropaischen Geschichte (DM)

JEcH Journal of Economic History

JES Journal of European Studies

JFH Journal of Family History

JIH Journal of Interdisciplinary History (Northumbria)

JMH Journal of Modern History

JPS Journal of Peasant Studies (< 1994, Durham only)

JRH Journal of Religious History

JSocH Journal of Social History

JWH Journal of World History (DM)

P & P Past and Present

RH Russian History (Durham only)

RR Russian Review (1975-93: microfiche only)

SEER Slavonic and East European Review (> 1976: Northum)

SH Social History

SR Slavic Review (1975-93: microfiche only)

SS Soviet Studies

SSH Soviet Studies in History (DM)


Many historians of Russian serfdom, although writing in English, use Russian terminology simply transliterated from cyrillic into latin script. While I sometimes suspect that some do so out of laziness or a strange desire to show off their knowledge of archaic foreign words, many use Russian terms because there are no direct English equivalents. Unfortunately, or perhaps inevitably, there is no agreement on the best English translations of some Russian terms.

Many books, e.g. Blum, Lord and Peasant in Russia and Smith, Enserfment of the Russian Peasantry, contain excellent glossaries. I suggest that you make your own glossaries of Russian terms and English equivalents during the course.




Essays should be 1500-2000 words (about 6-7 sides of double-spaced A4), preferably word-processed, in which case, please use double spacing and leave a left-hand margin of 1" (25 mm).

The point of essays is to produce a concise, strong argument, supported by a selection of evidence, to answer the question.

Please include full references in foot- or end- notes for:

1. any quotations (please use sparingly);

2. particular arguments associated with a certain historian e.g. `Hellie has asserted that the state played the primary role in the enserfment of the peasantry';

3/ particular pieces of information, e.g. `In 1858, 10 per cent of nobles owned 60 per cent of male serfs'.

Append a list of the books and articles you consulted.

Book Reviews

Book reviews should be similar in length and format to essays. The aim is to read an important book, summarise the main arguments and the type of sources used, assess how it fits in with other work on the same and related subjects, and what, if anything, it adds to our knowledge and understanding.

Reviews should include at the start:

Author, Title (Place and date of publication).

Append a list of the other books and articles you consulted.

Books I think appropriate for reviews are indicated with *.

Document Exercises

Write about 350-400 words (just over 1 side A4 double-spaced) on each extract. You should also consult other related documents and relevant secondary literature.

Comments should start by identifying, briefly, the author(s), and the type of document (e.g. a decree, official report from X to Y, census data...); and, also briefly, any important terms (e.g. obrok), people, institutions (e.g. Ministry of State Domains), events (e.g. The Pugachev revolt). continued...

In the main part of your comments, put the content of the extract in context, without writing a long narrative, and explain what light, if any, it sheds on the subject, including, where relevant, whether it is consistent with other accounts or versions of what it covers, or with other statements or actions by the author(s).

In some cases, it might be appropriate to consider the content of the extract in the context of the type of document. E.g.:

1. Russian officials sometimes wrote reports with the aim, not of reporting accurately on what they were supposed to have done, but to cover up for what they had not done, pass the blame on to someone else, justify their actions, while showing themselves in the best possible light and demonstrating that they had followed the correct procedures and were, thus, worthy of promotion...

2. When the government held censuses, it did so to find out how many people there were to tax. Some peasants tried to hide from the census takers to avoid paying the tax. Thus, census data showing that the population had declined since the previous census may be evidence for peasants' success in avoiding being counted. The conclusions we might draw could be that the government was desperate for more money, the peasants resented having to pay more, and that the under-counting suggests that the census takers were corrupt, incompetent or both, and that the government lacked the local administrative apparatus to complete the job successfully. This actually happened in Russia in the early eighteenth century.

3. Documents on Russian peasants written by non-peasants, e.g. officials and intellectuals, are sometimes better evidence for the preconceptions and stereotyped views about peasants held by the authors of the documents, rather than their purported subjects. Since most Russian peasants were illiterate, it is difficult, but not impossible, to see their side of the story.

We will discuss document exercises in more detail in week 5, before doing the first exercise in class in week 6 (I will hand out the extracts in week 5). Books on what historians do, e.g. Arthur Marwick, The Nature of History, discuss approaches to documents. In the 2nd semester, we will look at a book by Daniel Field, Rebels in the Name of the Tsar, in which he provides a running commentary on extracts from documents showing how he interpreted them and put them together to reach his conclusions.


Your work must be written entirely in your own words.

See Departmental Handbook for details.



Questions for discussion in seminar and for essays:

A. Who or what was primarily responsible for the enserfment of the Russian peasantry?

B. Compare and contrast the origins of serfdom in Russia with the development of other systems of unfree labour elsewhere in the world?

(Select as few or as many other systems as you like.)

Blum, J Lord and Peasant in Russia, chs 814

Blum, J `Prices in Russia in the sixteenth century', JEcH, vol.16 (1956), pp.18299

Christian, D `Inner Eurasia as a Unit of World History', JWH, vol.5, no.2 (1994), pp.173-211 (DM)

Culpepper, J M `The Legislative Origins of Peasant Bondage in Muscovy', FOG, vol.14 (1969), pp.162-237 (DM)

*Hellie, R Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy

(Hellie, R Slavery in Russia 14501725)

Klyuchevsky, V Rise of the Romanovs OR

Kliuchevsky, V A Course in Russian History: The 17th Century (relevant sections)

Pipes, R Russia under the Old Regime, chs 1 & 4

Petrovich, M `The Peasant in NineteenthCentury Historiography' in Vucinich, W S, ed,

The Peasant in NineteenthCentury Russia

Worobec, C `Contemporary Historians on the Muscovite Peasantry', CSP, vol.23 (1981), pp.31528

Zorn, J Review of V. I. Koretskii, The Formation of Serfdom and the First Peasant War in Russia, Kritika, vol.13, no.1 (1977), pp.8-14 (DM)


Smith, R E F The Enserfment of the Russian Peasantry

Vernadsky, G A Source Book for Russian History, vol.1, ch.VIII, section C

Comparative Perspectives

Blum, J `The Rise of Serfdom in Eastern Europe', AHR, vol.62 (1957)

Bush, M, ed Serfdom and Slavery, essays by Engerman, Bush (Ch.11) and Brenner

Domar, E D `The Causes of Slavery and Serfdom: A Hypothesis', JEcH, vol.30 (1970)

Kolchin, P Unfree Labor, Introduction (pp.1-46)

Makkai, L `Neo-Serfdom: its origin and nature in East Central Europe', SR, vol.34 (1975)

Smith, R E F & `Introduction', in Smith, Enserfment Hilton, R of the Russian Peasantry, pp.1-27



Questions for discussion in seminar and for essays:

A. To what extent was the introduction and maintenance of serfdom (between 1556 and 1722) a compromise between the Russian state and nobility?

B. Did the Russian nobility regain political power and influence after 1725?

Madariaga, I de `The Russian Nobility in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries', in H. M. Scott, (ed.), The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, vol.2, pp.223-73

Raeff, M The Russian Nobility in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries', in I. Banac and P. Bushkovich (eds), The Nobility in Russia and Eastern Europe, pp.99-121

Blum, J Lord and Peasant in Russia, chs 11, 18

Pipes, R Russia under the Old Regime, chs 4 7 5

Hellie, R Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy, chs 2, 3, 9-13

Keep, J Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia 1462-1874 [relevant chapters]

Pintner, W and Russian Officialdom: the Bureaucratization

Rowney, D K of Russian Society from the 17th to the 20th Century [relevant chapters]

*Crummey, R O Aristocrats and Servitors: The Boyar Elite in Russia 1613-1689

*Meehan-Waters, B Autocracy and Aristocracy: The Russian Service Elite of 1730

Farrow, L `Peter the Great's Law of Single Inheritance', RR, vol.55 (1996), pp.430-47

Daniels, R `V N Tatishchev and the Succession Crisis of 1730', SEER, vol.49 (1971), pp.5509

*Raeff, M The Origins of the Russian Intelligentsia: The 18th-Century Nobility

*LeDonne, J P Absolutism and Ruling Class: The Formation of the Russian Political Order 1700-1825

*LeDonne, J P Ruling Russia: Politics and Administration in the Age of Absolutism 1762-1796

Ransel, D The Politics of Catherinian Russia

Dukes, P Catherine the Great and the Russian Nobility

*Jones, R E The Emancipation of the Russian Nobility 1762-1785

Comparative Perspectives

Scott, H, ed, The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries:

vol.1 Western Europe;

vol.2 Northern, Central and Eastern Europe



Questions for discussion in seminar and for essays:

A. In what ways did nobles try to organise the exploitation of the peasants on their estates?

B. `The Russian nobility were absentee lords, spent large amounts of time in service, had little direct interest in agriculture, and were largely interested in the income from their estates.' Discuss.

Many items on the reading list for the previous seminar are also relevant for this topic. Some have chapters devoted to noble estates, e.g. Crummey, Aristocrats and Servitors, ch.5. Be prepared to comment on the relevant sections, if any, of the book you read for the previous seminar, and/or sections from Blum, Crisp, Emmons, Madariaga indicated below.

Blum, J Lord and Peasant in Russia, chs 19-22

Crisp, O Studies in the Russian Economy before 1914, ch.2 (esp. pp.66-70)

Emmons, T The Russian Landed Gentry and the Peasant Emancipation of 1861, pp.3-29

Madariaga, I `The Russian Nobility in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries', in H. M. Scott, (ed.), The European Nobilities vol.2, esp. pp.253-8, 266-71

*Roosevelt, P Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History

Melton, E `Enlightened Seigniorialism and Its Dilemmas in Serf Russia, 1750-1830', JMH, vol.62 (1990), pp.675-708

Leonard, C `Landlords and the Mir: Transaction Costs and Economic Development in Pre-Emancipation Russia (Iaroslav Guberniia)', in Bartlett, R. (ed), Land Commune and Peasant Community in Russia: Communal Forms in Imperial and Early Soviet Society, pp.121-42

Kahan, A The Plow, the Hammer, and the Knout: An Economic History of 18th-Century Russia, ch.2

Hoch, S L Serfdom and Social Control in Russia, Petrovskoe, a Village in Tambov [We will discuss this book in more detail later.]

Comparative Perspectives

Kolchin, P Unfree Labor, chs 1-3

Blum, J The End of the Old Order in Rural Europe, chs 1-8

Lieven, D The Aristocracy of Europe 1815-1914, chs 1-6