Socage was one of the feudal duties and hence land tenure
Feudal land tenure
Under the English feudal system several different forms of land tenure existed, each effectively a contract with differing rights and duties attached thereto. Such tenures could be either free-hold, signifying that they were hereditable or perpetual, or non-free where the tenancy terminated on the...

 forms in the feudal system
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

. A farmer, for example, held the land in exchange for a clearly defined, fixed payment to be made at specified intervals to his feudal lord, who in turn had his own feudal obligations, to the farmer and to the Crown. In theory this might involve supplying the lord with produce but most usually it meant a straightforward payment of cash, i.e., rent
Renting is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property owned by another. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership from landowners...


In this respect it contrasted with other forms of tenure including serjeanty
Under the feudal system in late and high medieval England, tenure by serjeanty was a form of land-holding in return for some specified service, ranking between tenure by knight-service and tenure in socage...

 (the farmer paid no rent but had to perform some personal/official service on behalf of his lord, including in times of war) and frankalmoin
Frankalmoin or frankalmoigne was one of the feudal land tenures in feudal England. Its literal meaning is "free pity/mercy", from Norman French fraunch aumoyne, “free alms”, from Late Latin eleemosyna, from Greek ἐλεημοσύνη , "pity, alms", from ἐλεήμων "merciful", from ἔλεος , "pity"...

 (some form of religious service). For those higher up the feudal pyramid, there was also knight-service
Knight-service was a form of Feudal land tenure under which a knight held a fief or estate of land termed a knight's fee from an overlord conditional on him as tenant performing military service for his overlord....

 (military service) as a condition of land tenure.

The English statute Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores of 1290 was a statute passed by Edward I of England that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution...

of Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 (1290) established that socage tenure passed automatically from one generation to the next (unlike leases
Leasehold estate
A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to land or property in which a lessee or a tenant holds rights of real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord....

). As feudalism declined, socage tenure increased until it became the normal form of tenure in the Kingdom of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

. In 1660, the Statute of Tenures ended the remaining forms of military service and all free tenures were converted into socage.

The holder of a soc or socage tenure was referred to as a socager (Anglo-Norman) or socman (Anglo-Saxon).

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