The setting takes place in medieval age. A group of people want to create a new settlement on a remote and non-populated part of the kingdom. They would start building a town by building houses to live, walls, fences and towers for defense, farm and meadow fields.

I suppose such a town has the potential to be a feudal town and a kingdom wouldn't let it happen without proper measures. The town could also be a hidden village and stay independent of the Kingdom's law, but I am not sure if it would stay hidden for much.

The question is, would the Kingdom allow the creation of the town? If allowed, how would it be taxed and who would govern it? Even if it was uncharted before the building of the town, would the Kingdom still own the land since it is in borders? Are there any real world examples of such towns? Are there any other problems that could arise?

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    $\begingroup$ The history of all of colonialism says, "Yes. They will go out of their way to actively encourage it." $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @ckersch as long as they pay their taxes. :-) $\endgroup$
    – user23110
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ You are talking about an age where concepts like citizenship, land register or rule of law were not much developed. As soon as it would seem worthwhile spending the effort, somebody would surely lay claim on that settlement. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Sep 19, 2016 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ If the villagers are productive to the point that they contribute to the kingdom's economy, and don't pose a security threat, whoever runs the kingdom will be all for it. Unless he is one of those inbred nincompoops who have at times occupied thrones. $\endgroup$
    – EvilSnack
    Sep 24, 2016 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ What matters is whether the people pay their taxes to the kingdom. Why else would anyone care? Look for example at the medieval Anglo-French wars or more recently, the American War of Independence $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2020 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


Historical context of population growth

Population expanded significantly in the middle ages, between the low after the ravages of the Justinian Plague of 541-542 to the high middle ages peak of ~1300 before the Little Ice Age brought famine.

According to the Medieval Sourcebook (possibly the best thing on the internet), the population of Iberia went from 3.5->9 million, France 3->19 million, Germany 2->11 million, Italy 2.5 -> 10 million, etc. Obviously this involved breaking in a lot of new land.

Bringing land into civilization

There were several ways that new land was brought into civilization, but the primary problem was defense. States existed in these worlds entirely to control violence. Anyone could gather up a band of ruffians and rob whoever they wanted, so the organization of society was primarily dominated by the ability to protect whatever gains were made from farming the land.

There were two processes: opening up new farmland, and starting new cities. Farmland didn't really need cities to go along with it; the truly independent peasants would not have any sort of advanced, tradable materials: very little iron, mostly for weapons instead of tools, wooden tools and buildings, animals for traction, and nothing that needed to be bought from the outside. Especially in the pagan lands of eastern europe, this was the peasant's way, though it might be more accurate to call them tribesmen since they had more in common with the Roman-era 'barbarians' than the medieval villein.

Opening new farmland

For breaking in farmland in truly remote areas, these were the peasant/tribes to do it. This mostly happened on the very edges of Europe, like the Baltic coast, and European Russia. But at the end of the Middle Ages and even after into the 1700s, this process was repeating itself with the Cossacks in the Ukraine, an extremely fertile area that had been totally depopulated by centuries of nomadic warriors from the Golden Horde and Crimean Khanate. Read up on Cossack history to get an understanding of how a peasant society would organize itself outside of an established kingdom.

But in more civilized areas land expansion often came from or with approval of some person in power. Abbeys were particularly keen on opening up farmland, since monasteries tended to be build in remote areas and then start to turn the surrounding countryside to cultivation. Examples would be Clairvaux in France and Eberbach in Germany.

An alternate method was for an overpopulated village to get permission from the local lord to clear a section of forest and start a new village some miles away. In the early middle ages, when lords were poor and land was plentiful, this was generally supported by the nobility. By the high middle ages, when lords were rich and the damn peasants were traipsing all over the only good forests for hunting, this was discouraged.

Starting new cities

New town formation was catalyzed around 1000 AD by the opening up of trade routes. Christianization of the Vikings and the end of raids from the north increased trade in the North and Baltic seas. The slowing down of the pace of Jihad lead to more trade opportunities with the Muslim world, particularly in Italy. Eventually, the Reconquista and crusades provided more East-West contacts and increased trade further, spurring the long range trade routes and walled merchant towns of the high middle ages.

Whereas the expansion of farmland tended to benefit the lowest levels of nobility and clergy, town growth benefited the upper levels. Cologne and Magdeburg grew because of the safety provided by the authority of the resident Archbishops made them attractive places to do business. Cities like Augsburg, Nuremburg, and Hamburg got charters from the Emperor to protect their freedoms in exchange for a lump sum of money. Bordeaux, Rouen, and Orleans got a royal charter in France. The direct communication with the highest leige (called immediacy) provided financial benefits to the leige, who could use the money to hire mercenaries to centralize his Kingdom, and protection to the cities from local nobles and clergy.

A similar thing would happen in Eastern Europe. Whereas in Western Europe there were or had been existing settlements, in Poland, Ukraine, and the Carpathian basin, towns were founded where none had been before. As towns sprung up they sought the protection of the most powerful local lord with a Magdeburg town charter.

Answer to your question

So to answer your question more directly:

If a group of peasants were to start a new settlement in a remote area of an established kingdom, they would either a.) need to get the consent of a local lord or abbot who would serve as their benefactor and and provide protection from violence or b.) they would be pillaged into the earth.

Their village would be small, in the hundreds of people at most. Proper towns only developed where there was business to be done, and if you are settling in a remote area, that is unlikely to be the case. However, supposing the new settlers are able to open up a new trade route (say by building a bridge or opening a mountain pass that had previously be little used), a town could potentially develop quickly. In that case, the town would seek a charter from the highest leige to protect its rights.

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    $\begingroup$ A splendid answer. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Wossname
    Sep 19, 2016 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Solid answer. It has everything I could ask for. $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2016 at 8:41

Depending on the kingdom, they might actually welcome the creation of a new town.

Towns don't just appear on their own. Normally to create a new town, a kingdom must sponsor or subsidize it, build a market in the area, giving tax breaks, and bonuses for anyone to move into the area. They have to make it attractive enough for nobles and merchants to make it self-sustaining. The whole point of the endeavor is to tame wild areas, turning them into resource producing areas (and providing more things to tax.)

No one normally is going to want to move into a raw, unprepared area and face all the hardships settlers normally do when they don't have to, least of all peasants who don't have any free time in the first place. It would be quite extraordinary for a large group of under-class individuals to even be able to strike for the wilderness, let alone actually do so without causing all sorts of issues with their local lords.

If a kingdom found that, out of the blue, it had a new tax paying town and trade place it would quite happily let it continue to be relatively un-molested unless it appeared to be a threat (Especially if the nobles who's land they appeared on is ok with it.)

Most kingdoms are not despotic-take-them-for-everything-their-worth enterprises and are smart enough to realize that a small investment now leads to great rewards later; the issues come from the fact that the ruling class seeing something new as a threat and treating it as such. A newly acquired town from a rival kingdom would need to be garrisoned to prevent the rabble from making problems with the nobles. Strange occurrences are of course going to draw attention as well (and a town appearing on its own in the dark ages is indeed strange).

A new town or hamlet would be under suspicion, and probably be investigated, but if someone is going to go through all that work of doing something that benefits the kingdom a considerable amount, it wont shoot itself in the foot over it unless it feels it has a good reason.

As for taxation and governance, that really depends on where the town appears; if it is on noble or crown lands. If it appears on the crowns land then the king /queen themselves can decide how they want it governed, if they install a governor/mayor or if the set up of the town already has is adequate. It would really be the same for if it appeared on a nobles land, although they might be under more restrictions from the crown on what they could do with their towns. As a middle case, the king could grant the town lands to a nobel, or actually en-noble a new person to take over the new lands (perhaps a particularly loyal knight or person from the new town?)

In either case, as long as the town pays its taxes I cant foresee either nobles or the crown causing many issues that would jeopardize a big revenue stream like a new town; they may put pressure here and there to make them conform to some expectations but will push more over the long term.

As for "problems", there can be many, but its more a 'chose your poison' deal; there are lots and lots of reasons why towns fail, but as far as the issues with appearing on someone else land it really revolves around if that person gets a wild-hair up their rear about it. Maybe there is someone in that town they don't like, or don't want to deal with the extra headache of being responsible for it; its hard to argue with more money but sometimes individuals in authority just don't care. And this is all to say nothing of religious or political beliefs that might be in contrary to the towns existence (hopefully they didn't build in the holy hunting preserve.)


Depending on how well hidden the settlement was, it could go on being self-governed for many years. However, they'd start running into issues with inbreeding when the gene pool shallowed to a significant depth.

Of course, people are apt to wander and explore the lands, especially in seek of new pastures and eventually the settlement would be discovered and become known to the powers that be.

I wouldn't begin to imagine the impact of all of those back-taxes.

  • $\begingroup$ This "gene pool problem" seems to be a very rampant beee in some bonnets on this site. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Sep 19, 2016 at 16:51

Since you have specified that

such a town has the potential to be a feudal town

there is no reason for the king or the kingdom to care, with rare exceptions. Since this is a medieval, "feudal" society, the king does not (generally speaking) rule directly except for the royal estates. Rather, he oversees his liege lords - in England, the barons.

So, the question becomes, does the area have a lord and does he approve? If the area is currently unclaimed, the king will grant the township as a fiefdom to one of his favorite (or otherwise) barons or the son of one of them and the baron (new or old) will take over control of the town. The reason he might assign the town to an unpopular lord is to get him out of sight and off to the boonies where he won't cause trouble.

And, of course, if the township lies within the boundaries of an existing barony the baron will assert control. After all, he gets to tax them.

There are a couple of exceptions that I can think of. Keep in mind that a bunch of people deciding to found a town in a remote wilderness is very, very unusual, except for religious or political reasons, where the people want to be free of their current lords, and in neither case is the king or baron likely to allow this. So the town gets a governor or lord whether it wants one or not. And royal courts are always full of ambitious younger sons who will jump at the chance to gain their own lands. European society, as the standard example, practiced primogeniture, and only the eldest inherits the father's estate, so all subsequent sons are simply out of luck.


A group of people can find supporter of their idea at the chief's residence. For example, it may be an ambience minister who can lobbying this idea to the king or president for a long time.

Or this couple of people can create an gritty island at the sea like Dubai Emirates or Flevoland island at Netherlands.


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