Corvee, term applied to unpaid and forced labour paid by a tenant to his lord or by subjects to a state. The system of unpaid labour dates from the earliest times, and was fully developed in the late Rom. empire. Instead of paying taxes, the citizens performed operae publicae. which consisted chiefly of keeping roads and bridges in good repair.
The Rom. landlords could also demand free labour on their estates for a certain number of days from their tenants or coloni. The freedmen also were under certain obligations as a condition of their freed state. and their operae officiales generally consisted of unpaid work on their landlord’s estate. In the Middle Ages the fixed services that the serf was obliged to pay regularly were called operae rigae.
Those that were only demanded In times of exceptional Stress were called operae corrogarae, i.e. services Or works requisitioned, from Lat. rogare, to request. This corvee term became corrupted into Or works requisitioned, from Lat. rogare, to request. This term became corrupted into coroarae, and later corveiae, and finally deve- loped into C.. which became the general term for all such unpaid labour.
The tenants and serfs performed labour, such as working in the fields, threshing corn, etc., in payment or partial payment of rent, small allotments called mansi being distributed among them. They repaired roads, bridges, churches and castles, entertained messengers, and carried distches, as a sign of fealty to their feudal lord cacould also include conscription.