This chapter describes largely traditional and static society of rapid decay. Holstein, which can hardly be regarded as part of eastern Europe, had one of the most oppressive agrarian regimes to be found anywhere on the continent; while the subjection of the peasantry which was so notable a feature of society in Livonia was the result of German and Catholic conquest in the Middle Ages, not of Russian rule. Serfdom in eastern and northern Germany and in Russia differed essentially from that in France and western Germany. In the latter it was a medieval institution surviving with increasing difficulty in a changing social and economic climate, of little apparent value to the state and more and more a target for the criticisms of reformers. In France the majority of villages, at least until late in the century, retained a high degree of selfgovernment in more indeed than most French towns.