Seigneurial system, feudal system of landholding practiced in France and in the French colonies in eastern Canada. Beginning in the early 1600s, the French king granted land in Canada to nobles, religious groups, merchants, and military officers. The seigneury, often narrow strips of land touching the St. Lawrence River, generally covered 12–100 sq mi (31–259 sq km). The owners, or seigneurs, rented the land to farmers in return for an annual payment, a share of the harvest, and several days' free labor. The seigneurs and tenants provided the king with military service and contributed material and labor to such works as the building and maintenance of public roads. The seigneurial system at first spurred French settlement of Canada, but it later proved an impediment to industrialization and urban expansion. The system was abolished by the Canadian government in 1854.
See also: Feudalism.