Indentures and Indentured Servants

Why were indentured servants called indentured servants?

Before the term “indenture” came about, medieval Europeans used legal documents called chirographs. Sometime before the year 1000, legal transactions involving multiple parties were recorded on a sheet of velum. Details of the transaction were recorded twice on the sheet and then the sheet was cut in half with each piece going to the parties involved in the transaction. Sometimes the cut was made along a word making it easier to verify the authenticity of the document. The below document from 1201 is an example of a chirograph cut along a word.

Front 1.1
Acquittance of debt by Jacob ben Moses and Margaret to Peter of Edgefield. The British Library Online Manuscript Collection, Harley Ch 43 A 54, 1201-1203.

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