The labouring man will take his rest long in the morning; a good piece of the day is spent afore he come at his work; then he must have his breakfast, though he have not earned it at his accustomed hour, or else there is grudging and murmuring; when the clock smiteth, he will cast down his burden in the midway, and whatsoever he is in hand with, he will leave it as it is, though many times it is marred afore he come again; he may not lose his meat, what danger soever the work is in. At noon he must have his sleeping time, then his bever in the afternoon, which spendeth a great part of the day; and when his hour cometh at night, at the first stroke of the clock he casteth down his tools, leaveth his work, in what need or case soever the work standeth. (James Pilkington, Bishop of Durham, ca. 1570, cited in Juliet B. Schorr The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure at http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/hours_workweek.html#hours )
While pre-capitalist England had waged labourers, these were not the predominant agricultural class until the enclosures reduced many tenant farmers, and all peasants, freeholders, leaseholders, copyholders, part share men, commoners, cottagers and crofters to agricultural labourers for wage. Prior to the wage manorial extraction was based on tithe and dues, often in commutable labour. This labour was resisted through “go slows” and traditional rates of labour output. Labour was leisurely, if not pleasurable. See here Hammond and Hammond’s first edition introduction to The village labourer.
To expand on the production process and extraction of social surplus. The Church and Manor extracted the following:
Tithes for the Church. These could be in money, goods or labour. These were paid for the right to continue existing.
Dues for the Lord. These could be in money, goods or labour. These were paid for the right of continuing to exist.
Rent for the Church or Lord. Paid in exchange for land access. Rents were long term, 20 years.
Common people held multiple statuses in relation to land. Land was held by the head of household, a man, as the embodiment of family. Almost all commoners were subject to working for the lord of the manor and the church on strips of land owned by the manor lord or church; OR to pay money OR to goods. This is because the church and lord had the right to demand this. What matters here is not the particular way that commoners were taxed and tithed but that they were. Whether they work a day on the lords strip as corvee, or work for wages on the lords strip that they pay back as tax, or that they work elsewhere and pay tax—those days they have to work for somebody else. Those are days they can’t enjoy leisure or work for pay or on land for themselves.
In the rest of their worked time they worked on arable land they owned, or rented, or on “common” land they had a right to, or on a cottage garden they had a right to, or on cottage garden they didn’t have a right to but seized, or worked for wages on somebody else’s land to pay for meat and bread.
The division is between days owned by the lord and church (as direct labour or as needing to generate money wage) and days owned by the worker for leisure work on own land or work for wages to feed themselves.
While Pilkington and the Hammonds are both writing in exaggerated genre the intensive nature of labour was low. Manorial lords, owners who leased and farmers all lacked the ability to greatly profit by sweat of another’s brow. The commoners access to self support through the commons gave them the ability to tell the grandees to go stuff themselves. In southern England this was increased by the effects of the plague on the labour market which resulted in a long term trend towards labour and against “feudal” owners.
Correspondingly the number of days worked was low for the same reason of peasant resistance. As Eight centuries of annual hours ( http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/hours_workweek.html#hours ) cites:
13th century - Adult male peasant, U.K.: 1620 hours
Calculated from Gregory Clark's estimate of 150 days per family, assumes 12 hours per day, 135 days per year for adult male ("Impatience, Poverty, and Open Field Agriculture", mimeo, 1986)
14th century - Casual laborer, U.K.: 1440 hours
Calculated from Nora Ritchie's estimate of 120 days per year. Assumes 12-hour day. ("Labour conditions in Essex in the reign of Richard II", in E.M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, vol. II, London: Edward Arnold, 1962).
Middle ages - English worker: 2309 hours
Juliet Schor's estime of average medieval laborer working two-thirds of the year at 9.5 hours per day
1400-1600 - Farmer-miner, adult male, U.K.: 1980 hours
Calculated from Ian Blanchard's estimate of 180 days per year. Assumes 11-hour day ("Labour productivity and work psychology in the English mining industry, 1400-1600", Economic History Review 31, 23 (1978).
1840 - Average worker, U.K.: 3105-3588 hours
Based on 69-hour week; hours from W.S. Woytinsky, "Hours of labor," in Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. III (New York: Macmillan, 1935). Low estimate assumes 45 week year, high one assumes 52 week year
1850 - Average worker, U.S.: 3150-3650 hours
Based on 70-hour week; hours from Joseph Zeisel, "The workweek in American industry, 1850-1956", Monthly Labor Review 81, 23-29 (1958). Low estimate assumes 45 week year, high one assumes 52 week year
1987 - Average worker, U.S.: 1949 hours
From The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, by Juliet B. Schor, Table 2.4
1988 - Manufacturing workers, U.K.: 1856 hours
Calculated from Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Office of Productivity and Technology
Pre-capitalist peasantries were able to regulate how much work they did, both in time and intensity, through a moral economy which reflected the long term balance of power between those who could tax land and those who worked land. This was primarily about latent class war codified in stories about land tenures. However, depopulation or hyperpopulation could also transform the relationships of the moral economy.
In contrast capital as a social relationship is very good at concretely enforcing ownership by capital and reducing labour to abstract labour power (“profitable” and “productive” useful labours).
In the case of England this was done through the combination of enclosure, poor law and political economy (liberalism). Hammond and Hammond’s three part Labourer series is very good on this concrete process of emiseration. But the too long won’t read summary is: he that won’t work don’t eat.