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In Anglo-Saxon England and later medieval England, a reeve (Old English gerefa) refers to a variety of administrative and judicial officials serving under the king or other nobles and before the Conquest, generally ranking lower than the ealdorman or earl. Attested reeves before the Conquest include the high-reeve, town-reeve, port-reeve, shire-reeve (predecessor to the sheriff), reeve of the hundred and the reeve in charge of an estate.

The Old English word gerefa is originally a general sort of term, but soon acquired a more technical meaning. The word is often rendered in Latin as prefectus by the historian Bede and some early charters, while West-Saxon charters prefer to employ prefectus for ealdormen.

High Middle Ages

In later medieval Englandmarker, a reeve was an official elected annually by the serfs to supervise lands for a lord. The reeve himself was a serf. He had many duties such as making sure the serfs started work on time and ensuring that no one was cheating the lord out of money.

England in the early 1000s employed the services of shire reeves to assist in the detection and prevention of crimes. Groups of 10 families or "tithings" were commissioned for an early form of neighborhood watch, and were organized into groups of 100 families or "hundreds." The hundreds were supervised by a constable. Groups of hundreds within a specific geographic area were combined to form shires and were under control of the king. The reeve of an entire shire was a Shire-reeve, predecessor to the Sheriff.

Modern usages

In Saskatchewanmarker, Manitobamarker, and some parts of Ontariomarker a reeve is the chair of Rural Municipality similar to a Mayor.

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