In order to help sustain and defend their island, it was important for the Hospitallers on Rhodes to increase its rural population and its agrarian production. In 1309 the Order acquired a countryside which must have been partly depopulated and partly uncultivated, and which lacked a landed Greek nobility or local leadership. The Hospitallers had extensive experience of settlement and repopulation in Europe and especially in South-West France and the Hispanic peninsula. A fief was created through an arrangement between its lord and his vassal; only a free man could enter into such a contract as a vassal. Hospitaller Rhodes had no indigenous class of hereditary Latin fief-holders who could exploit the bulk of the population in the dynastic interests of their own family. A different response to the island’s manpower shortage lay in the importation of slaves for both domestic and agricultural labour.