Feudalism to be a set of legal and also military personalizeds in middle ages Europe that was determined by the property of land.

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Learning Objectives

Recall the structure of the feudal state and also the responsibilities and also obligations of each level of society

Key Takeaways

Key PointsFeudalism thrived in Europe between the 9th and also 15th centuries.Feudalism in England figured out the framework of culture around relationships obtained from the holding and also leasing the land, or fiefs.In England, the feudal pyramid was consisted of of the king at the height with the nobles, knights, and vassals below him.Before a lord can grant land to a tenant he would need to make him a vassal at a official ceremony. This ceremony bound the lord and also vassal in a contract.While modern-day writers such together Marx allude out the negative qualities that feudalism, such as the exploitation and also lack of society mobility for the peasants, the French historian Marc Bloch contends that peasants were part of the feudal relationship; if the vassals perform military business in exchange because that the fief, the peasants performed physical labour in return for protection, thereby acquiring some advantage despite their minimal freedom.The 11th century in France witnessed what has actually been referred to as by chroniclers a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and a “fragmentation of powers” that increased localized power and autonomy.Key Termsmesne tenant: A mr in the feudal system who had actually vassals who organized land from him, yet who was self the vassal of a greater lord.vassals: people who gotten in into a shared obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal device in middle ages Europe.fiefs: Heritable property or civil liberties granted by an emperor to a vassal.homage: In the Middle eras this to be the ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and also submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic title to his new position.fealty: one oath, indigenous the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness); a pledge of allegiance the one human being to another.


Feudalism was a set of legal and also military customs in medieval Europe the flourished between the 9th and also 15th centuries. It have the right to be extensively defined as a device for structuring culture around relationships obtained from the stop of land, recognized as a fiefdom or fief, in exchange for company or labour.

The classic version of feudalism explains a collection of mutual legal and military obligations amongst the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts that lords, vassals, and fiefs. A lord was in broad terms a noble who held land, a vassal to be a human who to be granted possession the the land by the lord, and also a fief was what the soil was recognized as. In exchange because that the usage of the fief and also the defense of the lord, the vassal would carry out some sort of service to the lord. There were numerous varieties of feudal floor tenure, consists of military and non-military service. The obligations and corresponding rights in between lord and vassal concerning the fief formed the communication of the feudal relationship.

Feudalism, in its miscellaneous forms, usually emerged as a an outcome of the decentralization of one empire, specifically in the Carolingian empires, which short the administrative infrastructure essential to support cavalry without the capability to allocate land to these mounted troops. An installed soldiers started to secure a system of hereditary ascendancy over their allocated land, and their strength over the territory concerned encompass the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres.

Many cultures in the Middle periods were characterized by feudal organizations, including England, which was the many structured feudal society, France, Italy, Germany, the holy Roman Empire, and Portugal. Each of these territories developed feudalism in distinctive ways, and the means we recognize feudalism together a unified principle today is in large part as result of critiques after ~ its dissolution. Karl Marx theorized feudalism as a pre-capitalist society, defined by the power of the ruling course (the aristocracy) in their regulate of arable land, bring about a class society based ~ above the exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under serfdom and also principally by way of labour, produce, and also money rents.

While modern-day writers such as Marx allude out the negative qualities of feudalism, the French historian Marc Bloch contends the peasants to be an integral component of the feudal relationship: while the vassals carry out military business in exchange because that the fief, the peasants perform physical labour in return because that protection, thereby obtaining some advantage despite their minimal freedom. Feudalism was therefore a complicated social and economic system characterized by inherited ranks, each of i beg your pardon possessed inherent social and economic privileges and also obligations. Feudalism permitted societies in the Middle eras to maintain a fairly stable political structure also as the centralized power that empires and kingdoms began to dissolve.

Structure that the Feudal State in England

Feudalism in 12th-century England was amongst the much better structured and also established solution in Europe in ~ the time. The king to be the absolute “owner” of soil in the feudal system, and all nobles, knights, and other tenants, termed vassals, simply “held” land native the king, who was thus at the peak of the feudal pyramid.

Below the king in the feudal pyramid to be a tenant-in-chief (generally in the kind of a baron or knight), who was a vassal of the king. Holding from the tenant-in-chief was a mesne tenant —generally a knight or baron who was sometimes a tenant-in-chief in their capacity as holder of various other fiefs. Below the mesne tenant, additional mesne tenants might hold native each other in series.


Before a lord can grant floor (a fief) to someone, he had to do that person a vassal. This to be done at a formal and also symbolic ceremony referred to as a commendation ceremony, which was written of the two-part act of homage and also oath the fealty. Throughout homage, the lord and also vassal gotten in into a contract in which the vassal promised to fight because that the lord at his command, while the lord agreed to protect the vassal from external forces.


Roland pledges his fealty to Charlemagne: Roland (right) receives the sword, Durandal, indigenous the hand of Charlemagne (left). Native a manuscript of a chanson de geste, c. 14th Century.

Once the commendation ceremony was complete, the lord and vassal were in a feudal partnership with agreed obligations to one another. The vassal’s major obligation come the mr was “aid,” or military service. Utilizing whatever devices the vassal could acquire by virtue of the revenues from the fief, he was responsible because that answering calls come military service on instead of of the lord. This defense of military assist was the main reason the lord gone into into the feudal relationship. In addition, the vassal can have other obligations come his lord, such together attendance at his court, even if it is manorial or baronial, or in ~ the king’s court.

The vassal’s duties could likewise involve giving “counsel,” so that if the lord confronted a major decision he would certainly summon all his vassals and also hold a council. In ~ the level of the manor this can be a fairly mundane issue of farming policy, however could also include sentencing through the lord for criminal offenses, including funding punishment in part cases. In the king’s feudal court, such deliberation could include the inquiry of declaring war. This are just examples; relying on the duration of time and location in Europe, feudal customs and also practices varied.

Feudalism in France

In that origin, the feudal approve of land had actually been checked out in regards to a an individual bond between lord and vassal, however with time and the revolution of fiefs into hereditary holdings, the nature of the system happened seen as a type of “politics that land.” The 11th century in France saw what has actually been referred to as by chroniclers a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and a “fragmentation of powers” the was unequal the development of feudalism in England, Italy, or Germany in the same duration or later. In France, counties and also duchies started to break down into smaller sized holdings together castellans and lesser seigneurs took manage of regional lands, and (as comital families had done prior to them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a wide variety of prerogatives and also rights that the state—most important the highly profitable rights that justice, but additionally travel dues, sector dues, fees for using woodlands, responsibilities to usage the lord’s mill, etc. Strength in this period became much more personal and also decentralized.

The Manor System

The manor system was an element of feudal society in the center Ages characterized by the legal and economic power of the lord of a manor.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the hierarchy of the manor mechanism by explicate the functions of lords, villeins, and also serfs

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe mr of a manor was supported by his floor holdings and contributions indigenous the peasant population. Serfs who lived in land belonging come the mr were compelled to work the land, and in return received particular entitlements.Serfdom was the condition of peasants in the manor system, and also villeins were the most common kind of serf in the middle Ages.Villeins rented tiny homes with or there is no land; as component of their contract through the lord they were intended to invest some time working the land.Villeins could not move away without the lord’s consent and also the acceptance of the new lord who manor they to be to relocate to. Since of the protection villeins obtained from the lord’s manor, the was normally not favorable to relocate away unless the landlord showed to be particularly tyrannical.The manor system was made up of three species of land: demesne, dependent, and totally free peasant land.Manorial structures can be discovered throughout medieval Western and Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the germanic kingdoms.Key Termsvillein: The most common form of serf in the middle Ages. They had much more rights and also a greater status 보다 the lowest serf, but existed under a number of legal restrictions that distinguished them from freemen.demesne: every the land, not necessarily all physically linked to the manor house, the was maintained by the lord of a manor for his very own use and support, under his own management.serfs: Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It to be a problem of bondage that occurred primarily during the High Middle periods in Europe.freemen: guys who were no serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was critical element that feudal culture and to be the organizing principle the rural economic climate that source in the villa system of the Late roman Empire. Manorialism was widely exercised in middle ages Western Europe and parts of central Europe, and also was slowly replaced by the development of a money-based market economic climate and brand-new forms the agrarian contract.

Manorialism was characterized by the vesting the legal and economic power in the lord of a manor. The lord was supported financially from his own straight landholding in a manor (sometimes dubbed a fief), and also from the obligatory contributions of the peasant populace who fell under the jurisdiction the the lord and also his court. This obligations can be payable in several ways: in labor, in kind, or, on rare occasions, in coin. Manorial structures could be found throughout medieval Western and also Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and the germanic kingdoms.

The key reason for the development of the device was perhaps additionally its greatest strength: the stabilization of culture during the devastation of Roman imperial order. Through a decreasing birthrate and population, labor was the an essential factor that production. Successive managements tried come stabilize the imperial economic situation by freeze the social structure into place: sons to be to succeed your fathers in their trade, councilors were forbidden come resign, and coloni, the cultivators of land, were not to relocate from the land they were attached to. The workers of the land to be on their way to becoming serfs. Together the germanic kingdoms succeeded Roman government in the West in the fifth century, roman inn landlords were frequently simply replaced by Gothic or germanic ones, with small change to the underlying situation or displacement the populations. For this reason the mechanism of manorialism came to be ingrained into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each had three class of land:

Demesne, the part directly regulated by the lord and also used because that the advantage of his household and also dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings moving the responsibility that the peasant family members supply the lord with stated labor solutions or a component of the output; andFree peasant land, without such obligation but otherwise topic to manorial jurisdiction and also custom, and also owing money rent addressed at the time of the lease.

Additional sources of income for the lord contained charges for use of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or for the best to hunt or come let pigs feed in his woodland, as well as court earnings and single payments ~ above each readjust of tenant. Top top the other side that the account, manorial administration involved far-ranging expenses, probably a factor why smaller mansions tended come rely less on villein tenure.


Serfdom was the status of peasants under feudalism, particularly relating to manorialism. It to be a problem of bondage that emerged primarily during the Middle ages in Europe.

Serfs who inhabited a plot of land were forced to job-related for the mr of the manor that owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice, and the best to exploit particular fields within the manor to keep their very own subsistence. Serfs were often compelled to job-related on not only the lord’s fields, but likewise his mines, forests, and also roads. The manor formed the straightforward unit of feudal society, and the lord of a manor and also his serfs to be bound legally, economically, and also socially. Serfs created the lowest course of feudal society.


A serf digging the land, c. 1170 CE: “Digging,” information from the Hunterian Psalter, Glasgow college Library ms Hunter.

Many the the an unfavorable components that manorialism, and also feudalism in general, revolve about the bondage that the serf, his lack of society mobility, and also his low position on the social hierarchy. However, a serf had some freedoms in ~ his constraints. Despite the typical wisdom is that a serf own “only his belly”—even his clothes were the property, in law, of his lord—he could still accumulate personal property and also wealth, and some serfs ended up being wealthier than their complimentary neighbors, although this occurred rarely. A well-to-do serf could even be able to buy his freedom. A serf might grow what crops he experienced fit top top his lands, back a serf’s taxes frequently had to be paid in wheat. The surplus plants he would offer at market.

The landlord could not dispossess his serfs there is no legal cause, was claimed to safeguard them from the depredations of robbers or other lords, and also was meant to support them by charity in time of famine. Countless such civil liberties were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) was the many common kind of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had more rights and also a greater status than the shortest serf, but existed under a variety of legal restrictions that differentiated them indigenous freemen. Villeins normally rented tiny homes v or without land. As component of the contract v the landlord, the mr of the manor, castle were intended to spend few of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contrary to popular belief, the requirement was not frequently greatly onerous, and also was often only seasonal, together was the duty to aid at harvest-time, for example. The remainder of villeins’ time was spent farming their own land because that their own profit.

Like other species of serfs, villeins were compelled to administer other services, perhaps in addition to paying rent that money or produce. Villeins were tied to the land and also could not move away without your lord’s consent and also the accept of the lord to who manor castle proposed to move to. Villeins were generally able to host their very own property, unequal slaves.

Villeinage was no a completely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the center Ages, land within a lord’s manor noted sustenance and survival, and being a villein guaranteed accessibility to land and also kept crops secure indigenous theft by marauding robbers. Landlords, also where legally entitled to execute so, seldom evicted villeins, since of the worth of your labour. Villeinage to be preferable to being a vagabond, a slave, or one un-landed laborer.

In numerous medieval countries, a villein can gain flexibility by escaping from a manor to a city or borough and living there for much more than a year, but this activity involved the lose of land rights and farming livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was especially tyrannical or conditions in the town were person who is abnormal difficult.


Plowing a French ar (French ducal manor in march Les Très wealth Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410): In the foreground, a farmer plowing a field with a plow pulled by two oxen; male the leader v a long pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and till the soil v a hoe to aerate the soil. ~ above the right, a male leans on a bag, may be to attract seeds that he will certainly then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd takes the dog that keeps his flock. In the elevator is the lock of Lusignan (Poitou), residential property of the battle each other of Berry. Seen on the best of the picture, over the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.

Trade and also Commerce

Trade started to expand during the late-13th and also early-14th centuries as develops of partnerships and financing started to appear.

Learning Objectives

List the components that led to a readjust in commerce and trade in the Late center Ages

Key Takeaways

Key PointsExplorers opened up up brand-new trade paths to the south of Africa, India, and America because of the dominant position of the Ottoman realm impeding trade paths to the west.The Commercial change began in the late-13th and early-14th centuries v the climb of insurance money issuing, creates of credit, and brand-new forms of accountancy allowing for much better financial oversight and also accuracy.In England, the crises caused by the great Famine and the Black death from 1290–1348, and subsequent epidemics, developed many obstacles for the economy, culminating in the Peasant ‘s Revolt.The English agricultural economy continued to be depressed throughout the 15th century, with growth coming native the greatly increased English fabric trade and manufacturing.Fairs prospered in popularity, getting to their heyday in the 13th century, as the worldwide wool trade increased. Despite an overall decrease after the 14th century, the good fairs continued to play crucial role in trading money and regional commerce.In cities connected to the north Sea and also the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League arisen as a profession monopoly.Key Termsguild: association of artisans or vendors who managed the exercise of your craft in a certain town. They were arranged in a manner similar to something between a skilled association and also a trade union.usury: The practice of do unethical or immoral financial loans intended to unfairly enrich the lender.bullion: yellow bars, silver- bars, and also other precious metals bars or ingots.Ottoman Empire: empire founded by Oghuz Turks under Osman Bey in northwestern Anatolia in 1299 and dissolved in 1923 in the aftermath of civilization War I, forming the new state that Turkey.

During the Late middle Ages, the increasingly leading position the the Ottoman empire in the eastern Mediterranean gift an impediment to profession for the Christian nations of the west, that started in search of alternatives. Portuguese and Spanish explorers found new trade courses south of Africa to India, and throughout the Atlantic s to America.

Start of the commercial Revolution

In the late-13th and early-14th centuries, a process took place—primarily in Italy however partly also in the divine Roman Empire—that historians have actually termed a “commercial revolution.” amongst the advancements of the period were new forms of partnership and the issuing that insurance, both of which added to reducing the threat of commercial ventures; the invoice of exchange and also other forms of credit transaction that circumvented the canonical regulations for gentiles versus usury and also eliminated the threats of moving bullion; and new forms of accounting, in details double-entry bookkeeping, which enabled for better oversight and also accuracy.


With the gaue won expansion, trading legal rights were much more jealously guarded by the commercial elite. Towns saw the growing power the guilds that occurred in the 14th century together craftsmen uniting to protect their typical interest. The illustration of the european guilds was tied to the emergent money economy and to urbanization. Prior to this time it was not feasible to run a money-driven organization, as commodity money was the normal means of act business.

In medieval cities, craftsmen started to form associations based on their trades. Confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, and glass workers, all managed secrets of traditionally imparted technology—the “arts” or “mysteries” of their crafts. Generally the co-founder were totally free independent grasp craftsmen that hired apprentices. This guilds were organized in a manner similar to something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and also a mystery society. Castle often depended on grants of letters patented by a king or other authority to enforce the circulation of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain property of tools and the it is provided of materials. A lasting heritage of classic guilds room the guildhalls constructed and used as conference places.

Where guilds to be in control, they shame labor, production, and also trade; they had strong controls over instructional capital, and the contemporary concepts of a lifetime progression of apprentice to craftsman, and also then from journeyman at some point to widely known master and grandmaster, started to emerge. European guilds applied long standardized durations of apprenticeship and also made it complicated for those lacking the capital to collection up because that themselves or there is no the approval of their peers to gain accessibility to materials or knowledge, or to market into certain markets, one area the equally conquered the guilds’ concerns. These are defining features of mercantilism in economics, which dominated most european thinking around political economy until the increase of timeless economics.

Hanseatic League

In cities connected to the phibìc Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League developed as a trade monopoly. This helped with the growth of trade amongst cities in nearby proximity come these 2 seas. Long-distance trade in the Baltic intensified together the significant trading towns came with each other in the Hanseatic league under the management of Lübeck.

The Hanseatic league was a service alliance of trading cities and also their guilds that dominated trade follow me the coastline of northern Europe and flourished indigenous 1200–1500, and also continued v lesser prestige after that. The chief urban were Cologne on the Rhine River, Hamburg and also Bremen ~ above the north Sea, and also Lübeck on the Baltic Sea. The Hanseatic cities each had actually their own legal system and a level of political autonomy.

The league was started for the objective of joining pressures for promoting mercantile interests, protective strength, and also political influence. By the 14th century, the Hanseatic League hosted a near-monopoly on profession in the Baltic, specifically with Novgorod and also Scandinavia.

English Economy

The situations caused by the an excellent Famine and also the black color Death in between 1290 and also 1348, as well as subsequent epidemics, developed many challenges for the English economy. The Peasant’s revolt of 1381 had actually various causes, consisting of the socio-economic and also political tensions produced by the Black death in the 1340s, the high taxes result from the problem with France throughout the hundreds Years’ War, and instability within the local management of London.

Although the rebellion was suppressed, that undermined many of the vestiges the the feudal economic order and also the countryside became dominated by estates organized as farms, commonly owned or rented by the new economic class of the gentry. The English farming economy continued to be depressed throughout the 15th century, with growth coming from the considerably increased English fabric trade and also manufacturing.

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From the 12th century onwards, plenty of English towns gained a charter indigenous the Crown enabling them to organize an yearly fair, usually serving a regional or neighborhood customer base and also lasting for 2 or three days. Fairs prospered in popularity, getting to their heyday in the 13th century, together the global wool trade increased. The fairs enabled English structure producers and also ports top top the east shore to communicate with visiting international merchants, circumnavigating those English vendors in London to crawl to do a profit as middlemen. At the same time, well-off magnate consumer in England began to use the brand-new fairs as a way to buy items like spices, wax, maintained fish, and foreign fabric in bulk from the global merchants in ~ the fairs, again bypassing the usual London merchants.