Feudalism to be a collection of legal and also military customs in middle ages Europe the was identified by the ownership of land.

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Learning Objectives

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

Key Takeaways

Key PointsFeudalism flourished in Europe in between the 9th and also 15th centuries.Feudalism in England figured out the structure of culture around relationships acquired from the holding and also leasing that land, or fiefs.In England, the feudal pyramid was comprised of the king in ~ the height with the nobles, knights, and vassals below him.Before a lord might grant land come a tenant he would have to make that a vassal in ~ a official ceremony. This ceremony bound the lord and also vassal in a contract.While contemporary writers such together Marx point out the an unfavorable qualities the feudalism, such as the exploitation and lack of social mobility because that the peasants, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends that peasants were part of the feudal relationship; while the vassals carry out military service in exchange for the fief, the peasants carry out physical work in return because that protection, thereby obtaining some benefit despite their minimal freedom.The 11th century in France observed what has been referred to as by chroniclers a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and also a “fragmentation that powers” that boosted localized power and autonomy.Key Termsmesne tenant: A mr in the feudal system who had actually vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal the a greater lord.vassals: people who entered into a mutual obligation come a mr or king in the paper definition of the feudal system in medieval Europe.fiefs: Heritable residential or commercial property or civil liberties granted through an emperor to a vassal.homage: In the Middle periods this was the consciousness in i beg your pardon a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic location to his new position.fealty: an oath, indigenous the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness); a pledge that allegiance of one human to another.


Feudalism to be a collection of legal and military custom-mades in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and also 15th centuries. It have the right to be broadly defined as a device for structuring culture around relationships acquired from the stop of land, known as a fiefdom or fief, in exchange for organization or labour.

The classic version of feudalism defines a collection of mutual legal and also military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving about the three key concepts that lords, vassals, and fiefs. A lord was in vast terms a noble who organized land, a vassal was a human being who was granted possession that the floor by the lord, and also a fief to be what the soil was known as. In exchange because that the usage of the fief and the security of the lord, the vassal would carry out some sort of organization to the lord. Over there were numerous varieties of feudal land tenure, consisting of military and non-military service. The obligations and corresponding rights between lord and vassal worrying the fief created the communication of the feudal relationship.

Feudalism, in its miscellaneous forms, usually arised as a result of the decentralization of one empire, particularly in the Carolingian empires, which lacked the governmental infrastructure essential to support cavalry without the capacity to allocate land to these placed troops. Placed soldiers began to certain a device of hereditary preeminence over their allocated land, and also their power over the territory concerned encompass the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres.

Many societies in the Middle periods were defined by feudal organizations, consisting of England, which to be the many structured feudal society, France, Italy, Germany, the divine Roman Empire, and Portugal. Each of these territories developed feudalism in unique ways, and the method we know feudalism together a unified ide today is in big part as result of critiques after ~ its dissolution. Karl Marx theorized feudalism as a pre-capitalist society, defined by the power of the ruling class (the aristocracy) in their control of arable land, resulting in a class society based ~ above the exploitation that the peasants who farm this lands, frequently under serfdom and principally by method of labour, produce, and money rents.

While modern writers such together Marx suggest out the an adverse qualities that feudalism, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends that peasants were an integral component of the feudal relationship: if the vassals performed military company in exchange for the fief, the peasants perform physical labour in return because that protection, thereby acquiring some advantage despite their restricted freedom. Feudalism was thus a facility social and economic system defined by inherited ranks, each of i beg your pardon possessed innate social and economic privileges and obligations. Feudalism permitted societies in the Middle eras to retain a reasonably stable politics structure also as the central power of empires and also kingdoms began to dissolve.

Structure the the Feudal State in England

Feudalism in 12th-century England was among the better structured and established equipment in Europe in ~ the time. The king to be the absolute “owner” of floor in the feudal system, and also all nobles, knights, and also other tenants, termed vassals, just “held” land native the king, who was hence at the height of the feudal pyramid.

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


Before a lord might grant land (a fief) come someone, he had to do that human a vassal. This to be done at a formal and symbolic ceremony called a commendation ceremony, i beg your pardon was composed of the two-part action of homage and also oath that fealty. During homage, the lord and vassal gotten in into a contract in i m sorry the vassal promised come fight for the lord at his command, while the lord agreed to protect the vassal from outside forces.


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

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

The vassal’s duties could likewise involve giving “counsel,” so the if the lord faced a significant decision he would certainly summon every his vassals and hold a council. At the level the the manor this could be a fairly mundane matter of farming policy, however could likewise include sentencing by the mr for criminal offenses, including capital punishment in part cases. In the king’s feudal court, such deliberation can include the question of heralding war. These are only examples; relying on the duration of time and also location in Europe, feudal customs and practices varied.

Feudalism in France

In that origin, the feudal give of land had actually been watched in regards to a personal bond between lord and also vassal, yet with time and also the change of fiefs into hereditary holdings, the nature that the system happened seen together a kind of “politics of land.” The 11th century in France saw what has been called by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and a “fragmentation of powers” that was uneven the advance of feudalism in England, Italy, or Germany in the same period or later. In France, counties and duchies started to failure into smaller sized holdings together castellans and lesser seigneurs took manage of local lands, and also (as comital family members had done before them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a wide selection of prerogatives and also rights that the state—most importantly the highly profitable rights of justice, but also travel dues, sector dues, fees for making use of woodlands, obligations to usage the lord’s mill, etc. Strength in this duration became more personal and also decentralized.

The Manor System

The manor device was an element of feudal culture in the center Ages identified by the legal and also economic strength of the mr of a manor.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the pecking order of the manor device by describing the roles of lords, villeins, and serfs

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe lord of a manor was sustained by his land holdings and also contributions native the peasant population. Serfs who populated land belonging come the lord were forced to occupational the land, and also in return received particular entitlements.Serfdom to be the status of peasants in the manor system, and villeins were the most common kind of serf in the center Ages.Villeins rented small homes with or without land; as component of your contract through the mr they were supposed to invest some time functioning the land.Villeins might not move away there is no the lord’s consent and also the accept of the brand-new lord who manor they to be to relocate to. Because of the defense villeins got from the lord’s manor, that was usually not favorable to move away uneven the landlord showed to be particularly tyrannical.The manor mechanism was consisted of of three varieties of land: demesne, dependent, and totally free peasant land.Manorial structures could be discovered throughout medieval Western and also Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the germanic kingdoms.Key Termsvillein: The many common type of serf in the center Ages. They had an ext rights and a higher status than the lowest serf, however existed under a variety of legal restrictions that distinguished them from freemen.demesne: all the land, no necessarily every physically linked to the manor house, that was kept by the lord of a manor because that his own use and support, under his very own management.serfs: Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It to be a condition of bondage that arisen primarily during the High Middle periods in Europe.freemen: guys who were no serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was crucial element that feudal society and was the organizing principle that rural economy that source in the villa device of the Late roman inn Empire. Manorialism to be widely practiced in medieval Western Europe and parts of main Europe, and was slowly replaced through the arrival of a money-based market economic situation and brand-new forms that agrarian contract.

Manorialism was defined by the vesting of legal and also economic power in the mr of a manor. The mr was supported financially from his own straight landholding in a manor (sometimes called a fief), and from the obligatory contribute of the peasant populace who fell under the jurisdiction the the lord and also his court. These obligations could be payable in several ways: in labor, in kind, or, on rarely occasions, in coin. Manorial structures could be discovered throughout middle ages Western and Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the germanic kingdoms.

The main reason because that the advance of the mechanism was perhaps likewise its best strength: the stabilization of culture during the damage of Roman imperial order. With a decreasing birthrate and also population, job was the crucial factor of production. Successive managements tried to stabilize the imperial economic situation by freeze the society structure into place: sons were to succeed your fathers in your trade, councilors were forbidden to resign, and also coloni, the cultivators the land, were no to relocate from the land they to be attached to. The workers of the land were on their way to ending up being serfs. Together the german kingdoms flourished Roman authority in the West in the 5th century, roman inn landlords were frequently simply changed by Gothic or germanic ones, with small change come the underlying situation or displacement that populations. For this reason the system of manorialism came to be ingrained right into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each consisted of three class of land:

Demesne, the component directly controlled by the lord and also used because that the benefit of his household and dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings transferring the obligation that the peasant family members supply the mr with mentioned labor services or a component of the output; andFree peasant land, without together obligation yet otherwise topic to manorial jurisdiction and custom, and owing money rent resolved at the moment of the lease.

Additional resources of revenue for the lord included charges for usage of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or for the appropriate to hunt or to let pigs feeding in his woodland, and court earnings and solitary payments ~ above each change of tenant. Top top the other side of the account, manorial management involved far-ranging expenses, maybe a factor why smaller mansions tended come rely much less on villein tenure.


Serfdom to be the condition of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage that developed primarily during the Middle eras in Europe.

Serfs who occupied a plot of floor were compelled to work-related for the mr of the manor who owned that land, and also in return were entitled come protection, justice, and the ideal to exploit certain fields within the manor to preserve their very own subsistence. Serfs to be often forced to job-related on not just the lord’s fields, but also his mines, forests, and roads. The manor developed the an easy unit of feudal society, and the lord of a manor and his serfs were bound legally, economically, and also socially. Serfs formed the lowest class of feudal society.


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

Many of the negative components of manorialism, and feudalism in general, revolve approximately the bondage that the serf, his lack of social mobility, and his low place on the social hierarchy. However, a serf had actually some freedoms in ~ his constraints. Though the common wisdom is the a serf own “only his belly”—even his clothing were the property, in law, of his lord—he could still accumulate an individual property and also wealth, and some serfs ended up being wealthier than their free neighbors, back this happened rarely. A well-to-do serf could even have the ability to buy his freedom. A serf could grow what plants he experienced fit on his lands, back a serf’s taxes often had come be payment in wheat. The surplus plants he would offer at market.

The landlord could not dispossess his serfs without legal cause, was an alleged to safeguard them from the crimes of robbers or other lords, and was expected to support them through charity in times of famine. Countless such rights were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) was the many common type of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had much more rights and a higher status than the lowest serf, yet existed under a variety of legal constraints that identified them indigenous freemen. Villeins normally rented tiny homes through or there is no land. As part of the contract v the landlord, the lord of the manor, lock were meant to spend few of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contrary to renowned belief, the necessity was not frequently greatly onerous, and was regularly only seasonal, together was the duty to aid at harvest-time, because that example. The rest of villeins’ time was spent farming their very own land because that their very own profit.

Like other varieties of serfs, villeins were compelled to carry out other services, possibly in enhancement to paying rent the money or produce. Villeins were tied to the land and could not move away without your lord’s consent and the acceptance of the lord to whose manor lock proposed to migrate to. Villeins were usually able to hold their very own property, unequal slaves.

Villeinage was no a purely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the center Ages, land within a lord’s manor provided sustenance and survival, and being a villein guaranteed accessibility to land and kept crops secure native theft by marauding robbers. Landlords, even where legally licensed has been granted to do so, seldom evicted villeins, since of the value of their labour. Villeinage was preferable to gift a vagabond, a slave, or an un-landed laborer.

In countless medieval countries, a villein can gain liberty by escaping from a manor to a city or borough and living there for much more than a year, yet this action involved the loss of land rights and agricultural livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was specifically tyrannical or problems in the village were unusually difficult.


Plowing a French ar (French ducal manor in march Les Très riches Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410): In the foreground, a farmer plowing a ar with a plow traction by two oxen; male the leader v a long pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and till the soil with a hoe to aerate the soil. ~ above the right, a guy leans top top a bag, presumably to draw seeds the he will then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd take away the dog the keeps his flock. In the elevator is the castle of Lusignan (Poitou), property of the fight it out of Berry. Seen on the right of the picture, over the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.

Trade and Commerce

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

Learning Objectives

List the factors that resulted in a change in commerce and also trade in the Late middle Ages

Key Takeaways

Key PointsExplorers opened up up brand-new trade courses to the southern of Africa, India, and America as result of the leading position the the Ottoman empire impeding trade courses to the west.The Commercial change began in the late-13th and early-14th centuries with the climb of insurance allowance issuing, creates of credit, and brand-new forms of accountancy allowing for far better financial oversight and accuracy.In England, the dilemmas caused by the an excellent Famine and the Black fatality from 1290–1348, and subsequent epidemics, created many difficulties for the economy, culminating in the Peasant ‘s Revolt.The English farming economy continued to be depressed throughout the 15th century, with expansion coming indigenous the substantially increased English cloth trade and manufacturing.Fairs flourished in popularity, reaching their heyday in the 13th century, as the global wool trade increased. Despite an overall decline after the 14th century, the good fairs ongoing to play critical role in trading money and local commerce.In cities linked to the north Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League arisen as a trade monopoly.Key Termsguild: association of artist or vendors who managed the exercise of their craft in a particular town. They were arranged in a manner comparable to something in between a experienced association and also a profession union.usury: The practice of make unethical or immoral monetary loans to plan to unfair enrich the lender.bullion: gold bars, silver- bars, and also other precious metals bars or ingots.Ottoman Empire: empire founded through Oghuz Turks under Osman Bey in northwestern Anatolia in 1299 and also dissolved in 1923 in the results of people War I, forming the brand-new state that Turkey.

During the Late center Ages, the increasingly leading position of the Ottoman empire in the east Mediterranean presented an impediment to profession for the Christian nations of the west, who started trying to find alternatives. Portuguese and Spanish explorers found new trade paths south the Africa come India, and across the Atlantic s to America.

Start the the advertisement Revolution

In the late-13th and early-14th centuries, a process took place—primarily in Italy however partly likewise in the holy Roman Empire—that historians have termed a “commercial revolution.” among the developments of the duration were new forms the partnership and also the issuing the insurance, both the which contributed to reducing the risk of commercial ventures; the bill of exchange and other forms of credit transaction that circumvented the canonical regulations for gentiles against usury and eliminated the dangers of delivering bullion; and brand-new forms of accounting, in specific double-entry bookkeeping, which allowed for better oversight and also accuracy.


With the financial expansion, trading civil liberties were an ext jealously guarded by the advertising elite. Communities saw the cultivation power of guilds that arose in the 14th century as craftsmen uniting to protect their typical interest. The illustration of the european guilds to be tied come the emergent money economy and also to urbanization. Prior to this time it was not possible to run a money-driven organization, as commodity money was the normal means of doing business.

In medieval cities, craftsmen began to type associations based on their trades. Confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, and also glass workers, all controlled secrets the traditionally imparted technology—the “arts” or “mysteries” of your crafts. Commonly the founders were free independent grasp craftsmen that hired apprentices. This guilds were organized in a manner comparable to something between a skilled association, a profession union, a cartel, and also a mystery society. They often depended on grants of letter patented by a king or various other authority to enforce the flow of profession to your self-employed members, and also to retain property of tools and also the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds room the guildhalls constructed and used as conference places.

Where guilds were in control, they shaped labor, production, and also trade; they had strong controls over instructional capital, and the modern concepts the a life time progression the apprentice to craftsman, and then from journeyman ultimately to widely well-known master and also grandmaster, started to emerge. European guilds imposed long standardized durations of apprenticeship and made it difficult for those doing not have the funding to set up for themselves or there is no the approval of their peers come gain access to materials or knowledge, or to sell into specific markets, one area that equally overcame the guilds’ concerns. These are defining qualities of mercantilism in economics, which conquered most european thinking around political economy until the increase of timeless economics.

Hanseatic League

In cities attached to the phibìc Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League emerged as a trade monopoly. This promoted the growth of trade amongst cities in nearby proximity to these 2 seas. Long-distance trade in the Baltic intensified as the significant trading communities came together in the Hanseatic organization under the leadership of Lübeck.

The Hanseatic league was a company alliance of trade cities and also their guilds that dominated trade follow me the shore of northern Europe and flourished native 1200–1500, and continued through lesser prestige after that. The chief cities were Cologne on the Rhine River, Hamburg and Bremen top top the phibìc Sea, and Lübeck ~ above the Baltic Sea. The Hanseatic urban each had their very own legal system and also a level of politics autonomy.

The league was started for the purpose of joining forces for fostering mercantile interests, defensive strength, and also political influence. By the 14th century, the Hanseatic League held a near-monopoly on profession in the Baltic, particularly with Novgorod and also Scandinavia.

English Economy

The crises caused by the an excellent Famine and also the black color Death between 1290 and also 1348, and also subsequent epidemics, developed many difficulties for the English economy. The Peasant’s revolt of 1381 had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions produced by the Black death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France throughout the hundred Years’ War, and also instability in ~ the local leadership of London.

Although the revolt was suppressed, it undermined numerous of the vestiges of the feudal financial order and the countryside became dominated by mansions organized as farms, frequently owned or rented by the new economic class of the gentry. The English agricultural economy remained depressed transparent the 15th century, with expansion coming native the substantially increased English fabric trade and manufacturing.

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From the 12th century onwards, plenty of English towns obtained a charter from the Crown allowing them to organize an yearly fair, typically serving a local or regional customer base and lasting for two or 3 days. Fairs grew in popularity, getting to their heyday in the 13th century, together the international wool trade increased. The fairs enabled English structure producers and ports on the east coastline to connect with visiting international merchants, circumnavigating those English sellers in London to crawl to do a profit as middlemen. In ~ the very same time, rich magnate consumers in England began to usage the new fairs together a method to buy items like spices, wax, preserved fish, and also foreign fabric in bulk from the international merchants at the fairs, again bypassing the normal London merchants.