Feudalism to be a set of legal and military custom-mades in medieval Europe the was identified by the property of land.

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Learning Objectives

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

Key Takeaways

Key PointsFeudalism flourished in Europe between the 9th and also 15th centuries.Feudalism in England figured out the structure of society around relationships obtained from the holding and also leasing that land, or fiefs.In England, the feudal pyramid was consisted of of the king in ~ the top with the nobles, knights, and vassals listed below him.Before a lord can grant land come a tenant that would need to make him a vassal in ~ a formal ceremony. This ceremony tied the lord and vassal in a contract.While modern writers such as Marx suggest out the an adverse qualities that feudalism, such together the exploitation and lack of society mobility because that the peasants, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends the peasants were part of the feudal relationship; when the vassals carry out military business in exchange for the fief, the peasants carry out physical work in return for protection, thereby getting some benefit despite their restricted freedom.The 11th century in France witnessed what has been referred to as by chroniclers a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and also a “fragmentation the powers” that boosted localized power and also autonomy.Key Termsmesne tenant: A mr in the feudal system who had actually vassals who hosted land from him, however who was himself the vassal the a higher lord.vassals: persons who entered into a common obligation to a mr or monarch in the context of the feudal mechanism in medieval Europe.fiefs: Heritable building or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal.homage: In the Middle eras this to be the ceremony 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 brand-new position.fealty: an oath, from the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness); a pledge of allegiance of one human to another.


Feudalism to be a set of legal and also military customizeds in medieval Europe the flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. It can be extensively defined together a system for structuring culture around relationships obtained from the hold of land, well-known as a fiefdom or fief, in exchange for service or labour.

The standard version of feudalism explains a set of reciprocal legal and also military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving approximately the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. A lord was in broad terms a noble who held land, a vassal to be a human who was granted possession of the land by the lord, and also a fief to be what the land was known as. In exchange because that the use of the fief and also the protection of the lord, the vassal would carry out some kind of organization to the lord. There were plenty of varieties the feudal soil tenure, consist of of military and also non-military service. The obligations and also corresponding rights in between lord and also vassal concerning the fief formed the communication of the feudal relationship.

Feudalism, in its assorted forms, usually emerged as a an outcome of the decentralization of an empire, especially in the Carolingian empires, which short the administrative infrastructure crucial to support cavalry without the ability to clues land come these an installed troops. An installed soldiers began to for sure a mechanism of hereditary dominion over their allocated land, and their power over the territory concerned encompass the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres.

Many cultures in the Middle periods were identified by feudal organizations, consisting of England, which was the many structured feudal society, France, Italy, Germany, the holy Roman Empire, and also Portugal. Every of this territories developed feudalism in unique ways, and also the method we know feudalism as a unified principle today is in large part due to critiques ~ its dissolution. Knife Marx theorized feudalism together a pre-capitalist society, identified by the strength of the ruling class (the aristocracy) in their control of arable land, causing a class culture based ~ above the exploitation that the peasants who farm this lands, commonly under serfdom and also principally by means of labour, produce, and also money rents.

While modern-day writers such as Marx point out the negative qualities the feudalism, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends the peasants were an integral part of the feudal relationship: when the vassals performed military company in exchange for the fief, the peasants performed physical work in return because that protection, thereby acquiring some benefit despite their minimal freedom. Feudalism was hence a complex social and economic system characterized by inherited ranks, each of which possessed inherent social and also economic privileges and obligations. Feudalism enabled societies in the Middle periods to maintain a reasonably stable political structure also as the centralized power that empires and also kingdoms began to dissolve.

Structure the the Feudal State in England

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

Below the king in the feudal pyramid to be a tenant-in-chief (generally in the type of a baron or knight), who was a vassal that the king. Holding native the tenant-in-chief to be a mesne tenant —generally a items or baron who was occasionally a tenant-in-chief in their capacity as holder of various other fiefs. Listed below the mesne tenant, further mesne tenants can hold from each other in series.


Before a lord can grant floor (a fief) come someone, he had to make that human a vassal. This was done in ~ a formal and also symbolic ceremony referred to as a commendation ceremony, which was written of the two-part action of homage and oath that fealty. During homage, the lord and also vassal gotten in into a contract in i m sorry the vassal promised come fight because that the mr at his command, when the mr agreed to defend the vassal from external forces.


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

Once the commendation ceremony to be complete, the lord and also vassal to be in a feudal partnership with agreed responsibilities to one another. The vassal’s major obligation come the mr was “aid,” or armed forces service. Using whatever devices the vassal could achieve by virtue the the revenues from the fief, he was responsible for answering calls come military service on behalf of the lord. This protection of military assist was the major reason the lord gotten in 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 at the king’s court.

The vassal’s obligations could likewise involve giving “counsel,” so the if the lord faced a major decision he would certainly summon every his vassals and hold a council. In ~ the level that the manor this might be a relatively mundane issue of farming policy, however could likewise include sentencing by the mr for criminal offenses, including resources punishment in part cases. In the king’s feudal court, such deliberation might include the inquiry of declaring war. This are only examples; relying on the period of time and location in Europe, feudal customs and practices varied.

Feudalism in France

In the origin, the feudal grant of land had been seen in regards to a an individual bond in between lord and vassal, but with time and the revolution of fiefs right into hereditary holdings, the nature the the system became seen as a kind of “politics of land.” The 11th century in France saw what has actually 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 also duchies started to breakdown into smaller sized holdings as castellans and also lesser seigneurs took regulate of regional lands, and also (as comital households had done prior to them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a wide range of prerogatives and rights the the state—most importantly the highly financially rewarding rights of justice, but also travel dues, sector dues, fees for making use of woodlands, responsibilities to usage the lord’s mill, etc. Power in this period became more personal and also decentralized.

The Manor System

The manor mechanism was an aspect of feudal culture in the middle Ages characterized by the legal and also economic power of the lord of a manor.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the hierarchy of the manor system by explicate the duties of lords, villeins, and serfs

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe lord of a manor was sustained by his soil holdings and also contributions indigenous the peasant population. Serfs who occupied land belonging come the mr were forced to job-related the land, and in return received specific entitlements.Serfdom was the status of peasants in the manor system, and villeins were the most common type of serf in the middle Ages.Villeins rented small homes v or there is no land; as part of your contract with the mr they were supposed to invest some time functioning the land.Villeins might not relocate away without the lord’s consent and also the accept of the new lord whose manor they were to move to. Because of the defense villeins obtained from the lord’s manor, that was normally not favorable to relocate away uneven the landlord verified to be especially tyrannical.The manor system was comprised of three types of land: demesne, dependent, and totally free peasant land.Manorial structures might be found throughout medieval Western and Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the germanic kingdoms.Key Termsvillein: The many common form of serf in the center Ages. Castle had more rights and a higher status 보다 the shortest serf, yet existed under a variety of legal constraints that identified them from freemen.demesne: every the land, not necessarily all physically linked to the manor house, the was preserved by the lord of a manor for his own use and support, under his own management.serfs: Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It to be a problem of bondage that emerged primarily throughout the High Middle ages in Europe.freemen: males who were not serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was vital element that feudal culture and to be the arranging principle that rural economic situation that source in the villa system of the Late roman Empire. Manorialism was widely exercised in medieval Western Europe and also parts of main Europe, and also was gradually replaced by the introduction of a money-based market economy and new forms of agrarian contract.

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

The key reason because that the advance of the system was perhaps likewise its biggest strength: the stabilization of society during the damage of Roman imperial order. Through a declining birthrate and also population, labor was the crucial factor that production. Successive managements tried to stabilize the imperial economic situation by freezing the society structure right into place: sons were to succeed your fathers in their trade, councilors to be forbidden come resign, and also coloni, the cultivators the land, were not to move from the land they to be attached to. The workers of the land to be on their method to becoming serfs. Together the german kingdoms succeeded Roman government in the West in the fifth century, roman inn landlords were regularly simply replaced by Gothic or germanic ones, with small change to the underlying case or displacement the populations. Thus the mechanism of manorialism came to be ingrained right into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each had three class of land:

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

Additional resources of revenue for the lord had charges for use of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or for the appropriate to hunt or to let pigs feeding in his woodland, and also court profits and single payments top top each adjust of tenant. On the various other side that the account, manorial administration involved far-reaching expenses, probably a factor why smaller manors tended come rely much less on villein tenure.


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

Serfs who occupied a plot of soil were required to work-related for the lord of the manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled come protection, justice, and also the appropriate to exploit particular fields in ~ the manor to maintain their very own subsistence. Serfs were often required to job-related on not only the lord’s fields, but additionally his mines, forests, and also roads. The manor created the straightforward unit that feudal society, and the mr of a manor and also his serfs were bound legally, economically, and socially. Serfs created the lowest class of feudal society.


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

Many the the an unfavorable components of manorialism, and feudalism in general, revolve approximately the bondage the the serf, his lack of social mobility, and his low position on the social hierarchy. However, a serf had some freedoms in ~ his constraints. Despite the common wisdom is that a serf owned “only his belly”—even his clothing were the property, in law, of his lord—he might still accumulate personal property and also wealth, and some serfs became wealthier 보다 their free neighbors, although this occurred rarely. A well-to-do serf could even have the ability to buy his freedom. A serf can grow what crops he saw fit ~ above his lands, return a serf’s taxes frequently had to be paid in wheat. The surplus plants he would sell at market.

The landlord can not dispossess his serfs without legal cause, was supposed to safeguard them native the crimes of robbers or various other lords, and was supposed to support them by charity in times of famine. Many such legal rights were enforceable by the serf in the manorial court.


A villein (or villain) was the most common kind of serf in the middle Ages. Villeins had more rights and also a higher status 보다 the shortest serf, yet existed under a number of legal restrictions that identified them from freemen. Villeins normally rented little homes v or without land. As part of the contract v the landlord, the mr of the manor, they were meant to spend some of their time functioning on the lord’s fields. Contradictory to renowned belief, the necessity was not regularly greatly onerous, and was regularly only seasonal, together was the duty to help at harvest-time, because that example. The rest of villeins’ time was spent farming their own land for their own profit.

Like other species of serfs, villeins were required to carry out other services, perhaps in addition to payment rent of money or produce. Villeins were tied to the land and could not move away without your lord’s consent and also the accept of the mr to who manor lock proposed to migrate to. Villeins were normally able to hold their own property, unequal slaves.

Villeinage was no a purely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the middle 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 through marauding robbers. Landlords, also where legally entitled to carry out so, hardly ever evicted villeins, because of the value of your labour. Villeinage was preferable to gift a vagabond, a slave, or one un-landed laborer.

In countless medieval countries, a villein can gain liberty by escaping from a manor to a city or borough and also living over there for an ext than a year, but this action involved the lose of land civil liberties and farming livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was particularly tyrannical or problems in the village were person who is abnormal difficult.


Plowing a French field (French ducal manor in march Les Très wide range Heures du Duc de Berry, c.1410): In the foreground, a farmer plowing a ar with a plow pulled by two oxen; male the leader with a long pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and also till the soil v a hoe come aerate the soil. On the right, a man leans top top a bag, presumably to attract seeds that he will certainly then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd takes the dog the keeps his flock. In the elevator is the lock of Lusignan (Poitou), home of the duke of Berry. Viewed on the appropriate of the picture, over the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.

Trade and Commerce

Trade began to expand during the late-13th and early-14th century as creates of partnerships and also financing began to appear.

Learning Objectives

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

Key Takeaways

Key PointsExplorers opened up brand-new trade paths to the southern of Africa, India, and America as result of the leading position the the Ottoman empire impeding trade routes to the west.The Commercial transformation began in the late-13th and also early-14th centuries v the increase of insurance money issuing, forms of credit, and brand-new forms of accountancy allowing for better financial oversight and accuracy.In England, the crises caused by the an excellent Famine and also the Black fatality from 1290–1348, and also subsequent epidemics, developed many challenges for the economy, culminating in the Peasant ‘s Revolt.The English agricultural economy remained depressed transparent the 15th century, with growth coming indigenous the considerably increased English towel trade and manufacturing.Fairs thrived in popularity, getting to their heyday in the 13th century, together the international wool profession increased. Regardless of an overall decline after the 14th century, the great fairs continued to play an important role in exchanging money and regional commerce.In cities linked to the north Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League arisen as a trade monopoly.Key Termsguild: association of artisans or sellers who managed the exercise of your craft in a certain town. They were arranged in a manner similar to something in between a expert association and a trade union.usury: The practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans intended to unfair enrich the lender.bullion: yellow bars, silver bars, and other precious steels bars or ingots.Ottoman Empire: realm founded by Oghuz Turks under Osman Bey in northwestern Anatolia in 1299 and dissolved in 1923 in the results of human being War I, creating the new state of Turkey.

During the Late middle Ages, the increasingly dominant position the the Ottoman realm in the east Mediterranean gift an impediment to trade for the Christian countries of the west, that started trying to find alternatives. Portuguese and Spanish explorers found new trade altoalsimce.org south of Africa come India, and across the Atlantic s to America.

Start of the advertising Revolution

In the late-13th and early-14th centuries, a procedure took place—primarily in Italy yet partly additionally in the divine Roman Empire—that historians have termed a “commercial revolution.” among the advancements of the period were brand-new forms the partnership and also the issuing that insurance, both the which contributed to reducing the risk of advertising ventures; the invoice of exchange and also other creates of credit that circumvented the canonical regulations for gentiles against usury and also eliminated the risks of transferring bullion; and new forms the accounting, in specific double-entry bookkeeping, which permitted for much better oversight and also accuracy.


With the jae won expansion, trading rights were much more jealously guarded through the advertisement elite. Towns saw the farming power that guilds that emerged in the 14th century together craftsmen uniting to safeguard their usual interest. The figure of the europe guilds was tied to the emergent money economy and also to urbanization. Prior to this time it to be not possible to operation a money-driven organization, together commodity money to be the normal means of act business.

In medieval cities, craftsmen started to type associations based upon 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. Commonly the founders were cost-free independent grasp craftsmen who hired apprentices. These guilds were arranged in a manner comparable to something in between a experienced association, a trade union, a cartel, and a mystery society. Castle often relied on grants of letters patented through a king or various other authority come enforce the circulation of profession to their self-employed members, and 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 to be in control, they shame labor, production, and also trade; they had strong controls over instructional capital, and the modern concepts that a life time progression that apprentice to craftsman, and also then from journeyman at some point to widely known master and grandmaster, started to emerge. European guilds implemented long standardized durations of apprenticeship and made it complicated for those doing not have the resources to set up for themselves or there is no the approval of their peers to gain access to products or knowledge, or to offer into particular markets, an area the equally overcame the guilds’ concerns. These space defining characteristics of mercantilism in economics, which conquered most europe thinking around political economy until the climb of classical economics.

Hanseatic League

In cities attached to the phibìc Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League occurred as a profession monopoly. This facilitated the development of trade amongst cities in near proximity to these two seas. Long-distance trade in the Baltic intensified as the major trading communities came together in the Hanseatic league under the leadership of Lübeck.

The Hanseatic league was a organization alliance of commerce cities and their guilds that dominated trade along the coast of north Europe and flourished native 1200–1500, and continued through lesser importance after that. The chief urban were Cologne ~ above the Rhine River, Hamburg and also Bremen ~ above the phibìc Sea, and also Lübeck ~ above the Baltic Sea. The Hanseatic cities each had actually their own legal system and a level of political autonomy.

The league was founded for the function of joining pressures for promoting mercantile interests, defensive strength, and political influence. Through the 14th century, the Hanseatic League hosted a near-monopoly on trade in the Baltic, particularly with Novgorod and also Scandinavia.

English Economy

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

Although the revolt was suppressed, it undermined numerous of the vestiges that the feudal financial order and the countryside came to be dominated by estates organized together farms, frequently owned or rented through 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 manufacturing.

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From the 12th century onwards, plenty of English towns acquired a charter indigenous the Crown allowing them to host an annual fair, usually serving a regional or local customer base and also lasting for 2 or 3 days. Fairs flourished in popularity, reaching their heyday in the 13th century, as the international wool trade increased. The fairs allowed English wool producers and ports ~ above the east coast to communicate with visiting international merchants, circumnavigating those English vendors in London to crawl to do a profit as middlemen. At the exact same time, wealthy magnate consumer in England started to usage the brand-new fairs together a way to buy goods like spices, wax, kept fish, and also foreign cloth in mass from the worldwide merchants in ~ the fairs, again bypassing the usual London merchants.