Feudalism was a collection of legal and military personalizeds in medieval Europe the was established by the ownership of land.

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Learning Objectives

Recall the framework of the feudal state and also the responsibilities and 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 structure of culture around relationships derived from the holding and also leasing that land, or fiefs.In England, the feudal pyramid was comprised of the king at the top with the nobles, knights, and also vassals listed below him.Before a lord can grant land to a tenant the would need to make him a vassal in ~ a official ceremony. This ceremony bound the lord and also vassal in a contract.While modern writers such together Marx point out the an unfavorable qualities of feudalism, such together the exploitation and also lack of society mobility because that the peasants, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends the peasants were part of the feudal relationship; if the vassals perform military company in exchange because that the fief, the peasants performed physical work in return for protection, thereby getting some advantage despite their restricted freedom.The 11th century in France observed what has been dubbed by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and a “fragmentation the powers” that boosted localized power and also autonomy.Key Termsmesne tenant: A lord in the feudal device who had actually vassals who organized land native him, however who was himself the vassal that a higher lord.vassals: persons who entered into a shared obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe.fiefs: Heritable property or legal rights granted by 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 also submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic title to his brand-new position.fealty: an oath, from the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness); a pledge that allegiance of one human to another.


Feudalism to be a collection of legal and military personalizeds in medieval Europe that flourished in between the 9th and also 15th centuries. It deserve to be generally defined together a system for structuring society around relationships obtained from the hold of land, well-known as a fiefdom or fief, in exchange for service or labour.

The classic version of feudalism defines a collection of reciprocal legal and also military obligations amongst the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts the lords, vassals, and fiefs. A mr was in wide terms a noble who organized land, a vassal was a person who to be granted possession of the land by the lord, and also a fief was what the soil was well-known as. In exchange because that the usage of the fief and the security of the lord, the vassal would provide some type of company to the lord. There were plenty of varieties the feudal land tenure, consists of military and also non-military service. The obligations and also corresponding rights between lord and vassal worrying the fief formed the basis of the feudal relationship.

Feudalism, in its miscellaneous forms, usually emerged as a result of the decentralization of an empire, specifically in the Carolingian empires, which lacked the governmental infrastructure vital to support cavalry without the ability to allocate land come these placed troops. An installed soldiers started to secure a mechanism of hereditary dominion over your allocated land, and their power over the territory involved encompass the social, political, judicial, and also economic spheres.

Many cultures in the Middle ages were characterized by feudal organizations, including England, which to be the most structured feudal society, France, Italy, Germany, the holy Roman Empire, and Portugal. Every of this territories developed feudalism in distinctive ways, and also the method we understand feudalism as a unified concept today is in big part because of critiques ~ its dissolution. Knife Marx theorized feudalism together a pre-capitalist society, characterized by the strength of the ruling class (the aristocracy) in their regulate of arable land, bring about a class society based ~ above the exploitation of the peasants that farm this lands, commonly under serfdom and principally by method of labour, produce, and also money rents.

While modern writers such as Marx suggest out the negative qualities of feudalism, the French chronicler Marc Bloch contends that peasants to be an integral part of the feudal relationship: when the vassals carry out military service in exchange because that the fief, the peasants perform physical labour in return because that protection, thereby gaining some benefit despite their minimal freedom. Feudalism was thus a complex social and economic system identified by inherited ranks, every of which possessed inherent social and economic privileges and also obligations. Feudalism enabled societies in the Middle eras to retain a relatively stable politics structure also as the centralized power that empires and kingdoms began to dissolve.

Structure of the Feudal State in England

Feudalism in 12th-century England was amongst the much better structured and also established equipment in Europe at the time. The king was the absolute “owner” of land in the feudal system, and all nobles, knights, and other tenants, termed vassals, merely “held” land indigenous the king, who was hence at the top 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), who was a vassal the the king. Holding from the tenant-in-chief to be a mesne tenant —generally a article or baron who was sometimes a tenant-in-chief in their volume as holder of other fiefs. Listed below the mesne tenant, further mesne tenants can hold from each various other in series.


Before a lord might grant floor (a fief) come someone, he had to make that human being a vassal. This was done in ~ a formal and also symbolic ceremony referred to as a commendation ceremony, i m sorry was created of the two-part plot of homage and also oath the fealty. Throughout homage, the lord and vassal gone into into a contract in i beg your pardon the vassal promised come fight for the mr at his command, while the mr agreed to defend the vassal from external forces.


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

Once the commendation ceremony to be complete, the lord and also vassal to be in a feudal relationship with agreed obligations to one another. The vassal’s principal obligation come the mr was “aid,” or army service. Using whatever tools the vassal could achieve by virtue the the earnings from the fief, he was responsible because that answering calls to military service on behalf of the lord. This security of military assist was the main reason the lord gone into into the feudal relationship. In addition, the vassal could have various other obligations to his lord, such together attendance in ~ his court, even if it is manorial or baronial, or in ~ the king’s court.

The vassal’s responsibilities could likewise involve offering “counsel,” so the if the lord confronted a significant decision he would summon every his vassals and also hold a council. At the level that the manor this can be a fairly mundane matter of agricultural policy, yet could also include sentencing by the lord for criminal offenses, including funding punishment in some cases. In the king’s feudal court, together deliberation can include the question of declaring war. This are just examples; relying on the duration of time and also location in Europe, feudal customs and also practices varied.

Feudalism in France

In its origin, the feudal approve of land had actually been checked out in terms of a an individual bond in between lord and vassal, however with time and the transformation of fiefs right into hereditary holdings, the nature the the system became seen as a form of “politics that land.” The 11th century in France observed what has actually been called by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and also a “fragmentation of powers” that was unlike the advance of feudalism in England, Italy, or Germany in the same period or later. In France, counties and also duchies started to break down into smaller holdings as castellans and also lesser seigneurs took control of neighborhood lands, and also (as comital family members had done before them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a wide selection of prerogatives and also rights of the state—most important the highly lucrative rights of justice, but additionally travel dues, market dues, fees for making use of woodlands, duties to use the lord’s mill, etc. Power in this period became an ext personal and decentralized.

The Manor System

The manor system was an aspect of feudal culture in the center Ages identified by the legal and economic power of the mr of a manor.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the power structure of the manor mechanism by relenten the functions of lords, villeins, and also serfs

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe mr of a manor was sustained by his land holdings and also contributions native the peasant population. Serfs who populated land belonging to the mr were compelled to job-related the land, and also in return received certain entitlements.Serfdom was the status of peasants in the manor system, and also villeins were the many common type of serf in the middle Ages.Villeins rented small homes v or without land; as part of your contract with the mr they were intended to spend some time functioning the land.Villeins can not move away without the lord’s consent and also the acceptance of the new lord whose manor they were to relocate to. Because of the defense villeins obtained from the lord’s manor, the was usually not favorable to relocate away uneven the landlord verified to be specifically tyrannical.The manor device was made up of three varieties of land: demesne, dependent, and cost-free peasant land.Manorial structures might be discovered throughout middle ages Western and also Eastern Europe: in Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Baltic nations, Holland, Prussia, England, France, and also the german kingdoms.Key Termsvillein: The most common kind of serf in the center Ages. Lock had an ext rights and also a greater status 보다 the lowest serf, but existed under a variety of legal limitations that differentiated them native freemen.demesne: all the land, no necessarily all physically associated to the manor house, the was maintained by the mr of a manor for his very own use and support, under his own management.serfs: Peasants under feudalism, specifically relating come manorialism. It to be a problem of bondage that occurred primarily throughout the High Middle ages in Europe.freemen: guys who were not serfs in the feudal system.

Manorialism was an important element the feudal culture and was the organizing principle that rural economic situation that source in the villa system of the Late roman inn Empire. Manorialism to be widely practiced in medieval Western Europe and also parts of main Europe, and was progressively replaced through the development of a money-based market economic climate and brand-new forms the agrarian contract.

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

The main reason because that the breakthrough of the system was perhaps likewise its best strength: the stabilization of culture during the devastation of Roman imperial order. With a declining birthrate and population, job was the vital factor that production. Successive administrations tried come stabilize the imperial economic climate by freeze the social structure right into place: sons to be to succeed your fathers in your trade, councilors were forbidden to resign, and also coloni, the cultivators of land, were not to relocate from the soil they to be attached to. The employees of the land were on their method to coming to be serfs. As the germanic kingdoms succeeded Roman government in the West in the 5th century, roman landlords were often simply changed by Gothic or german ones, with tiny change come the underlying case or displacement that populations. Thus the mechanism of manorialism ended up being ingrained into medieval societies.

The Manor System

Manors each had three great of land:

Demesne, the component directly managed by the lord and also used for the benefit of his household and also dependents;Dependent (serf or villein) holdings transporting the responsibility that the peasant family members supply the mr with stated labor solutions or a component of that output; andFree peasant land, without together obligation yet otherwise subject to manorial jurisdiction and also custom, and owing money rent fixed at the time of the lease.

Additional sources of earnings for the lord included charges for usage of his mill, bakery, or wine-press, or because that the best to hunting or to let pigs feeding in his woodland, and court earnings and single payments ~ above each change of tenant. ~ above the other side that the account, manorial management involved far-ranging expenses, possibly a factor why smaller chateaus tended come rely much less on villein tenure.


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

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


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

Many of the negative components of manorialism, and feudalism in general, revolve roughly the bondage of the serf, his absence of social mobility, and also his low place on the social hierarchy. However, a serf had actually some freedoms within his constraints. Despite the typical wisdom is that a serf owned “only his belly”—even his apparel were the property, in law, that his lord—he could still accumulate an individual property and wealth, and also some serfs became wealthier than their cost-free neighbors, back this happened rarely. A well-to-do serf could even have the ability to buy his freedom. A serf might grow what plants he observed fit ~ above his lands, although 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 without legal cause, was an alleged to safeguard them native the depredations of robbers or various other lords, and also was meant to support them by charity in times of famine. Plenty of such civil liberties 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 more rights and a higher status than the shortest serf, however existed under a variety of legal restrictions that identified them native freemen. Villeins generally rented little homes v or there is no land. As component of the contract v the landlord, the mr of the manor, they were supposed to spend some of their time working on the lord’s fields. Contrary to popular belief, the requirement was not regularly greatly onerous, and was often only seasonal, as was the duty to aid at harvest-time, because that example. The rest of villeins’ time was invested farming their very own land for their very own profit.

Like other species of serfs, villeins were forced to provide other services, maybe in enhancement to paying rent that money or produce. Villeins were tied come the land and could not relocate away without their lord’s consent and the acceptance of the mr to whose manor castle proposed to move to. Villeins were generally 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 noted sustenance and also survival, and also being a villein guaranteed access to land and also kept crops secure from theft through marauding robbers. Landlords, also where legally licensed has been granted to execute so, hardly ever evicted villeins, because of the value of their labour. Villeinage to be preferable to gift a vagabond, a slave, or an un-landed laborer.

In countless medieval countries, a villein could gain freedom by escaping indigenous a manor to a city or borough and also living over there for more than a year, but this action involved the loss of land civil liberties and agricultural livelihood, a prohibitive price uneven the landlord was specifically tyrannical or problems in the town were unusually 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 traction by two oxen; male the leader through a lengthy pole. Winemakers prune the vine in a pen and till the soil with a hoe to aerate the soil. ~ above the right, a male leans ~ above a bag, presumably to draw seeds the he will certainly then sow. Finally, in the background, a shepherd take away the dog that keeps his flock. In the background is the lock of Lusignan (Poitou), home of the fight it out of Berry. Watched on the best of the picture, above the tower Poitiers, is a winged dragon representing the fairy Melusine.

Trade and Commerce

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

Learning Objectives

List the determinants that caused a readjust in commerce and also trade in the Late middle Ages

Key Takeaways

Key PointsExplorers opened up up new trade routes to the south of Africa, India, and also America as result of the leading position that the Ottoman empire impeding trade routes to the west.The Commercial transformation began in the late-13th and also early-14th centuries through the climb of insurance money issuing, forms of credit, and brand-new forms of accounting allowing for far better financial oversight and accuracy.In England, the situations caused through the an excellent Famine and the Black fatality from 1290–1348, as well as subsequent epidemics, produced many challenges for the economy, finishing in the Peasant ‘s Revolt.The English farming economy stayed depressed throughout the 15th century, with growth coming indigenous the significantly increased English fabric trade and manufacturing.Fairs grew in popularity, reaching their heyday in the 13th century, together the worldwide wool trade increased. Despite an overall decrease after the 14th century, the an excellent fairs continued to play critical role in exchanging money and local commerce.In cities connected to the phibìc Sea and the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League arisen as a trade monopoly.Key Termsguild: combination of artisans or sellers who controlled the practice of their craft in a particular town. They were arranged in a manner similar to something in between a professional association and a profession union.usury: The exercise of do unethical or immoral financial loans plan to unfairly enrich the lender.bullion: gold bars, silver- bars, and other precious steels bars or ingots.Ottoman Empire: realm founded through Oghuz Turks under Osman Bey in northwestern Anatolia in 1299 and dissolved in 1923 in the consequences of world War I, developing the brand-new state of Turkey.

During the Late center Ages, the increasingly dominant position of the Ottoman realm in the eastern Mediterranean gift an impediment to profession for the Christian nations of the west, that started searching for alternatives. Portuguese and Spanish explorers found new trade paths south the Africa come India, and throughout the Atlantic ocean to America.

Start that the advertising Revolution

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


With the jae won expansion, trading civil liberties were an ext jealously guarded by the commercial elite. Communities saw the farming power that guilds that occurred in the 14th century together craftsmen uniting to protect their usual interest. The figure of the european guilds was tied come the emergent money economy and also to urbanization. Before this time it was not possible to run a money-driven organization, together commodity money was the normal means of doing business.

In medieval cities, craftsmen started to form associations based on their trades. Confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, and also glass workers, all managed secrets that traditionally imparted technology—the “arts” or “mysteries” of their crafts. Commonly the co-founder were complimentary independent understand craftsmen who hired apprentices. These guilds were organized in a manner similar to something in between a professional association, a profession union, a cartel, and also a mystery society. Lock often depended upon grants of letter patented by a monarch or other authority come enforce the circulation of profession to their self-employed members, and also to retain property of tools and also the supply of materials. A lasting heritage of traditional guilds room the guildhalls constructed and also used as meeting places.

Where guilds were in control, they shame labor, production, and trade; they had strong controls end instructional capital, and also the contemporary concepts that a life time progression the apprentice come craftsman, and then indigenous journeyman eventually to widely known master and also grandmaster, began to emerge. Europe guilds enforced long standardized periods of apprenticeship and made it complicated for those doing not have the funding to collection up because that themselves or there is no the approval of their peers come gain accessibility to materials or knowledge, or to market into specific markets, one area the equally conquered the guilds’ concerns. These space defining qualities of mercantilism in economics, which dominated most europe thinking about political economy until the rise of classical economics.

Hanseatic League

In cities linked to the phibìc Sea and also the Baltic Sea, the Hanseatic League arisen as a profession monopoly. This helped with the growth of trade among cities in close proximity to these two seas. Long-distance profession in the Baltic intensified together the significant trading towns came with each other in the Hanseatic organization under the management of Lübeck.

The Hanseatic organization was a company alliance of commerce cities and their guilds that conquered trade follow me the coast of north Europe and also flourished native 1200–1500, and continued v lesser prominence after that. The chief cities were Cologne ~ above the Rhine River, Hamburg and Bremen top top the north Sea, and Lübeck top top the Baltic Sea. The Hanseatic urban each had actually their own legal system and also a degree of political autonomy.

The league was established for the purpose of joining pressures for cultivating mercantile interests, defensive 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 Scandinavia.

English Economy

The dilemmas caused by the great Famine and the black color Death in between 1290 and also 1348, and also subsequent epidemics, created many obstacles for the English economy. The Peasant’s revolt of 1381 had actually various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions produced by the Black fatality in the 1340s, the high taxes result from the conflict with France throughout the hundred Years’ War, and instability in ~ the local management of London.

Although the revolt was suppressed, that undermined plenty of of the vestiges that the feudal economic order and also the countryside ended up being dominated by estates organized together farms, commonly owned or rented by the new economic course of the gentry. The English farming economy remained depressed transparent the 15th century, with growth coming indigenous the significantly increased English cloth trade and manufacturing.

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From the 12th century onwards, plenty of English towns gained a charter indigenous the Crown enabling them to hold an yearly fair, commonly serving a regional or neighborhood customer base and lasting for 2 or three days. Fairs flourished in popularity, getting to their heyday in the 13th century, together the international wool trade increased. The fairs enabled English wool producers and ports on the east shore to engage with visiting foreign merchants, circumnavigating those English merchants in London crawl to make a profit together middlemen. At the exact same time, affluent magnate consumers in England started to use the brand-new fairs as a way to buy items like spices, wax, preserved fish, and also foreign fabric in mass from the international merchants in ~ the fairs, again bypassing the normal London merchants.