02b_Ch13-European Middle Ages: Feudalism in Europe
9th - 11th C
Why did a feudal society emerge in Western Europe during the Middle Ages?
The exodus of urban populations after the collapse of Rome and the internal movements of people caused by marauding Vikings created a situation ‘crying’ for stability. Medieval Europe needed a stabilizing social system that ensured security by ‘ﬁxing’
Europe's population. Feudalism, a political and
economic system based on land-holding and protective alliances, emerges in Europe.
A socio-economic system based on the ownership of land. Bonds of loyalty/ service are derived from such ownership. Loyalty to polis or empire (or any other centralized political entity) disappears. 'Public’ affairs become ‘private’. The Church and “State” become linked politically, socially, and economically.
Not the same throughout Europe. Iberia, England, Frankish Kingdom, and Italy have varying forms of this system. There were some general traits that are held in common, however.
1. Local Protection emphasized rather than a centralized military
2. Local ‘Provincial’ government rather than a centralized government3. Self-Sufﬁciency rather than reliance on trade
4. Population is ‘ﬁxed’ to a locale (Inhibits movement).
1. Lord – Vassal: The bond of vassalage is built upon the investiture of a ﬁef. The ritual of investiture, like that conducted by Charles and Rollo, is a public
and solemn act. It involves taking a loyalty oath and the ritualistic transfer of land. The aristocracy provided the soldiers, while the land generated the income needed to acquire and maintain military equipment and fund training.
The aid provided by the vassal didn’t always have to be military in form. In times of ﬁnancial need, the lord could ask for ﬁnancial aid. The occasions when such aid was expected included:
a. The knighting of the lord’s eldest son.b. The lord’s eldest daughter gets married.c. To pay the ransom of a captured lord.
In addition to this aid, a lord expected a degree of hospitality whenever he was in the vicinity of a vassal’s manor/ estate.
2. King: The title usually granted to the feudal lord with the greatest amount of land, and thus capable of awarding the most ﬁefs.
3. Knight: Vassals whose ﬁefs are too small to subdivide into additional ﬁefs. An inherent weakness in the system is when a knight might swear loyalty to two or more lords in order to get more ﬁefs. If those lords ever become enemies and call upon this knight for service, the trouble that would raise are clear.
4. Serf and Free Peasant: Technically, this group of people was not part of the feudal order because they had no land to dispose of in a ‘feudal contract’. However, their labors are integral to the viability of the system. [Refer to the section on Manorialism, below]
5. The Clergy/ Church: Collectively, the Roman Catholic Church was one of the largest landowning entities in Medieval Europe. The land could have been acquired via a ﬁnal
: Isolating and placing in one locale or level in society.