Origins of Feudal Institutions

In the Middle Ages, networks of personal agreements formed the basis of the political, economic and social systems. How these agreements developed and how they were utilised during the early Middle Ages are currently topics of scholarly debate. For noble and peasant alike, the family was the single most important social unit of the Middle Ages and the basis for other relationships. Functioning as a form of social security, the family provided protection and care to the children, the aged and infirm. Family alliances of blood and marriage were utilised to strengthen feudal ties and to increase power bases. In order to prevent the splintering of family property, the law of primogeniture was adopted across most of Europe. Under this law, the eldest son received the full inheritance of the father, leaving younger sons to make their own way. In the Middle Ages, one of the most common paths for younger siblings was to enter into ecclesiastical service. This tied the Church into the feudal network as family loyalties remained intact for clergy and the hierarchy of the Church mirrored the social structure of a patriarchal secular society. Noble bishops and abbots increased the prestige and political clout of their natal families while the presence of a royal member within a monastery benefited the entire spiritual family. Feudalism is the term applied to relationships between members of the aristocracy. The basic unit of these feudal arrangements was the fief, a section of land granted for temporary use. The vassalage agreement was between the owner of the fief, the lord, and the recipient of the fief, the vassal. Technically, ownership of the land remained with the lord but the vassal received "use of the fruits", or usufruct, in exchange for fealty to the lord. Over time, these land grants became hereditary and ownership of the land seldom reverted back to the lord, except in cases of contumacy or absence of an heir. The structure of these feudal arrangements was fluid and cannot be forced into a defined hierarchy. Depending on the lands that a man held, he could be vassal to more than one lord and lord to more than one vassal. This condition, called subinfeudation, illustrates the amazing complexity and flexibility of feudal institutions. To deal with the potential for conflicting loyalties that subinfeudation could create, documents were often written to outline the precedence of the various lords by which a vassal may be bound, defining a single overlord as liege lord. All feudal relationships were based on a perceived, if not an actual, imbalance of power and the mutual exchange of goods, lands or services. Use of the term feudalism is typically restricted to the relationships between members of the nobility. However, relationships between the nobility and the peasantry, manorialism, reflect a similar power structure.

The shift from serf to freedman occurred through manumission. Faced with shortages of slave field labour. the depopulation opened up lands for the survivors but successive sweeps left few to maintain even the best farmlands or to preserve feudal patrimonies. gangs of slaves worked the land of the owner. social customs prevented excessive exploitation. called tenures or hides. landowners began to grant plots of land. Europe was enveloped in a period of almost continuous warfare and these small landowners sought protection from powerful lords by commendation. to serfs in exchange for tithes on crops. their obligations seldom included military service. While outright slavery had ceased to exist virtually everywhere in Europe by the twelfth century. The Church acquired vast tracts of land by this method in the early Middle Ages. service in the lord's own fields and various other types of taxes. economic and demographic disasters. Because ecclesiastical nobles were usually better organised. In exchange. the manor became the basic agricultural unit in the early Middle Ages and reflected the system of personal bonds seen in feudal arrangements. these ties of mutual personal dependence came to be defined as manorialism. had higher levels of literacy and were less likely to be engaged in wars. During the seventh to ninth centuries. the serfs. the bonds were between lords and serfs and were defined by conditions of protection. The arrival of a colder and wetter climate meant that large areas of previously fertile land became unproductive.Developing from the Roman villas of late antiquity. Europe was faced with a series of agricultural. As the supply of slaves dwindled between the fifth and eighth centuries. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries increased amounts of cultivable lands with higher productivities combined with opportunities for manumission and placed large areas of farmland into the hands of the non-nobles. a new class emerged from the combination of free peasants and slaves. . In exchange for this military and judicial protection. In the Roman villa. labour and economic support. The use of the land normally returned to the former owner as a tenant under specified conditions and this type of grant often required renewal whenever the tenant or the overlord changed. A precarious land grant of a fief was not the only form of property agreement in the Middle Ages. minor landholders granted ownership of their lands to an overlord. In the manorial system. Althought serfs had no real status under law. Combined with the co-operative agricultural styles that developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Minor landholders often held their own lands called allods. most of the peasant labour force consisted of serfs who were tied to a lord and. Crop failures and famines were common by the early fourteenth century and the arrival of the Black Death further decimated the population. Since tenant farmers were not trained soldiers. bishops and abbots (secular clergy with military powers) were often the preferred lords for commendation. often. At first. to the land. however. the lord was obligated to provide military protection and justice for his tenants.

in many cases throughout Europe. It is ironic that the fanciful picture of the dignified knight and his lady that will forever be associated with the knights of the Middle Ages was created by the demise of the very systems that shaped it. In an attempt to close ranks and protect social status. meadowland was available to all for grazing of herds. the peasants lost everything to their local lord if he was avaricious – land. Also. All social revolutions have their base in the peasants’ accelerating hatred of the landlords and their manorial system. Gradually. daughters. and even the peasantry could demand better circumstances. and sought such protection from their local lord of the manor. The lord of the manor presided over the manor courtroom. home. In addition. and the agricultural classes were already heading for what they believed to be the prosperity and safety of the towns and cities. Economic conditions favoured the merchant and craft classes. During the Black Death (1348). These were set down in official documents called customals. Europe’s population fell from 80 million to less than 55 million. but huge inflation by the end of the twelfth century encouraged landlords to give up rentals and accept forced service again. Feudal obligations between lord and vassal were being replaced by contractual agreements based on payments of money. and received money or provisions or labour services from his tenants. In return for protection. This diversion of military prowess developed the romantic ideals of courtly love and knightly honour that have been immortalised in the literature of the time. especially relating towards manorial agricultural management. the noble elite turned their military attributes towards elaborate forms of "mock battle" such as jousts and tournaments. this became known as Common Land. rank and position being determined by the status of their land. The Manorial System This was the social. The manor consisted of the private land of the lord. and the grazing of pigs. and his tenants’ holdings. The economy expanding from an agricultural base to include commercial and manufacturing interests. over the centuries. and the martial and moral aspects of feudal society were ritualised into chivalry. produce and rights. . a system of obligations and service appeared. Gradually. and control over their land. economic and administrative system that appeared in the fifth century in Europe. the social classes underwent a period of fluidity. Europe was no longer in a constant state of warfare and even the Crusades had ceased to be a focus for the energies of the martial nobility.In the late Middle Ages. either regularly or seasonally. the locals surrendered certain rights. It emerged from the chaos and instability after the collapse of the Roman Empire. These tenants were free or ‘unfree’. In the twelfth century labour services were changed for cash rents. Farmers needed to be protected against marauders and thieves. Sadly. An added facility might be woodland for timber.

the number requisite to pull the heavy plow? If they wished to use this new piece of technology they would have to pool their teams. This became possible through the adoption of two pieces of technology known to the Romans: the rigid horse collar and the tandem harness. Before we turn our attention to serfdom or manorialism. The older "scratch" plow had crisscrossed the field with only slight penetration and required light. By the 6th century a series of new farm implements began to make their appearance. legumes or lentils . the same land would be divided into thirds. Such a system improved the arability of the soil since the . it is necessary to highlight a few technological achievements of the period. This was the essence of the manorial system as it operated in northern Europe. thus providing a natural drainage system. One field was planted in the fall with winter wheat while the other field remained fallow. In late spring a second field planted with oats. marks the beginning of the European peasantry. The third field would remain fallow. Under the older. fenceless open fields plowed in long narrow strips. The result was the growth of a powerful village council of peasants to settle disputes and to decide how the total collection of small strips ought to be managed. which were harvested in late use it effectively all the lands of a village had to be reorganized into vast. by eliminating the need for crossplowing. two-field system. And this invited cooperation as well for how many peasants can be said to have owned eight oxen. Added to this was the fact that each peasant might "own" and harvest fifty or sixty small strips scattered widely over the entire arable land of the village. The wreckage of the Roman Empire and with it. roughly 500-1000. The heavy plow or "moldboard" cut deep into the soil and turned it so that it formed a ridge. demanded such a development. The only drawback as that it required an increased amount of animal power to draw it across the soil. also had the effect of changing the shape of fields in northern Europe from squarish to long and narrow. The first development was the heavy plow which was needed to turn over the hard soil of northern Europe. a class or order of laborers who did not really disappear until quite recently. It also allowed the deep planting of seeds.European Agrarian Society: Manorialism One of the greatest achievements of the early Middle Ages was the emergence of the single-family farm as the basic unit of production. former Roman patricians. One field would be planted in the fall with winter wheat or rye and harvested in early summer. This invited cooperation. that is. the decline of any form of centralized government. So. The old square shape of fields was inappropriate to the new plow -. a second innovation attempted to overcome this drawback: the introduction of teams of oxen. the arable land was divided in half. This development often called manorialism or serfdom. well-drained soils. Northern European farmers also began to experiment with the three-field system of crop rotation. barley. Villa owners. The rigid collar and tandem harness allowed teams to pull with equal strength and greater efficiency. The heavy plow. were forced to settle their slaves on their own estates. Under the three-field system.

Without additional plowing. Manors were usually divided into two parts: the demense defined the lord's land and was worked by the serf and then there were the small farms of the serfs themselves. Lastly. sheep. A lord controlled at least one manorial village and great lords might control hundreds. There was also a startling incidence of windmills. Peasants generally lived. There was a complex set of personal relationships which defined the obligations between serf and lord. the serf had many obligations to their . The importance of this cannot be overlooked. In return for security and the right to cultivate fields and to pass their holdings on to their sons. The manor was the fundamental unit of economic. a well-fortified castle. furthermore. the lord's home had become in many cases. wine presses and grist mills. gradually and regionally. worked and died within the lord's estate and were buried in the village churchyard. tools and weapons. The increased amount of vegetable protein made available meant that European peasants might enjoy an improved level of nutrition. The village priest cared for the souls of the inhabitants and it was up to the lord to defend the manor estate from outside attack. However. All this meant greater food production and with much greater efficiency. the peasants usually found protection inside the walls of their lord's house. There were also extensive common lands (held by men in common by the grace of God) used by the serfs for grazing. The world of the medieval peasant was clearly the world and experience of the manor estate. The manorial village was never completely self-sufficient because salt. There were blacksmiths. on the medieval manor. Iron became increasingly utilized to make agricultural implements since it was more durable than wood.medieval microchips. The manor was a tightly disciplined community of peasants organized collectively under the authority of a lord. meant that horses could be fed properly. the medieval manor did serve as a balanced economic setting. if you will -were by no means the only ones to make their appearance during the early Middle Ages. It was. carpenters and stonemasons who built and repaired dwellings. hogs and goats. New farm implements were either discovered or refined such as the toothed harrow. A small manor estate might contain a dozen families while larger estates might include fifty or sixty. shoes. The typical medieval manor also contained various workshops which manufactured clothes.tendency to overuse was greatly diminished. the only life the medieval serf or peasant ever knew. Peasants grew their grain and raised cattle. gleaning. the diversification into other crops such as oats. There were bakeries. it would be possible for the land to yield more food. When a manor was attacked by a rival lord. millstones or perhaps metalware were not available and had to be obtained from outside sources. These developments took place. By the 12th century. political and social organization. hunting and fishing. These innovations in agricultural techniques -. And the horse would eventually replace oxen as the preferred method of animal power.

ovens and presses. To change position was to upset the delicate balance. and repairing roads and bridges. and that the serfs love and venerate their lord following the word of the Apostle. the revival of an urban economy. In the high Middle Ages. something desperately needed in this time of uncertainty. No one. As a result. the personal freedom of the serf was restricted in a number of ways. The medieval manor therefore sustained the three orders of medieval society: those who pray. Bound to the land. The serf also paid a variety of dues to the lord: the annual capitation or head tax (literally. should be deprived of the traditional rights associated with his or her rank in the medieval matrix. and the heriot (an inheritance tax). lords treat your serfs according to justice and equity. and relationship to the law depended on his or her ranking in the social order. the growth of universities and the emergence of centralized governments would undermine feudal and manorial relationships. the humanization of Christianity. So too did the medieval nobility and clergy. feudal institutions gradually disappeared. . Consequently. he had to gain the consent of the lord as well as pay a small fee. serfs included. duties. A serf who refused was ordered to pay a fine. they could not leave the manor without the lord's consent. Literacy may have reached its lowest level on the manor estate but at least the serf was protected and secure. building and repairing fences. gathering firewood. Lastly. In general. some must be lords and some serfs. a tax on existence). The manor also promoted group cooperation. The manor offered protection to the serfs. People believed that society functioned smoothly when individuals accepted their status and performed their proper roles. How else could fifty serfs use a handful of oxen to plow their fields? They had to learn to work collectively for the collective good of the village community. medieval serfs paid a number of banalities which were taxes paid to use the lord's mills. the taille (a tax on the serf's property). This arrangement was justified by the clergy: God himself has willed that among men.lord. The serf knew his place in medieval society and readily accepted it. A lord could select a wife for his serf and force him to marry her. and those who work. serfs obey your temporal lords with fear and trembling. The lord's land had to be harvested by the serfs before they could harvest their own land. Before a serf could marry. Manorialism and feudalism presupposed a stable social order in which every individual knew their place. Although the relationship of dependence remained. in such a fashion that the lords venerate and love God. more than half of a serf's workweek was devoted to rendering services to the lord. a person's rights. In addition to working their own land. those who fight. The serf's existence was certainly a harsh one. Other services exacted by the lord included digging ditches. the serfs also had to work the land of their lords.

The knight has force on his side. between landlord and peasant.15th century AD Life on a manor is the medieval version of a relationship which occurs.characteristic of much of the Middle Ages . The manorial court: 9th . The relationship between the knight and his peasants is the manorial system. Such landlords may be patricians living in their Roman villas (seen by many historians as the original version of the European manor) or feudal knights ensconced in castles and fortified manor houses (a development dating from Carolingian times). The peasants need his protection from marauding enemies. in any society where a leisured class depends directly on agriculture carried out by others.the peasants themselves acquire a measure of economic strength. On the other hand a cooperative labour force is more productive than a resentful one. These may be direct taxes (such as 'heriot'. or of free peasants who have accepted legal restrictions in return for the lord's protection. In unruly times . The system of labour and of rent which develops on a medieval manor is also immensely variable. though economically often unable to do so) and serfs. using peasant labour. Gradually. or money.15th century AD The court is the judicial basis of the manorial system. as in any long-established social system. and part is cultivated by the peasants for their subsistence . so the lord of the manor may be inclined to use his natural advantages with moderation. That distinction comes to seem a quibble where serfdom continues into modern times (as in Russia in the 19th century). the lord's right to the best beast every time the head of a peasant family dies) or fees for the functions of the manorial court. some measure of control is achieved by giving lords legal powers over the peasants on their manors.his armour becomes even more significant. And occasionally.Landlord and peasant: 9th . the lords devise more and more dues to supplement their revenue. The resulting balance of power varies greatly in different places and times. Serfs are the descendants either of slaves who have been given a measure of freedom. outlasting the abolition of true slavery. Serfs are slaves only in the one crucial sense of being tied to their lord's land.paying the lord some form of rent. It is further complicated by the fact that part of any manor (the demesne) is farmed by the lord on his own account. Records suggest that the work of between fifteen and thirty peasant families is required to support one knight's family (and correspondingly more for a baron holding court in a castle). when labour is in short supply . days and weeks of their own labour. Even in normal circumstances he may be able to terrify his peasants into subjection. In the decentralized and unruly regions of medieval Europe. whether in natural produce. .as after the Black Death in the 14th century . They are less likely than usual to assert themselves. There is an important distinction between free peasants (theoretically able to leave a manor at will.

The work of preparing and harvesting the fields is more efficiently spread . and collects rents. Beaumarchais' radical comedy The Marriage of Figaro (staged just four years before the French Revolution) hinges on the question of whether the count will give permission for the wedding . The Franks introduce a major improvement. The third field is left fallow. The other is allowed to lie fallow. known as the jus primae noctis (right of the first night) or droit du seigneur (right of the lord). but there are several cases of people in the late Middle Ages paying money to avoid the exercise of the jus primae noctis. The court dispenses justice for crimes committed on the manor. The advantages are considerable. hears civil disputes between tenants. This supposed right. one is planted each year (in Europe with wheat.for permission to marry. Farming the manor: 9th . They may be required for the issue of a legal document. and the most resented. so it is suitable only in the cooler regions of Europe. They are the final residue of feudalism. grazed by the cattle and fertilized by their manure. The most obvious is an increase of one third in the crop (previously 50% of the land was producing each year. now the figure is 66%). holding court and consuming the produce gathered since their last visit. One field is now planted in the autumn with winter wheat or rye. One field is planted in the spring with oats. with their inherent potential for abuse. perhaps in the late 8th century. extending the rotation to three fields. barley or oats). acquired not only by feudal grant but also by marriage. There is no evidence that any lord ever claimed this outrageous prerogative.18th century AD The Frankish empire under Charlemagne is the source of feudalism and the manorial system. The new arrangement requires summer rain for the crop planted in the spring. fines and fees. between the Loire and the Rhine. The lord or his representatives move from one manor to another. for the buying and selling of property and even . gives an intriguing glimpse of the nature of the manorial system at the time when feudalism is declining into decay and corruption. Fees are claimed by the lord of the manor on a wide range of events in the life of the community. It also introduces a related revolution in agriculture. barley or vegetables such as peas and beans. These rights over the community last long after the economic basis of the manor has crumbled. It seems to have been introduced. Rotation of crops to conserve the soil has been a standard part of agricultural practice since the Neolithic Revolution. It is an unusually imaginative example of the feudal system of rights and privileges. purchase and even outright seizure.most notoriously . Of every two fields.A large estate will consist of many manors. The classic method is the simple two-field system.or will attempt to revive a less authentic seigneurial right to the bride's virginity.

But the trend is everywhere the same transforming the open fields of the Middle Ages into the fenced. in some places even in the 20th century.out through the year. Strip-farming and enclosure: 9th . The unusual detail is that the single crop in each field is separately farmed .in individual strips . It involves an intrinsic element of fairness. The system only works if everyone sows the same crop on their strip of each open field. not only for the loss of an ancient right but because the poorest peasants (those who lack a share in the open-field system) rely on these pastures and woods for subsistence. Ploughing too is a communal affair. The others are open and are identifiable as separate fields only by the crops which they bear. or the cattle let into it. In addition to the open fields. What to sow and when to harvest it are communal decisions. There is considerable resistance to this. for each peasant's strips are widely spread over the entire manor. The issue becomes a crisis at different times in different parts of Europe. until each peasant has reaped his own harvest. Enclosure of common land causes particular unrest. because it eliminates the old safeguard by which good and poor land was evenly shared out. The heavy wheeled plough needed for northern soils is expensive. Some of the strips may also belong to the local lord. hedged or walled fields of the individual farms which are characteristic of today's landscape. Strip-farming is central to the life of a medieval rural community. . as are horses to pull it. every family will have the benefit of good land in some areas. into long narrow strips. So a team of horses and plough works successive strips of an open field for different peasants. The long narrow shape of the strips reflects the difficulty of turning the team at each end. The strips also enforce an element of practical village democracy. One is the wish to rationalize the use of the land by changing each peasant's rights from scattered strips to a unified plot surrounding a family cottage. Only the fields being grazed by cattle are fenced. The other motive is the greed of lords of the manor. while accepting a poor yield elsewhere. But more often the lord's land is in a self-contained demesne around the manor. The field cannot be fenced. in the addition of vegetables to a previously all-grain diet. farmed for him by the peasants under their feudal obligations.20th century AD The fields of a medieval manor are open spaces divided. who regularly attempt to enclose the common land and incorporate it in their own demesne. And there is a benefit. cut turf and perhaps catch fish. in terms of health and peasant families of the local village. each village or manor has common land where peasants have a right to graze cattle. The ripening of crops in two seasons rather than one reduces the risk of famine from freak weather. From about the 13th century there are pressures on this agricultural system for two different reasons. collect wood. almost imperceptibly.

tenant and labourer which is entirely based on money. become the tenants. tenant and labourer: from the 13th century AD The gradual move towards enclosure brings with it a change in the employment system in European agriculture. The new system probably begins during the prosperous 13th century. In the 14th century a different pressure continues the process. owing to its prosperous trade with Flanders in wool (by its nature sheep-farming is ill-suited to the open-field system). The tenant pays money to the landlord for the use of his land. the subsistence farming of the feudal manor is unable to meet the demands of the market. shortage of labour after the Black Death leads to an increased use of wages to pay for work done in the fields. The serfs become the labourers.Landlord. . sometimes commuted for money) gives way to a system of landlord. the landlord pays money to the labourer for his work. In broad terms the free peasants. England is one of the first regions to make the change. With the growth in national and international trade. The change gradually introduces the system of land tenure and labour which has prevailed in most of Europe ever since. who have owned a share of the land in the open-field system. The feudal relationship of lord and peasant (with payments to the lord made in the form of labour.

The provincial parlements responded angrily and met with the same fate. when desperate action by government ministers backfired and unleashed a revolution against the 'Old Regime'. framework which took more notice of the people. Despite a campaign designed to win over the public. along with a sense that the state's authority had to be defined and legitimized in a new. which increasingly undermined despotic monarchs. highly critical of the pre-revolutionary regime and acted to change it. not the invulnerable moderating element they wished to be. partly due to new enlightenment thinking. broader. Maupeou. remodelling the system. as a possible solution. Maupeou. based around an absolutist style of monarchy. in general. was no longer working.the vital check on the king. 'nation' and 'citizen' emerged and grew. People increasingly mentioned the Estates General. a social order whose new wealth. one constitutional and one financial. The bourgeoisie were. The idea of a government – and king – operating with a series of constitutional checks and balances had grown to be vitally important in France. thinkers in France asked.French Revolution Crisis in the Old regime The French Revolution resulted from two state crises which emerged during the 1750s – 80s. In addition to these there was the growth of the bourgeoisie. power and opinions undermined the older feudal social system of France. The ideas of 'public opinion'. Maupeou never gained national support for his changes and they were cancelled three years later when the new king. and it was the 13 parlements which were considered – or at least considered themselves . in 1771 the parlement of Paris refused to cooperate with the nation's Chancellor. and partly due to the bourgeoisie seeking a voice in the administration. . Louis XVI. abolishing the connected venal offices and creating a replacement disposed towards his wishes. This was partly due to failures in government. be they the squabbling instability of the king's ministers or embarrassing defeats in wars. instead of simply reflecting the monarch's whims. Unfortunately the damage had been done: the parlements had been clearly shown as weak and subject to the king's wishes. would act as a check on the king? The Estates General was a favourite answer. although the exact role they played is still hotly debated among historians. However. responded to angry complaints by reversing all the changes. with the latter providing a 'tipping point' in 1788/9. a three chambered assembly which hadn't met since the seventeenth century. and he responded by exiling the parlement. the Parlements and Constitutional Doubts From the 1750s it became increasingly clear to many Frenchmen that the constitution of France. But what.

the equivalent of the state's entire income for a year.The Financial Crisis and the Assembly of Notables The financial crisis which left the door open for revolution began during the American War of Independence. they couldn't speak for the nation. the Compte rendu au roi. Brienne exiled them to Troyes before working on a compromise. His cunning publicity and accounting . caught between changes of system. including the previously exempt nobles. p. a French Protestant banker and the only non-noble in the government. but by the chancellorship of Calonne the state was looking for new ways to tax and meet their loan payments. who tried again before dismissing the Assembly in May. many had reasons to dislike Calonne and many genuinely believed the reason they gave for refusing: no new tax should be imposed without the king first consulting the nation and. rejecting the Estates General as too unpredictable. would have been the most sweeping reforms in the French crown's history. One of Brienne's last actions before resigning was persuading King Louis XVI to recall Necker. couldn't bring in the required sums. The growing financial crises reached its climax in 1788 as the disrupted state machinery.masked the scale of the problem from the French public. Many were against paying new tax.his public balance sheet. Brienne then tried to pass his own version of Calonne's changes through the parlement of Paris. 2002. but it didn't work and the treasury had to suspend all payments. a situation exacerbated as bad weather ruined the harvest. They included abolishing lots of taxes and replacing them with a land tax to be paid by everyone. France was bankrupt. Calonne had seriously miscalculated and. proposing that the Estates General would meet in 1797. but they refused. as they were unelected. The king is even recorded as responding to complaints by saying "it's legal because I wish it" (Doyle. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Brienne tried to create support by bringing the date of the Estates General forward to 1789. further fuelling worries over the constitution. Almost all the money had been obtained from loans. But for all the good will earnt more was lost as the king and his government began forcing laws through using the arbitrary practice of lit de justice. whose return was greeted with jubilation by the general public. The problems were initially managed by Jacques Necker. Calonne came up with a package of changes which. made the accounts look healthy . far from weakly accepting the proposed changes. again citing the Estates General as the only body which could accept new taxes. 80). the 144 members of the Assembly refused to sanction them. when France spent over a billion livres. Discussions proved fruitless and eventually Calonne was replaced with Brienne. He recalled the Paris parlement and made it clear he was just tiding the nation over until the Estates General met. had they been accepted. He wanted a show of national consensus for his reforms and. The treasury was empty and no-one was willing to accept more loans or changes. called a hand picked Assembly of Notables which first met at Versailles on February 22nd 1787. he even began a consultation to work out how it should be formed and run. Less than ten were not noble and no similar assembly had been called since 1626. .

but all three Estates. They nobles believed that their noble birth' set them apart from the rest of society. where they had little. servants.' It is clear that social unrest was felt by the whole population. doctors. peasants. food and carriages. not as honest footman. The first two Estates were associated with the monarchy and avoided or paid little taxes. the nobility. while the 'Bishop plays the great nobleman and spends scandalous sums on hounds. The Third Estate paid the highest taxes and earned the least. and rest of the population was classified as the Third Estate. the lower clergy did not enjoy these same privileges. the first Estate comprised of the clergy (1%). merchants. There were many distinguishing factors that set the three Estates apart. influence in politics. owned about 10 per cent of the land. the nobility were also dissatisfied under the ancient regime. the traders. comprising of the bourgeoise (lawyers.' However. Society was divided into Three Estates. . furniture. factory owners). The bourgeoise resented their nobles. the parish priest does not have the wherewithal to buy himself a new cassock the bishops treat their priests . who were simply 'born' into their position of wealth. and beggars. Yet. The bourgeoisie were seen as becoming stronger economically but still maintaining the same legal status as that of the poorest peasant.The composition of society was also a major contributing factor to the tensions and conflicts generated under the old regime. including being exempt from paying taxes. intellectuals. and received their wealth from the land they owned and the collection of the tithes. yet still more then the bourgeois. whilst at the same time earning the most money. horses. Not only was the Third Estate heterogeneous. but as stableboys. businessman. Although the upper clergy enjoyed many privileges.

The latter was a much larger struggle which began in 1927. By some reckonings. By establishing a Communist regime under Mao Zedong in mainland China. after the end of the Second World War. Time Frame The Communist Revolution began with the 1946 resumption of open war between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang (KMT). a succession of dynasties had ruled since ancient times. At the beginning of 1909. Prince Chun. During this time Chinese political parties fought civil wars against each other as well as against the Japanese in World War II. and she prevented him from taking measures toward the modernizing that China badly needed. war raged almost constantly from 1910 to 1949. It concluded with the effective victory of the Communists and the expulsion of Nationalist forces to the island of Taiwan. the Chinese emperor Kuang-Hsu had recently died. the Chinese Civil War did not end until the Republic of China (Taiwan) unilaterally declared it over in 1991. and a rump Nationalist regime under Chiang Kai-Shek on Taiwan. but as the People's Republic of China never acknowledged this and there has never been a peace treaty of any kind. and continued until at least 1950. or Chinese Nationalists. China needed a strong. In China. Kuang-Hsu's aunt had great power over the rule of her nephew. Misconceptions The Chinese Communist Revolution is often confused with the larger Chinese Civil War. and the KMT of Chiang Kai-Shek backed by the United States. the energies of the Communists and the KMT were no longer focused on fighting the Japanese. but not over. The Chinese Communist Revolution refers specifically to the latter stages of that contest. as regent. strictly speaking the Chinese Civil War could be considered as dormant. After the monarchy fell in 1911. The 1946 breakdown of peace talks led to the resumption of hostilities. and therefore one of the most important grouping of events of the 20th Century. the Revolution had ramifications that continue to define the modern world.Communist Revolution in China The Chinese Communist Revolution was the key defining period of modern China. He left behind three-year-old nephew PuYi to rule the throne with the baby's father. . History With the end of the Second World War. modern monarch to rule and not a three-year-old. In China. it was a fight over what form of government would rule next. with the Soviet Union providing Mao Zedong's Communists with support.

and were largely exhausted by the effort. Chinese troops would be battling UN forces in the Korean War. This did not change until Nixon and his famous rapprochement with the Communist Chinese. the lines ossified and the Chinese Communist Revolution ended. Contrary to later claims made by Maoists propagandists. with China even invading pro-Soviet Vietnam in 1979. The most important long-term effect was to create a Communist state with the size and power to stand as a rival to the Soviet Union within the Communist world. Effects For more than twenty years after the Communist Revolution. defeating them in battle and capturing large amounts of demoralized troops and their equipment. however it was an unequal struggle. . the West blocked any change in the UN Security Council that would allow the Communist People's Republic of China to replace the Nationalist Republic of China as the vetowielding permanent member. The Sino-Soviet split forced many Communist states to choose sides. The Communists suffered defeats and setbacks in 1946 and 1947. and subsequently repelled from outlaying islands at the Battle of Kuningtou. the Communists did very little to expel the Japanese from China and were content to save their strength for a later resumption of the civil war. and its ramifications were certainly among the most far-reaching. The Soviets and Chinese were initially allies.Initially the KMT sought to make the frontline of the war in Manchuria. Less than one year after the end of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Significance The Chinese Revolution was among the first hot conflicts of the Cold War. The KMT forces had borne the brunt of the conflict with the Japanese. which made them deeply unpopular across China. Mao Zedong formally proclaimed the People's Republic of China a reality in October 1949. but the Communists caputred Hainan Island in 1950. With the capture of Hainan. and the question "who lost China?" would figure prominently in the accusations of Senator Joseph McCarthy and others. but learned from their errors and by 1948 had turned the tables on the KMT. Communist victory in the world's most populous country also fanned the anti-communist hysteria of 1950s America. and fought bloody border conflicts in the 1960s. The Nationalists were also hamstrung by their own corruption and the failure of their economic management. but eventually split apart. Beijing fell in 1949 with hardly a shot fired in its defense. Chian Kai-Shek retreated with the remainder of his army and roughly two million refugees to Taiwan.