Learning Objective

Recontact the structure of the feudal state and the duties and duties of each level of society

Key Points

Feudalism flourimelted in Europe in between the ninth and also 15th centuries.Feudalism in England also figured out the framework of culture roughly relationships derived from the holding and also leasing of land, or fiefs.In England, the feudal pyramid was made up of the king at the optimal via the nobles, knights, and also vassals below him.Before a lord can approve land to a tenant he would certainly have to make him a vassal at a formal ceremony. This ceremony bound the lord and also vassal in a contract.While contemporary authors such as Marx allude out the negative qualities of feudalism, such as the exploitation and lack of social mobility for the peasants, the French historian Marc Bloch conoften tends that peasants were part of the feudal relationship; while the vassals perdeveloped army business in exadjust for the fief, the peasants perdeveloped physical work in return for defense, thereby getting some benefit despite their limited freedom.The 11th century in France saw what has been called by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and also a “fragmentation of powers” that increased localized power and autonomy.

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In the Center Ages this was the ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and also submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exreadjust the symbolic title to his brand-new position.


An oath, from the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness); a pledge of allegiance of one perkid to one more.


Persons that gotten in into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the conmessage of the feudal system in medieval Europe.


Heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal.

mesne tenant

A lord in the feudal mechanism that had actually vassals who hosted land also from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord.


Feudalism was a set of legal and military personalizeds in medieval Europe that flouriburned between the ninth and 1fifth centuries. It can be broadly defined as a mechanism for structuring culture around relationships derived from the holding of land also, well-known as a fiefdom or fief, in exreadjust for business or labour.

The classical version of feudalism explains a collection of reciprocal legal and armed forces responsibilities among the warrior the aristocracy, revolving roughly the three essential principles of lords, vassals, and also fiefs. A lord was in wide terms a noble who hosted land also, a vassal was a perchild that was granted possession of the land by the lord, and a fief was what the land was recognized as. In exreadjust for the use of the fief and also the defense of the lord, the vassal would administer some kind of business to the lord. There were many kind of ranges of feudal land also tenure, consisting of military and also non-army business. The duties and also equivalent legal rights between lord and also vassal concerning the fief created the basis of the feudal partnership.

Feudalism, in its assorted forms, normally arised as a result of the decentralization of an empire, particularly in the Carolingian empires, which lacked the administrative facilities important to assistance mounties without the ability to alsituate land also to these placed troops. Mounted soldiers started to secure a device of hereditary ascendancy over their alsituated land, and their power over the region pertained to encompass the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres.

Many kind of cultures in the Middle Ages were defined by feudal establishments, including England also, which was the most structured feudal society, France, Italy, Germany type of, the Holy Roguy Realm, and Portugal. Each of these territories emerged feudalism in unique ways, and the way we understand also feudalism as a linked concept this particular day is in huge component because of critiques after its dissolution. Karl Marx theorized feudalism as a pre-capitalist society, characterized by the power of the judgment class (the aristocracy) in their regulate of arable land, resulting in a course culture based upon the exploitation of the peasants that farm these lands, commonly under serfdom and also principally by implies of labour, develop, and money rental fees.

While contemporary authors such as Marx suggest out the negative qualities of feudalism, the French historian Marc Bloch contends that peasants were an integral part of the feudal relationship: while the vassals performed armed forces business in exadjust for the fief, the peasants percreated physical labour in rerotate for protection, thereby obtaining some benefit despite their limited flexibility. Feudalism was for this reason a complex social and financial system identified by inherited ranks, each of which possessed natural social and also economic privileges and also responsibilities. Feudalism enabled cultures in the Center Ages to retain a reasonably stable political framework even as the centralized power of empires and also kingdoms began to dissolve.

Structure of the Feudal State in England

Feudalism in 12th-century England was among the much better structured and establiburned systems in Europe at the moment. The king was the absolute “owner” of land also in the feudal system, and also all nobles, knights, and other tenants, termed vassals, merely “held” land also from the king, who was hence at the height of the feudal pyramid.

Below the king in the feudal pyramid was a tenant-in-chief (mostly in the form of a baron or knight), that was a vassal of the king. Holding from the tenant-in-chief was a mesne tenant—mostly a knight or baron who was sometimes a tenant-in-chief in their capacity as holder of other fiefs. Below the mesne tenant, additionally mesne tenants could hold from each other in series.


Before a lord can give land also (a fief) to someone, he had to make that perchild a vassal. This was done at a formal and symbolic ceremony dubbed a commendation ceremony, which was written of the two-component act of homage and also oath of fealty. Throughout homage, the lord and vassal gone into right into a contract in which the vassal promised to fight for the lord at his command also, while the lord agreed to defend the vassal from exterior pressures.


Roland pledges his fealty to Charlemagne. Roland (right) receives the sword, Durandal, from the hands of Charlemagne (left). From a manumanuscript of a chanboy de geste, c. 1fourth Century.

Once the commendation ceremony was finish, the lord and vassal were in a feudal partnership via agreed responsibilities to one one more. The vassal’s major responsibility to the lord was “assist,” or armed forces business. Using whatever before devices the vassal could obtain by virtue of the earnings from the fief, he was responsible for answering calls to army organization on befifty percent of the lord. This defense of armed forces aid was the primary reason the lord gone into right into the feudal partnership. In addition, the vassal can have other responsibilities to his lord, such as attendance at his court, whether manorial or baronial, or at the king’s court.

The vassal’s duties might also involve giving “counsel,” so that if the lord challenged a significant decision he would certainly summon all his vassals and host a council. At the level of the manor this might be a relatively mundane issue of farming policy, but could also include sentencing by the lord for criminal offenses, including funding punishment in some instances. In the king’s feudal court, such deliberation might encompass the question of declaring war. These are just examples; depending upon the period of time and location in Europe, feudal custom-mades and methods varied.

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Feudalism in France

In its beginning, the feudal approve of land had been viewed in regards to a personal bond in between lord and also vassal, yet through time and also the transformation of fiefs into hereditary holdings, the nature of the system happened viewed as a form of “national politics of land.” The 11th century in France saw what has actually been called by historians a “feudal revolution” or “mutation” and also a “fragmentation of powers” that was unfavor the breakthrough of feudalism in England also, Italy, or Germany kind of in the exact same duration or later on. In France, counties and duchies began to break down into smaller holdings as castellans and lesser seigneurs took regulate of regional lands, and also (as comital households had done prior to them) lesser lords usurped/privatized a broad variety of prerogatives and civil liberties of the state—most importantly the highly profitable rights of justice, however likewise take a trip dues, sector dues, fees for using woodlands, obligations to use the lord’s mill, and so on Power in this period ended up being more personal and decentral.