The Feudal System Essay

1247 words - 5 pages

The Feudal System


The feudal system, with all its injustices, was destined to crumble. A system that divided society into differing social classes and forced the lower social classes into subservience, was surely bound to be overthrown by the very people that it repressed. In fact in the 18th century the feudal system was officially abolished after the reading of a report on the misery and disorder which prevailed throughout Europe. Though the decree abolishing the feudal system was not officially written until the late 1700s, the change had been in the wind since the early 13th century. The people were rioting, burning villages and abandoning farms, and any form of authority was overthrown. After being in place for more than 1000 years, the feudal system was to be no more. In hindsight, many people of the time may agree that the feudal system was indeed destined to crumble. But why did the very people it was designed to protect overthrow the feudal system?

The feudal system existed in Europe from the collapse of the Roman Empire, circa AD400, until the Renaissance period, circa AD1400. The collapse of the Roman Empire is considered to have led to the development of the feudal system. As the Roman Empire began to weaken and was suffering defeat at its border from Northern and Eastern Europe, the Emperors needed to develop a system that would ensure provisions for the Roman armies. Thus the Feudal System was developed and eventually adopted throughout Europe. Under this system, a local dignitary was placed in charge of an area of land, and the peasants from that area would work the land to provide for the local lord. The peasants were allotted land for their use; however, a high proportion of the food produced on that land had to be given to the local lord in return for protection. The local lords owed their allegiance to the King, who collected from them taxes, mostly in the form of foodstuffs to provide to the armies.

In medieval times feudalism was not the term used to describe that current social order. Vassalage was the original 'feudal' name and vassal was the name given to the holder of tenure of land. Property holdings were the true measure of wealth, and the King essentially owned all of the land in his territory. Land was used by a King to gain power and wealth. Further acquisition of property, however, came with a price; it required a solid army to do battle to gain other territories. A modern medieval army required leaders who were motivated and in turn could motivate their charge to carry on in often brutal warfare. It was expected that the vassal, or local dignitary, would participate in battle as a knight or heavily armed cavalryman in return for privileges and grants of land. This established the vassal in a higher social class, above that of the common man or peasantry. As the vassal moved in the higher social circles, he saw himself as above manual labour and would recruit...

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