European Feudalism Essay, Research Paper
Europe has been a major power and center of attention since people first inhabited the lands. Commerce, population, and control over Europe have always been an issue. Along with controlling Europe accompanies the loss of control over Europe. Throughout European history the rise and fall of kings, monarchies, and feudalism establish a lasting impression on European institutions. Many rulers incorporated their own ideas and laws, and established many forms of government. The question was not who will be ruling next but which government will be established next. All governments make an impression and have lasting effects on the country and the people it governs. Feudal institutions in medieval Europe were an indirect effect from the black plague, affected European economy, social status, and the way the country was governed.
Feudalism, or a feudal state, “is one in which members of the ruling class form a feudal hierarchy with a chief lord our suzerain at its peak”(Painter 4). Feudalism flourished in Europe from the 9th century to about the 15th century. This time was a perfect setting for feudalism. In other terms it is “ant social system in which great land owners or hereditary overlords extract revenue from the land and also exercise the functions of government in their domains”(Gove 842). In actual reality it is a social, political, and economic oligarchy. Throughout the medieval period Europe faced inner turmoil, famine, as well as religious disbelief. Europe was constantly at war within itself as well as with the rest of the world.
The Black Plague caused a dramatic and an indirect effect on feudalism. The Black Plague was a disease, also known as the Bubonic Plague, which was transmitted by a rat flea that was infected with bacteria from a rat. It was a fatal disease and after contraction death shortly followed.
Cities were full of people. These people began contracting this disease and began dying drastically. It first was noticed around the port cities and then spread through out the country. The greater the population the greater the chance of people transmitting the disease. Considering the fact that sailors, as well as others in Europe at that time, were very unclean fleas were common.
People dying very drastically and at large numbers for unknown reasons were freighting. People began to move from the cities to the country. Due to the fact that common belief was the less people one was around the chance of contracting the disease was decreased. This affected the economy as well as social status of Europe. With more people in the country, the cities lost commence and monetary value from people not spending enough money as well as lost social values. It also established a higher upper class and a lower bottom class. With this now a factor, the rich were still rich and the poor were still poor, however the rich spent money while the poor worked for the rich. People who were barely surviving in the cities had a much harder struggle now. They are now in the countryside with less opportunity. This is where manors and lords began to become popular and set the immediate scene for feudalism. “After the black death of 1348-1350, which killed between a third and half of the European population landlords sought to maintain their position by intensifying seigneurial demands on their remaining peasants and by re-imposing serfdom to prevent tenants from fleeing those demands”(Lachmann 6).
Now that the majority of the people had moved out of the cities the barrier between the rich and the poor became greater. “Within the ranks of the thenage were wealthy and poor, important and insignificant men; and there was little uniformity in the social and economic condition of the ceorls”(Barlow 12). Many people were farmers and lived on private property, however it was often that people worked the lands for someone else. For reasons such as slavery, paying back debts, or just to have a place to live were all factors. “These dependants were often of the same legal status as the land holder; but their economic and social was inferior.
“There was also a distinction between those who farmed their own lands and those whose land belonged to their lord. The tenant-farmers were slipping into the half-free class which lay between the full cerols and the slaves”(Barlow 12). Usually you had a lord, usually the landowner, with tenants working his land and relieving either money or a percent of food from each tenant.
This kept the rich wealthy and kept the lower class the working class. Economically, feudalism affected Europe in a positive and negative way. Due to feudalism and its ways, prices were barely affordable and an increase in population would only “result in higher food prices”(Lachman 47).
Higher grain prices and the availability of peasants
with little likelihood of inheriting villein or free
holding made it profitable for landlords to clear new, less productive lands for cultivation. The cultivation of marginal lands reduced average yield per acre in England, while the intensification of cultivation on existing farms by growing families meant a decline in agricultural output per peasant (Lachman 47).
However, feudalism did have positive economic factors. Even though there were not much economic expenditure and circulating monetary services, what little there was, was completely stable. Feudalism shaped a system that made loyal subjects and trust-worthy landowners.
feudal practice was destined to become one of the
most fruitful social and political arrangements which
western man-perhaps a fit of absence of mind-had created, for what characterized the system was a strong bond between the feudal lord and feudal vassal, a bond that was first forged by military and social necessity and later solemnized by oath of fealty, a bond that became so strong, resilient, and enduring, so flexible and adjustable, precisely because it was a personal as well as a legal relationship” (Ullman 63).
Socially, feudalism had positive and negative factors as well. Social problems were a lack of religion and religious disbelief. Art, for example took a drastic toll downwards and what little art was done, was gloomy.
the deterioration of commerce and currency-such
factors tended to break up the west into many minor
worlds that hemmed in their natives, closed their borders to outsiders and restricted the interchange of ideas. it was all they had to add form, color, and significance to their drab lives or toil” (Simons 81).
Even though it negative factors feudalism affected the social status of Europe in positive ways as feudalism system withstood, it began to form a system of alliances with land owners and tenants and a thought of equality began to set in.
a viewpoint which had at lest two important consequences: first, the idea of equality secondly, village self-government became a practical method not suggested by any theory
Politically, feudalism affected the people both good and bad. “Accordingly the feudal system, defined as the social and political domination of a military and a land owning aristocracy, became an indispensable in the evolution of modern Europe” (Lipson 19). Also, small manors benefited less from feudalism where as larger manor benefited greatly. “Small manors had weak, or no manor courts. Lords on large manors, with powerful and long-standing courts, were able to extract higher rents from villvins and to reduce the rewards of famuli for demesne labor” (Lachman 48). With this in thought, large manors and small manors had tension between each. “The church was anxious to decrease even if it could not hope to eliminate the almost continual feudal warfare that wasted the realm ” (Painter 13).
Even though there was fighting within Europe, when feudalism was in a stable condition, a form of loyalty was formed between the men amongst the system that they were subjected underneath. A form of government had been established under a lawful society as well.
Feudal relationships were broadening as well as restraining. At every level of society, and across class lines, men necessarily dealt with each other under intensely personal and essentially lawful conditions. In general, feudal ties fostered a since of loyalty and duty, and even honor and morality (Simons 154).
Feudal institutions in medieval Europe were an indirect affect of the black plague that affected European social status, economic status, and the way the country was governed and its people under it. With the black plague setting the since for feudalism and he suffering that Europe went through to get to the positive factors of feudalism, individualism arose. People began to see that life was short and began to worry about themselves more, although this may not be smart, it encourage self-thinking and self-realization.