Feudalism Essay, Research Paper
Feudalism was a system of governing where an upper class (nobility) has certain well-defined responsibilities to the king in return for the use of land (fiefs) exploited with the labor of a peasantry (serfs). The relationships in the feudal system resemble a pyramid. The lowest vassals are at the base and the lines of authority flow up to the peak of the format, the king. Lords and vassals were networked together in a web of mutual obligations. The vassals owed their lords a specified number of days annually in military service and in protecting the castle. At the top of the pyramid was the lord, which meant that he accrued much of the benefits. He was the owner of all the land within his designated region. Feudalism was a contractual agreement among the upper classes by which a lord gave land to his men, vassals, in return for military services. The contract was verbal, which often leads to disputes in duties and obligations. There were no solid borders placed upon territories held by a lord
. The boundaries of ownership were constantly changing hands. The entire area of the kingdom was broken up into smaller pieces of land. The smaller pieces of land were called fiefs. The lord or overlord granted them to the vassal. Large fiefs were often divided into smaller fiefs, which were ruled by inferior vassal.
The process of division and subdivision was known as subinfedudation . The problem of break down the land weakens the strength of the territory and reduces effectiveness.
The vassal being the selected soldiers in which the lords surrounding them selves began to move in to the upper class of society and in way became aristocrats who followed the court.
The lords expected his vassals to attend his court in order to give him advice and to participate in judgments of cases concerning other vassals.
Monarchs during the feudal period had other sources of authority besides the feudal suzerainty. The new beginning of classical learning included the renewal of Roman law, with its traditions of powerful rulers and territorial government. The church looked on rulers as divinely ordained and by its anointment gave them a sacred character. The church was granted territorial fief, became a vassal, possessed immunities. Its hierarchy was somewhat parallel the feudal hierarchy. The church owned much land, held by monasteries, by church dignitaries, and by the church themselves. The land the church received was give by nobles but it had to perform its feudal duties. It might owe suit and service to the lord. But it had more often than not just to provide it knight and warrior and to justice to its tenants.
The renewal of trade and industry brought in towns and a powerful urban class that looked to nobles to maintain the freedom and order. The numerous flaws of the feudal system would eventually lead to its downfall in 1660. Feudalism was initially used as a method of local defense. In the times of uncertainty that plagued after the fall of the Roman Empire feudalism provided public power and armed forces in the hands of private landowners.
. Early feudalism mainly evolved to allow monarchs to maintain large armies of mounted troops by giving them land in exchange for their services. Later feudalism consisted of a more political relationship between Lord and Vassal. The bond between lord and vassal allowed wealthy landowners the ability to field an army quickly when needed.
In the early feudal system Armies of soldiers, who were really farmers and herdsman s, were defending the land in the beginning of feudalism. The cost for horses and training that took years was very expensive. It became apparent that a full time fighting force was needed. A fighting force was needed that displayed courage and trust of the inducted person. These people became Knights one of the most superior fighting forces, far better than infantrymen. Excellent swordsmanship and horseback riding skills allowed knights to be successful in repelling Vikings and Hungarians in the 9th century. Knights were scarce at first but their numbers grew. Their man objective was to defend against sudden attack. They lived together in strategic locations, often placed on a hilltop fortification. These fortifications eventually would change into elaborate castles that remain in Europe today.
The weakness of feudalism was exposed early in its existence. Problems in inheritance became a severe weakness. If a lord could not bargain or keep a deal he and the vassal previously agreed on, the feudal contract was violated. In the event that this happened, the personal trust and nature of the feudal contract was gravely eroded. Also, the fact that the lords could field an army so quickly was detrimental to a central governing body. Another problem with feudalism was the conception of worship. A man who was a vassal of more than one lord would chose one as his supreme lord. This once again undermined the feudal contract that was vital important to the system. Personal loyalty was pushed aside for individual satisfaction. Strong lordships, such as kings in France and England, plagued the local governments that were necessary for a healthy feudal system.
The constant division of land and ownership due too subinfeudation and inheritance, would further lead to the decay of the feudalism. Feudalism would survive beyond the close of feudal inhabitancy in 1660. The influence remains in present day Europe. Feudal remnants remain in English constitution. The idea of private ownership and rights of the individual are directly taken from the feudalism. Centralized government exposes the shortcomings of feudalism. For feudalism to last eight centuries, was remarkable. To think that society could be ruled on the bases of verbal commitment and trust was extraordinary. That certainly would not happen in today society.