Feudalism Essay, Research Paper
Feudalism Feudalism is a type of social, political, and military system in which when rich aristocrats or nobles give money, land, or a place to live to the members of lower social classes. In return, these peasants had to provide goods or services to the aristocrat. The system of feudalism, which lasted in Europe between 400 and the 1200 s and Japan from around 710 to 1500 was mainly used in Europe and Japan. However, European and Japanese feudalism varied greatly. Although the basic idea of feudalism remained the same in these two places, many terms and ideas were different. These differences mainly occurred in the political, social, and economical aspects of feudalism. One part of feudalism that varied between Europe and Japan was the political system. In European feudalism, there are many different laws and ideas that shaped politics. One of the more important ideas is the fief. A fief is a piece of land given to a vassal, a man who served a lord in a military capacity. Vassals who controlled large fiefs began to exercise political authority over them. After many years, many powerful lords had political authority. Since the lords did not want to give up the power and prestige they had received over the years, there was never a central government in European feudalism. Towards the end of European feudalism, a parliament was set up. The parliament was mostly made up of the nobility. Two knights from every county and two residents of every town were the people who constituted parliament. Japanese feudalism has a different political system. This political system was led by a strong central government that was modeled after the Chinese system. In early Japanese feudalism, the ruler was known as the emperor, and public officials were hand picked from the Japanese nobility. The creator of this early government, Prince Shotoku, wanted to limit the power of the aristocrats. Later on, many noble families were fighting each for political power. When a powerful noble named Minamoto Yoritomo defeated all his rivals, he created a different type of central government called the shogunate. The leader in the shogunate was the shogun, who was also the chief military general. This system lasted for the rest of Japanese feudalism. European and Japanese feudalism also varied socially. European feudalism had rigid social classes. At the top of the European social pyramid was the king. The next social class down was the aristocrats, composed of the lords, vassals, knights, and other members of the nobility. The next class down was the commoners, who were composed of ordinary people. The last social class in European feudalism was the serfs. The serfs and peasants were bound to the land on which they worked, and to the lords who provided goods and services to them. The knight was one of the most important people in European feudalism. Part of a knight s job was to behave correctly. So, all knights had to follow the chivalry. The chivalry was a code of ethics. Some of these codes were to defend the church, treat people kindly, and to fight only for glory. Religion also played a major part in the social lives during European feudalism. The most powerful religion of the time was Catholicism. The leader of the Catholic Church, which was the most famous and largest catholic church, was the pope, who had authority over everyone. Women were also a major part of European feudalism. They were legally allowed to own property, took care of their feudal estates while the lord they were married to was away, and were in charge of maintaining supplies that were needed.
At the head of Japanese society was the shogun. Each shogun controlled the daimyo, which was the next social class. The daimyo were great noble families who were not forced to pay taxes to the government. Underneath the daimyo were the samurai, who were the Japanese equivalent of knights The samurai had to live by a strict social code called the Bushido, which means the way of the warrior. The Bushido was based on loyalty to the daimyo. Beneath the samurai were the common people. Most of the common people were peasants who worked on the daimyo s land. Some commoners were considered better than others, and they sometimes would get jobs as local officials. The peasants who could not afford to pay taxes to the government were the genin, who could be forced into labor like slaves. The last Japanese social class was the eta, who were born into slavery. Eta were forced to do degrading things such as bury the dead and making leather. Women were also important in Japanese society for doing things such as writing, painting, and singing. However, women were considered subordinate to men, and they did not get the same rights as them. The two types of feudalism, European and Japanese, also differed economically. Many people who lived during European feudalism were blacksmiths, farmers, artisans, and servants. For the most part, these jobs were dominated by men, and women stayed at home and took care of the house. There was very little trade between feudalism countries and the rest of the world. However, the barter system made trading between different nobles and lords very common. The barter system took the place of paper currency. If a person wanted to get materials they did not have, they would trade something they did not want for the thing that they needed. Many of the European artisans and blacksmiths had apprentices to help them. In apprenticeship, a young man would go learn a skill or trade from a professional for a few years. Then, they would be able to open up their own of business after gaining much needed experience. During Japanese feudalism, there was a different type of economical system. Feudal Japan was mostly a farming society, and the largest crop grown was wet rice. Trade was also very important in Feudal Japan. Foreign trade was mainly with China and Korea. The Japanese would ship raw materials and manufactured products to these two countries in exchange for silk, books, porcelain, and coins. Inside Japan, both the barter system and currency were used at different points. The downfall of both European and Japanese feudalism was caused by the excessively large middle class. Even though commoners comprised most of the population, the aristocracy controlled the government and other aspects of society. The two main types of feudalism were European and Japanese. They were both alike in many ways, but also different. Both systems were successful, but later on would eventually fade away.