13.2 - Feudalism in Europe


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Quick look at the structure of European feudalism.

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13.2 - Feudalism in Europe

  1. 1. Feudalism in Europe
  2. 2. <ul><li>Objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Know what feudalism is. </li></ul><ul><li>Know what the different layers of feudalism are and what each layer owes to the next. </li></ul><ul><li>Know how and why feudalism developed. </li></ul><ul><li>Know what the life of peasants and serfs was like. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>When we left off, Charlemagne was large and in charge. </li></ul><ul><li>But then he dies in 814 and his son, Louis the Pious, made for a mediocre ruler. </li></ul><ul><li>The political intrigue is ridiculously complicated, but suffice it to say that upon Louis’s death in 840, his three sons are co-rulers, quasi-officially over different parts of the Frankish empire. </li></ul><ul><li>Naturally, the sons engage in a civil war. It’s settled in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun in which they divvy up the empire amongst themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>This ends the strong centralized state that existed under Charlemagne and things start fragmenting again. </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>Thus we see the beginnings of feudalism </li></ul><ul><li>Western Europe was getting invaded by Vikings from the north, Magyars from the west, and Muslims from the south. </li></ul><ul><li>Since there wasn’t a central authority who could take charge and repel invaders, defense became a more localized matter. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Here’s roughly how the feudal system worked: </li></ul><ul><li>A lord or landowner grants land to somebody. The land is called a fief and the person granted the land is called a vassal. </li></ul><ul><li>In return for the land, the vassal owes his lord his loyalty, military talent, and possibly other services. </li></ul><ul><li>This process can go down several levels. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The feudal pyramid has the king at the top. He grants land and/or titles to nobles. Those nobles grant land to knights. Those knights and nobles preside over peasants, or serfs, who were bound to the land. That is, they belonged to the land and couldn’t leave. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. King Nobles Knights Peasants Grants land to Grants land to Grants land to Provide food and services Provide protection and military service Provide money and knights
  7. 8. <ul><li>At no stage does the lord actually give away the land. Its use and revenue are merely granted to the vassal. </li></ul><ul><li>As such, the lord is responsible for the maintenance and protection of the land. Those are his primary obligations to the vassal. </li></ul><ul><li>The vassal in turn provides military service and perhaps counsel to the lord. Also taxes or a portion of the revenue from the land. </li></ul><ul><li>The peasants were essentially farmers and laborers. They provided their lord with labor and in return the lord allowed them to live and subsist on what they grew. </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>The peasants were the lowest and largest caste. They led miserable lives but accepted their station as God’s will. </li></ul><ul><li>Most couldn’t leave the land on which they were born if they were serfs. The rest just didn’t. </li></ul><ul><li>They toiled, led short lives, dwelled in huts with insects and possibly animals, and drank beer almost exclusively because non-alcoholic water wasn’t safe to drink. </li></ul><ul><li>The peasants and serfs weren’t slaves, mind you. They couldn’t be bought or sold. Rather, they belonged to the land. </li></ul>
  9. 11. <ul><li>The lord’s estate was called a manor. </li></ul><ul><li>On the manor was the lord’s house, the peasants’ huts, a church, mill, village, and other things that were necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>The feudal system is sometimes known as the manorial system. </li></ul>