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Impact of Feudalism

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Feudalism played a major role in the reorganization of medieval Europe. Feudalism was a political system that was based on the contracts between lords and vassals, for land and protection. Feudalism effected political, social, religious, and economical aspects of the “Middle Ages”.

Feudalism is defined as a type of government in which political power was treated as a private possession and was divided among a large number of nobles. King Charlemagne was the first major supporter of this form of government. After the fall of Charlemagne Empire, the grandsons of Charlemagne feuded over land. The empire was divided into three parts causing it to become weak and eventually to fall. Feudalism was formed to be a way of protecting the people and the lands of the Monarchy.

The concept of this impromptu political system could be viewed as a survival tactic to preserve the Monarchy. Feudalism could be loosely viewed as an empowerment technique to re-affirm the masses that the Monarchy is the best form of government. Unfortunately for the Monarchy, the people did not want to have one person control the entire country.

The king would give out grants of land to his most important noblemen. Each noble had to promise to loyally follow the king and supply him with soldiers or knights in time of war. These lands were called “fiefs”. The lords then divided their land among the lesser nobles who became their servants or “vassals”. Sometimes men who owned land would turn it over to a lord in exchange for protection.

The main service that the vassals owed his lord was military. Vassals had to supply them a certain number of knights for a certain number of days each year. The vassals were lords of the knights. Sometimes a vassal-lord would grant his knights part of his own fief. Then the knight would become a vassal. However, many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them. By 1100, certain barons had castles and courts that rivaled the king’s.

In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. While it gave no rights to ordinary people, the Magna Carta limited the king’s powers of taxation and it required trials before punishment. It was the first time that an English monarch came under the control of the law.

Many factors of society were intertwined with Feudalism. One major factor was Christianity. The Church controlled all aspects of life. They controlled the days the serfs had off. The serfs were only allowed days off according to the Church calendar. For example, they would get off on Christmas and Easter. The manor was also centered on the Church. The center of the manor was always a church or chapels were the serfs and nobles would go pray. The Church also controlled much of the government. Many high ranking officials in the Church were also high ranking officials in the government. In the 1300’s the corruption of the Church helped to cause the fall of Feudalism. Independent towns and villages began to form. The people began to trade, and the rigid class structure of the Monarchy and Feudalism started to disappear.

Many factors led to the gradual disintegration of the feudal system. However, two of the main aspects that contributed to the dissolution of medieval feudalism were urbanization as well as the increase in power and wealth of the merchant class. As towns and villages gained independence from both church and feudal lords, the middle class began functioning more similar to that of small-scale entrepreneurs. The desire for a reliable supply of manufactured goods was the result of an increase in trade and commerce, which led to the increased control of land, labor and capital by the merchant class.

In conclusion, Feudalism could be viewed as the birth of democracy. Today’s National Guard, social Middle class and independent capitalism can all be loosely related to Feudalism. Feudalism was a necessary transitional political system, which contributed to our modern way of life.

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