What is Feudalism?

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Feudalism refers to an organized system of ownership of land that was popularly used during the Middle Ages. Under this system, all of the kingdom’s lands belong to the king, but can be given to nobles or “lords” that served and fought for the royalty. These pieces of lands that were given to lords are also known as manors, and the lords may also give some of it to their vassals. In exchange for the pieces of land called fiefs, the vassals are required to perform duties for their lords.

Although the system of feudalism is popular in European countries, this is actually implemented even in other places such as India, Ancient Egypt, South America (19th century), and Parthian empire. In this system, the taxes are paid in the form of services and products, rather than money. For instance, the vassals are required to give a certain share of their crops to the nobles during the harvest season. Additionally, it is also the vassals who will grind the harvested grains in the granaries that were also owned by the lords. Once the grains were grounded, a part of it must also be given to the nobles. In exchange for these products and services rendered by the vassals, the nobles will provide them with protection and ensure peace.

Complete ownership of manors belongs to the lords, who pass it from generation to generation. Each manor is composed of a village, mills, church, lands used for pasture, and wine press. The lords allow servants to live in their manors and also provide them with food, but they do not pay these people for the services rendered.

In the system of feudalism, there are also classes called villein and serfs (slaves). Compared to the serfs, the villein is more free. However, he could not marry or move away from the manor lands without permission from the lords. Lastly, there are also some ways by which serfs and villeins could become free men. One way is by escaping from the manor land, and another by buying their freedom.

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