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The Feudal System. First things first…. During the Middle Ages (roughly 300 – 1500C.E.) society changed and developed from a single ruling empire to a FEUDAL system of government.

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first things first
First things first…
  • During the Middle Ages (roughly 300 – 1500C.E.) society changed and developed from a single ruling empire to a FEUDAL system of government.
  • The role of the Church increased greatly. People were called to serve their local nobles & the Pope. They were to protect their community from attacks by Vikings or hostile lords seeking to expand their kingdom.
  • The Middle Ages are broken down into 3 smaller periods:

Early Middle Ages (a.k.a. Dark Ages)

High Middle Ages

Late Middle Ages

feudal pyramid1
Feudal Pyramid
  • Everyone provided a service to the people higher up on the pyramid
    • They either fought or farmed for that person
  • In return for their service, they were given protection or land

The King was at the top of the feudal pyramid

  • The King had the most power, and he owned the most land – he would give his land out as fiefs to the highest noblemen underneath him (Barons)
  • A fief was a piece of the kings land that was given to a Noble to live on and take care of (as long as he promised to supply the king with soldiers and some of the profits)
  • A kingdom might be split up into about 50 fiefs. The Baron had power over anyone who lived on his land
fiefs cont
Fiefs cont.
  • The fiefs granted by the king were quite large, so Nobles would divide their land into smaller sections to other rich men
    • (who became known as barons, dukes, earls and counts depending on how much land they owned)
fiefs cont1
Fiefs cont.
  • Loyalty and service is an important idea in feudal society
  • In order to take the land, you would swear an oath to the person who gave it to you – if you broke the oath, you would become a traitor
  • Vassal – once you took the land, you became a vassal. (example: a Baron is a vassal of the king)
  • Were vassals to kings
  • They controlled sections of land, and the people who lived there, from peasants to soldiers
  • They provided the king with money and with protection. They were required to fight for the king if needed.
    • Counts answered to Dukes, Dukes answered to Barons. All people above merchants were nobility.
  • Agreed to fight for their lord in return for land
merchants commoners
  • Merchants ran businesses in the community- they worked near the castle or town and paid rent and taxes to the king
  • Commoners were servants who worked in the local castle or manor – they were paid for their work in money, food and clothing
  • Serfs were the lowest of feudal society
  • They were like slaves toiling away for their lord - they were not allowed to leave the lord’s land
  • they worked but received no money – instead they received food, clothing and a small hut for their family. They also received protection during war/invasions
  • Serfs could become free by escaping capture for a year and a day
  • The land on the manor was divided up into small plots of land.
  • The land that belonged to the lord was called the ‘demesne’ (domain)
  • The rest of the land was allotted to peasants
  • Common land existed on the manor. Peasants had some rights to the common land:
    • They could cut a limited amount of hay from the meadow
    • They could take a certain amount of wood from the forest to use as fuel or for building
    • They could turn so many farm animals into the pasture or waste (cattle, geese, swine)