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Feudal Europe

Unit 4
The Middle Ages
The Middle Ages started since the western Roman Empire collapsed in
476 until the Ottoman Empire took control over Constantinople
(Bizantine Empire) in 1453, and the discovery of America in 1492.
Middle Ages Timeline

Early M. A. or Dark
High M.A. Late M.A.

476-1000 1000-1250 1250-1492

• Fall of the Western Roman

Empire • Rise of Crown
• Growth of cities
• 1st invasions: Germanic tribes • Rise of Commerce
• 100 years war (1337-1453)
• Bizantine empire splendor • Cities became more important
• Black death epidemic (1347)
• Islam begins to expand • Romanesque Art
• Gothic Art
• Carolingian empire • Gothic Art
• 2nd invasions: Vikings, Magyars
and Saracens.
 The Feudal System was a
political, economic and social
system that predominated in
Western Europe between the 9th
and the 13th centuries.

 After Carolingian Empire was

divided (843), the heirs fought
each other to conquer more

 At the same time, Europe was

attacked by three main invaders:
Magyars, Saracens and Vikings.
They launched raids during 9th
and 10th centuries.

 Due to these struggles, peasants

farmers (the majority of population)
couldn´t defend themselves, so
they looked for protection from the
nobles, which had private armies
and castles.
Feudal relations
The kings were too poor to have a big permanent army, so they couldn't protect people and
needed help from nobles.

At first kings were elected (eventually the monarchy became hereditary), they were a noble
but elected among others, so, they were called “ Primus inter pares”. Some of the nobles
were even more powerful than the king.

There were some feudal relations :

king-nobles: the king received military help (auxilium) from

nobles in exchange for a piece of land called fief. The
noble gave the king also some advise (consilium) in case he
need it and swore loyalty to the king. The noble was then
a vassal.

nobles-lesser nobles. The nobles gave a minor piece of

land to a lesser noble or to a knight, in exchange for
loyalty and military help.

nobles-peasants or serfs. The noble or Lord (even

clergy) gave protection, justice and right to work the land
to the peasant or serf. They pay with part of the harvest
or working the lord´s lands. The serfs were bound to the
land, they were almost slaves: had to obey the Lord.
Homage Ceremony
These relationships were established during the Homage Ceremony, in which
the vassal promised loyalty to the king: Homage, and the King gave a symbol
of the fief (ring, piece of land…) to the vassal: Investiture.
Feudal Society
Feudal society was divided into two main groups:

 Privileged : they had rights such as not working, not paying taxes and they
were judged less severely . They were: Nobles and Clergy

 Non- privileged: they had to work, they had to pay taxes, they were judged
severely.They were the third state: workers, peasants and serfs.

The society was a structured one, it was very closed and people were born into a
specific class. They could not move out of the social class they were born
into. There were three main Social classes: Nobility, Clergy and third state
(peasants, workers and serfs).

Let´s watch how they used to live here.

The Fief
In feudal society, towns were no longer important. Instead, life was based around fiefs. The fief
was a piece of land given to a Lord or Knight in return for military service. Apart from having a
Castle, a Village and forests, it was divided into two main parts:

• Demesne: It was the land held by the lord for his own use.
• Holdings or Tenements: lands held by the peasants in return for rents or duties.
•Serfs were workers who were tied to
the land on which they lived.
•Not slaves but couldn’t leave without
permission of the lord.
•Spent most of their time farming the
land In return, they got a small piece of
land to farm for themselves and
protections against outlaws.

Manors produced and provided

everything the people needed that
lived there.
• Lords controlled everything that
happened on his land.
• His word was the law
• They punished those who
misbehaved and collected taxes on
his manor.

Women in the Middle Ages

Generally had fewer rights than men.
Had to obey the wishes of their
husbands and fathers
The Castle