The feudal system: the emergence and features

History 2023

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The feudal system: the emergence and features
The feudal system: the emergence and features

Feudalism was an integral part of the European Middle Ages. Under this socio-political system, large landowners enjoyed enormous powers and influence. The mainstay of their power was the enserfed and disenfranchised peasantry.

The birth of feudalism

In Europe, the feudal system arose after the fall of the Western Roman Empire at the end of the 5th century AD. e. Together with the disappearance of the former ancient civilization, the era of classical slavery was left behind. On the territory of the young barbarian kingdoms that arose on the site of the empire, new social relations began to take shape.

The feudal system appeared due to the formation of large landed property. Influential and we althy aristocrats, close to the royal power, received allotments, which only increased with each generation. At the same time, the bulk of the Western European population (peasants) lived in the community. By the 7th century, a significant property stratification took place within them. The communal land passed into private hands. Those peasants who did not have enough plots became poor, dependent on their employer.

feudal system

Enslavement of the peasantry

Independent peasantthe farms of the early Middle Ages were called allods. At the same time, conditions of unequal competition developed, when large landowners oppressed their opponents in the market. As a result, the peasants went bankrupt and voluntarily passed under the patronage of aristocrats. So the feudal system gradually arose.

It is curious that this term did not appear in the Middle Ages, but much later. At the end of the 18th century in revolutionary France, feudalism was called the "old order" - the period of the existence of an absolute monarchy and nobility. Later, the term became popular among scientists. For example, it was used by Karl Marx. In his book Capital, he called the feudal system the forerunner of modern capitalism and market relations.


The state of the Franks was the first to show signs of feudalism. In this monarchy, the formation of new social relations was accelerated by beneficiaries. This was the name of land salaries from the state to service people - officials or the military. At first, it was assumed that these allotments would belong to a person for life, and after his death, the authorities would be able to dispose of the property again at their discretion (for example, transfer it to the next applicant).

However, in the IX-X centuries. free land fund ended. Because of this, property gradually ceased to be sole property and became hereditary. That is, the owner could now transfer flax (land allotment) to his children. These changes, firstly, increased the dependence of the peasantry on their overlords. Secondly, the reform strengthened the importance of medium and small feudal lords. They onfor a long time became the basis of the Western European army.

Peasants who lost their allod took land from the feudal lord in exchange for the obligation to perform regular work on his plots. Such temporary use in the jurisdiction was called a precarium. The big proprietors were not interested in completely driving the peasants off the land. The established order gave them a significant income and became the basis for the well-being of the aristocracy and nobility for several centuries.

features of the feudal system

Strengthening the power of the feudal lords

In Europe, the peculiarities of the feudal system were also in the fact that large landowners eventually received not only large lands, but also real power. The state transferred various functions to them, including judicial, police, administrative and tax functions. Such royal charters became a sign that the landed magnates received immunity from any interference with their powers.

The peasants against their background were helpless and disenfranchised. Landowners could abuse their power without fear of government intervention. This is how the feudal serf system actually appeared, when the peasants were forced to labor duties without regard to the law and previous agreements.

Cove and dues

Over time, the responsibilities of the dependent poor changed. There were three types of feudal rent - corvée, quitrent in kind and quitrent in cash. Free and forced labor was especially common in the early Middle Ages. In the 11th century beganthe process of economic growth of cities and the development of trade. This led to the spread of monetary relations. Before that, in place of the currency could be the same natural products. This economic order was called barter. When money spread throughout Western Europe, the feudal lords switched to cash rent.

But even in spite of this, the large estates of aristocrats were rather sluggish in trade. Most of the products and other goods produced on their territory were consumed within the economy. It is important to note that the aristocrats used not only the labor of the peasantry, but also the labor of artisans. Gradually, the share of the land of the feudal lord in his own economy decreased. The barons preferred to give plots to dependent peasants and live off their dues and corvee.

feudal serfdom

Regional specifics

In most countries of Western Europe, feudalism was finally formed by the XI century. Somewhere this process ended earlier (in France and Italy), somewhere later (in England and Germany). In all these countries, feudalism was practically the same. The relations of large landowners and peasants in Scandinavia and Byzantium were somewhat different.

Had its own characteristics and social hierarchy in medieval Asian countries. For example, the feudal system in India was characterized by the great influence of the state on large landowners and peasants. In addition, there was no classical European serfdom. The feudal system in Japan was distinguished by the actual dual power. Under the shogunate, the shogun hadeven more influence than the emperor. This state system was based on a layer of professional warriors who received small plots of land - samurai.

slave system feudal system

Scaling up production

All historical socio-political systems (slave system, feudal system, etc.) changed gradually. So, at the end of the 11th century, slow production growth began in Europe. It was associated with the improvement of working tools. At the same time, there is a division of specializations of workers. It was then that the artisans finally separated from the peasants. This social class began to settle in cities, which grew along with the increase in European production.

The increase in the number of goods led to the spread of trade. A market economy began to take shape. An influential merchant class emerged. Merchants began to unite in guilds in order to protect their interests. In the same way, artisans formed urban guilds. Until the XIV century, these enterprises were advanced for Western Europe. They allowed the artisans to remain independent from the feudal lords. However, with the onset of accelerated scientific progress at the end of the Middle Ages, workshops became a relic of the past.

feudal system in india

Peasant uprisings

Of course, the feudal social system could not help but change under the influence of all these factors. The boom of cities, the growth of monetary and commodity relations - all this took place against the backdrop of an intensification of the people's struggle against the oppression of largelandowners.

Peasant uprisings have become commonplace. All of them were brutally suppressed by the feudal lords and the state. The instigators were executed, and ordinary participants were punished with additional duties or torture. However, gradually, thanks to the uprisings, the personal dependence of the peasants began to decrease, and the cities turned into a stronghold of the free population.

Struggle between feudal lords and monarchs

Slavery, feudal, capitalist system - all of them, one way or another, influenced state power and its place in society. In the Middle Ages, the growing large landowners (barons, counts, dukes) practically ignored their monarchs. Feudal wars took place regularly, in which the aristocrats sorted out the relationship between themselves. At the same time, the royal power did not interfere in these conflicts, and if it did, it was because of its weakness that it could not stop the bloodshed.

The feudal system (which flourished in the 12th century) led to the fact that, for example, in France, the monarch was considered only "first among equals." The state of affairs began to change along with the increase in production, popular uprisings, etc. Gradually, in the Western European countries, national states took shape with a firm royal power, which acquired more and more signs of absolutism. Centralization was one of the reasons feudalism was a thing of the past.

feudal period

Development of capitalism

The gravedigger of feudalism has become capitalism. In the 16th century, rapid scientific progress began in Europe. Heled to the modernization of working equipment and the entire industry. Thanks to the Great geographical discoveries in the Old World, they learned about new lands lying across the ocean. The emergence of a new fleet led to the development of trade relations. New items hit the market.

At this time, the leaders of industrial production were the Netherlands and England. In these countries, manufactories arose - enterprises of a new type. They used hired labor, which was also divided. That is, trained specialists worked at the manufactories - primarily artisans. These people were independent of the feudal lords. Thus, new types of production appeared - cloth, iron, printing, etc.

feudal system in japan

Decomposition of feudalism

Together with manufactories, the bourgeoisie was born. This social class consisted of owners who owned the means of production and large capital. At first, this stratum of the population was small. Its share in the economy was tiny. At the end of the Middle Ages, the bulk of manufactured goods appeared in peasant farms dependent on feudal lords.

However, gradually the bourgeoisie gained momentum and became richer and more influential. This process could not but lead to conflict with the old elite. Thus, in the 17th century, social bourgeois revolutions began in Europe. The new class wanted to consolidate its own influence in society. This was done with the help of representation in the highest state bodies (States General, Parliament), etc.

The first was the Dutch Revolution, which endedalong with the Thirty Years' War. This uprising also had a national character. The inhabitants of the Netherlands got rid of the power of the powerful dynasty of the Spanish Habsburgs. The next revolution took place in England. It has also been called the Civil War. The result of all these and subsequent similar coups was the rejection of feudalism, the emancipation of the peasantry and the triumph of a free market economy.

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