An accurate definition of the term has been an apparent stumbling block in the academic community, as the recent debate on the subject in the Internet discussion list Mediev-l demonstrates. For almost a month Medieval scholars wrote back and forth about the virtues and the drawbacks of the terms, with the majority lining up on the drawback side. As a basic and simple definition one may assume that feudalism exists in a society with
1) extremely strong ties of personal dependence,
2) a strong military class at the top of the social structure,
3) hierarchical systems of land rights based on
4) a breakup of central authority, with State powers distributed to powerful men (usually) in control
of large areas of land,
5) a body of institutions used to create and enforce
the ties of dependence.
The first 'modern' historian to tackle the term was F.W. Maitland. Maitland was an historian of medieval law, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, at Cambridge... [continues]
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