There is no great character with whom Feudalism is especially identified. It was an institution of the Middle Ages, which grew out of the miseries and robberies that succeeded the fall of the Roman Empire. With the collapse of the Carolingian Kingdom/Holy Roman Empire in the 9th century, Europeans entered what many consider the core period of the Medieval age - the Central Middle Ages. This age is also described as the "feudal" period in European history. Feudalism is a term we have used before. Feudalism means a situation where there is no dominant political power or effective central leadership. In other words, there is no state or empire. Local leaders control political decisions, command the military power, have the controlling economic power and even dominate in the cultural realm. In a feudal society, power is treated as private possession; there is no effective state.
In the feudal system, there is an absence of a strong central authority. There is diffusion of governmental power through the granting of administrative and legal authority over particular lands by higher lords to vassals sworn by voluntary oath to support or serve them, usually by military means. Under feudalism, medieval society formed a pyramid, with the King at the top. The King theoretically owned all the land in the country, parceling it out to the lords, in exchange for (mainly military) support. As well as the land, the lord obtained rights to control its use and enforce the law within its boundaries. When the feudal lord actually gave a piece of land to the vassal it was called a fief. In many cases, ownership of land was the vassal's as long as the vassal fulfilled his responsibilities. If both parties fulfilled their obligations, then both benefited. The obligation attached to particular holdings of land that the peasant household should supply the lord with specified labour services or a part of its output, or cash in lieu thereof, subject to the custom of the...
Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman Cantor. Harperperennial Library, 1994.
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