Document-Based Question: Feudalism
Submit this assignment to your teacher by the due date to receive full credit. (45 points)
1. To complete this Graded Assignment, retrieve the Feudalism DBQ. Use this document with its essay instructions and the DBQ Checklist to complete this DBQ essay. Make sure that your essay has an introduction, three body paragraphs, point-of-view analysis, an additional source that would strengthen the essay, and a conclusion. Also make sure that it addresses all or all but one of the documents provided (eight or nine). Essay:
Feudalism was one political system that grouped individuals into very strict political, social, and economic functions. Although in Western Europe and in Japan the people were grouped similarly into classes such as nobles, warriors, and peasants, the rules and customs that governed feudalism differed greatly between the two systems. The author will compare the unique characteristics found in the political, economic, and social functions of each feudal system.
The political systems of both these county’s differed very much in power. The illustration of the European Feudal structure presents the king first on top, follows by the Lords, seceded by the knights, and ending with the peasants (Doc. 9). This general outline was for the most part accepted and followed as a trend by most European countries (with a few minor exceptions). The king had absolute power for each tract of land he ruled over. Contrary to the European model, the main political entity in the Japanese feudal system was the Emperor. In the related illustration we for the Japanese Feudal system, we are presented with similar categories and groupings with the political figurehead being the emperor, seceded bye the shogun and the rest of the warrior class, with remaining three categories being peasants, artisans, and merchants (Doc. 10). Although sharing many characteristics in common with the European system, the political power early on in Japan rested with the Emperor, in stark contrast with that of the organization of nations ruled by kings. This did not last long in Japan however. Warlords known as the shogunates claimed power from the Emperor, making the offices of the centralized government powerless (Doc. 5). This came about through several things, the most important of which was the civil war. When a shogunate from a Japanese clan was designated power by the Emperor, this further destabilized the governments grip, and power became decentralized. The shogunates then proceeded to place supporters into power, making government workers almost useless and were usually not qualified. This power struggle took place in a different form in Europe between the church and kings, though it was not exactly the same.
Many differences in the economic system played an integral part in the development of the feudal systems of both these countries. In Japan, religion was thought of as a major cultural part and was integral in society, but nevertheless, commercial industry stayed very compartmentalized. The exception to this was in the Hundred Article Code of Chosokabe, which stated that, “Lords and vassals, priests and laymen, noble and mean, high and low, must all keep from allowing the rules of [Buddhism] to suffer disgrace” (Doc. 8). However, this document was written well into the feudal period, so it might not accurately represent the early tenets of the system in regards to religion. In contrast, Catholicism and the commerce of Europe mixed quite often. One example of this is when Geoffrey, Count of Essex, learns from the king who is informed that a Christ Church monk requests to send 100 pounds of corn overseas from England (Doc. 4). The feudal laws required that monk to get permission from a higher vassal, which happens to be the king. Another example is when a Charter of donation commissioned by the King of the West-Saxons in 845 C.E donates a tenth of his lands to the service of God (Doc. 3). These two examples provide a look at how intermingled religion and the system were and how they would cooperate with each to gain alliance when needed during an issue of state.
Finally, social organization was probably the most affected by the feudal system. The Japanese realized the need for each sect of society and thus enforced a strict “caste” like system, with social mobility at a standstill. The Edict of Change of Status from 1951 maintains the requirements for keeping the social classes in such a standstill state (Doc. 7). This, however, promoted an even balance of each class (theoretically) by forcibly making its citizens stay within their class with threats of expulsion from Japanese society. Similarly, Europe recognized its need to also keep a pretty tight hold on the reigns of social class, promoting the idea that it was an honor to serve those in the higher class (Doc. 6). The Bishop of Laon goes as far as to say that the need for Feudalism is Europe is because one group (of the three categories he divides them into) cannot function without another, further pushing the concept that even one group of people could not survive outside the system (Doc. 1). This shows the rigid standing of the Feudal ideas in Europe.
If there were a document regarding improvement in social status or an opinion of a peasant rather than a clergyman or warrior (although most peasants were probably illiterate at the time) it would have given the author a broader perspective into the daily life of a peasant. All the documents regarding people of higher social status may be biased, given their lofty position in the system.
Nevertheless, Feudalism did have a significant effect on the societies of Europe and Japan. This helped to inspire the rebirth of a democratic government through insurrection, revolt, and ultimately, revolution. These lasting effects would come to produce a new kind of experiment known as the United States of America long after the feudal system became obsolete.