A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND
ADDITIONS TO CHAPTER II
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Feudalism is a political and military system between a feudal aristocrat (a lord or liege), and his vassals. Feudalism flourished from the ninth century to the fifteenth century. In its most classic sense, feudalism refers to the Medieval European political system composed of a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. Although derived from the Latin word feodum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Medieval Period.
There is no broadly accepted modern definition of feudalism. The term, which was coined in the early modern period (17th century), was originally used in a political context, but other definitions of feudalism exist. Since at least the 1960s, many medieval historians have included a broader social aspect, adding the peasantry bonds of manorialism, sometimes referred to as a "feudal society". Still others since the 1970s have re-examined the evidence and concluded that feudalism is an unworkable term and should be removed entirely from scholarly and educational discussion, or at least used only with severe qualification and warning.
Traditionally, American and British historians have used the term "feudalism" to describe a political, military, and social system that bound together the warrior aristocracy of Western Europe between ca. 1000 and ca. 1300 the elements of which were:
· The personal bond of mutual loyalty and military service between nobles of different rank known as vassalage/lordship;
· Fiefs held by vassals/men from their lords in return for specified service, which was usually a combination of military and social duties and miscellaneous payments;
· Jurisdictional and political power in the hands of nobles who held franchises, immunities or banal rights;
· Decentralized rule with a weak king who was theoretically the lord of lords and the ultimate source of all rights over land.
In this paradigm, feudalism is essentially a military recruitment system, in which land tenure is exchanged for knight service.
Outside a European context, the concept of feudalism is normally used only by analogy (called semi-feudal), most often in discussions of Japan under the shoguns, and sometimes medieval and Gondarine Ethiopia. However, some have taken the feudalism analogy further, seeing it in places as diverse as ancient Egypt, the Parthian empire, the Indian subcontinent, and the antebellum American South.
The term feudalism has also been applied—often inappropriately or pejoratively—to non-Western societies where institutions and attitudes similar to those of medieval Europe are perceived to prevail. Ultimately, the many ways the term feudalism has been used has deprived it of specific meaning, leading many historians and political theorists to reject it as a useful concept for understanding society.
Main article: Early Middle Ages
As the Roman Empire declined, emperors gave land to nobles in exchange for loyalty.  Military power concentrated at the level of lords, who traded land in exchange for protection, as the Roman army could no longer be counted on.
See also: Examples of feudalism
Roland pledges his fealty to Charlemagne; from a manuscript of a chanson de geste
Lords, vassals, and fiefs
Three primary elements characterized feudalism: lords, vassals, and fiefs; the group of feudalism can be seen in how these three elements fit together. A lord granted land (a fief) to his vassals. In exchange for the fief, the vassal would provide military service to the lord. The obligations and relations between lord, vassal and fief form the basis of feudalism. Before a lord could grant land (a fief) to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This was done at a formal and symbolic ceremony called a commendation ceremony composed of the two-part act of homage and oath of fealty. During homage, the lord and vassal entered a contract in which the vassal promised to fight for the lord at his command. Fealty comes from the Latin fidelitas and denotes the fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord. "Fealty" also refers to an oath that more explicitly reinforces the commitments of the vassal made during homage. Such an oath follows homage. Once the commendation was complete, the lord and vassal were now in a feudal relationship with agreed-upon mutual obligations to one another. The vassal's principal obligation to the lord was to "aid", or military service. Using whatever equipment the vassal could obtain by virtue of the revenues from the fief, the vassal was responsible to answer to calls to military service on behalf of the lord. This security of military help was the primary reason the lord entered into the feudal relationship. In addition, the vassal sometimes had to fulfill other obligations to the lord. One of those obligations was to provide the lord with "counsel", so that if the lord faced a major decision, such as whether or not to go to war, he would summon all his vassals and hold a council. The vassal may have been required to yield a certain amount of his farm's output to his lord. The vassal was also sometimes required to grind his own wheat and bake his own bread in the mills and ovens owned and taxed by his lord.
The land-holding relationships of feudalism revolved around the fief. Depending on the power of the granting lord, grants could range in size from a small farm to a much larger area of land. The size of fiefs was described in irregular terms quite different from modern area terms (see medieval land terms). The lord-vassal relationship was not restricted to members of the laity; bishops and abbots, for example, were also capable of acting as lords. There were thus different 'levels' of lordship and vassalage. The King was a lord who loaned fiefs to aristocrats, who were his vassals. The aristocrats, through subinfeudation, were lords to their own vassals, Knights, who were in turn lords of the manor to the peasants who worked on the land. Ultimately, the Emperor was a lord who loaned fiefs to Kings, who were his vassals. This traditionally formed the basis of a 'universal monarchy' as an imperial alliance and a world order. Vassals were often granted not only land itself but also the right to collect certain tolls or taxes and private jurisdiction on their land.
The term "feudal" was invented by Renaissance Italian jurists to describe what they took to be the common customary law of property. Giacomo Alvarotto's (1385-1453) treatise De feudis ("Concerning Fiefs") claimed that despite regional differences the regulations governing the descent of aristocratic land tenure were derived from common legal principles, a customary shared "feudal law". According to another source, the earliest known use of the term feudal was in the 17th century (1614), when the system it purported to describe was rapidly vanishing or gone entirely. No writers in the period in which feudalism was supposed to have flourished are known to have used the word itself.
The word "feudalism" was not a medieval term but an invention of 16th century French and English lawyers to describe certain traditional obligations between members of the warrior aristocracy. It was often used as a pejorative by later commentators to describe any law or custom that they perceived as unfair or out-dated. Most of these laws and customs were related in some way to the medieval institution of the fief (Latin: feodum, a word which first appears on a Frankish charter dated 884), and thus lumped together under this single term. "Feudalism" comes from the French féodalisme, a word coined during the French Revolution.
Evolution of the term
Feudalism became a popular and widely used term in 1748, thanks to Montesquieu's De L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws). In the 18th century, writers of the Enlightenment wrote about feudalism to denigrate the antiquated system of the Ancien Régime, or French monarchy. This was the Age of Enlightenment when writers valued reason and the Middle Ages were viewed as the "Dark Ages". Enlightenment authors generally mocked and ridiculed anything from the "Dark Ages" including feudalism, projecting its negative characteristics on the current French monarchy as a means of political gain.For them "feudalism" meant seigneurial privileges and prerogatives. When the French Constituent Assembly abolished the "feudal regime" in August 1789 this is what was meant.
Adam Smith used the term “feudal system” to describe a social and economic system defined by inherited social ranks, each of which possessed inherent social and economic privileges and obligations. In such a system wealth derived from agriculture, which was organized not according to market forces but on the basis of customary labor services owed by serfs to landowning nobles.
Karl Marx also used the term in political analysis. In the 19th century, Marx described feudalism as the economic situation coming before the inevitable rise of capitalism. For Marx, what defined feudalism was that the power of the ruling class (the aristocracy) rested on their control of arable land, leading to a class society based upon the exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under serfdom. "The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." Marx thus considered feudalism within a purely economic model
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Horace Round and Frederic William Maitland, both historians of medieval Britain, arrived at different conclusions as to the character of English society before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Round argued that the Normans had imported feudalism, while Maitland contended that its fundamentals were already in place in Britain. The debate continues today. In the 20th century, the historian François-Louis Ganshof was very influential on the topic of feudalism. Ganshof defined feudalism from a narrow legal and military perspective, arguing that feudal relationships existed only within the medieval nobility itself. Ganshof articulated this concept in Feudalism (1944). His classic definition of feudalism is the most widely known today and also the easiest to understand, simply put, when a lord granted a fief to a vassal, the vassal provided military service in return.
One of Ganshof's contemporaries, the French historian Marc Bloch, was arguably the most influential 20th century medieval historian. Bloch approached feudalism not so much from a legal and military point of view but from a sociological one. He developed his ideas in Feudal Society (1939–40; English 1960). Bloch conceived of feudalism as a type of society that was not limited solely to the nobility. Like Ganshof, he recognized that there was a hierarchical relationship between lords and vassals, but Bloch saw as well a similar relationship obtaining between lords and peasants. It is this radical notion that peasants were part of feudal relationship that sets Bloch apart from his peers. While the vassal performed military service in exchange for the fief, the peasant performed physical labour in return for protection. Both are a form of feudal relationship. According to Bloch, other elements of society can be seen in feudal terms; all the aspects of life were centered on "lordship", and so we can speak usefully of a feudal church structure, a feudal courtly (and anti-courtly) literature, and a feudal economy.
Revolt against the term
In 1974, U.S. historian Elizabeth A. R. Brown rejected the label feudalism as an anachronism that imparts a false sense of uniformity to the concept. Having noted the current use of many, often contradictory, definitions of feudalism, she argued that the word is only a construct with no basis in medieval reality, an invention of modern historians read back "tyrannically" into the historical record. Supporters of Brown have suggested that the term should be expunged from history textbooks and lectures on medieval history entirely. In Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted (1994), Susan Reynolds expanded upon Brown's original thesis. Although some contemporaries questioned Reynolds's methodology, other historians have supported it and her argument. Note that Reynolds does not object to the Marxist use of feudalism.
The term feudal has also been applied to non-Western societies in which institutions and attitudes similar to those of medieval Europe are perceived to have prevailed (See Other feudal-like systems). Ultimately, critics say, the many ways the term feudalism has been used have deprived it of specific meaning, leading many historians and political theorists to reject it as a useful concept for understanding society.
670 - Death of King Oswiu of Northumbria. He is buried at Whitby Abbey and succeeded by his son, Ecgfrith, who appoints his brother Aelfwine as sub-King of Deira. Both are accepted by the Deirans as maternal grandsons of the late King Edwin of Deira. Bishop Wine of Dorchester falls out with King Cenwalh of Wessex and leaves his Bishopric. St. Agilbert is invited back, but declines. His nephew, Leuthere, succeeds in his place. Bishop Wine buys the See of London from King Wulfhere of Mercia. This has been vaccant since St. Cedd's death. The move is not popular amongst other churchmenc.670 - King Wulfhere of Mercia hands the Meonware and the Isle of Wight over to his new ally, King Aethelwalh of Sussex. Wulfhere sponsors Aethelwalh's conversion to Christianity and the latter marries Princess Eafa, daughter of King Eanfrith of Hwicce, another Mercian sub-king. Mercian missionaries arrive in Sussex and found the monastery at Bosham. Death of King Merewalh of Magonset. He is buried at Repton and probably succeeded by his son, Merchelm672 - Death of King Cenwalh of Wessex. His sub-Kings divide the kingdom amongst themselves, though his widow, Queen Seaxburh, does manage to establish some claim to overlordship. St. Wilfred, Bishop of York, completes his stone buildings at Ripon Abbey, including a crypt. Large numbers of Royalty and nobility attend its consecration. Wilfred encourages Queen (& Saint) Etheldreda of Northumbria to enter the religious life. She leaves her husband and becomes a nun at Coldingham Priory. The Synod of Hertford is held. Death of Bishop Chad of Lichfield of the Plague. He is buried in Lichfield Cathedral and later revered as a saint. Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury takes advantage of Bishop Bisi of Dunwich's illness to force him to resign. Theodore divides the see in two, based upon Dunwich and (probably North) Elmham, under Aecce and Beaduwine respectively.673 - Death of King Ecgbert I of Kent. He is succeeded by his brother, Hlothere. St. Etheldreda returns to East Anglia and founds the Abbey of Ely, with herself as Abbess. On her journey, she founds a religious community at West Halton and probably Flixborough also. Miraculous occurrences while St. Etheldreda stops at Stow encourage her former husband, King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, to found a church and religious community there too. Birth of the Venerable Bede. Death of King Domangart of Dalriada. He is succeeded by his nephew, Maelduin, who probably submits to King Ecgfrith of Northumbria as his overlord.c.673 - King Frithuwold of Surrey flourishes under Mercian domination. The marriage of his daughter, St. Osyth, to King Sighere of Essex breaks down. Osyth desires the religious life and flees from the Royal Essex Court to Bishop Beaduwine at North Elmham, where she becomes a nun. Her husband accepts the situation and grants her land at Cicc where she founds St. Osyth's Priory. Sub-King Coenred of Dorset flourishes. The Picts revolt against Northumbrian overlordship. King Ecgfrith marches north and, with the help of his under-king, Beornhaeth, he defeats them in Manau-Gododdin. King Drest of the Picts is ousted.674 - Queen Seaxburh of Wessex is removed from power by her late husband's second cousin, Cenfus. King Cenfus dies within the year and is succeeded by his son, Aescwine. Death of King Eanfrith of Hwicce. King Eanhere contines to rule alone. St. Etheldreda, former Queen of Northumbria, gives large areas of land to St. Wilfred, Bishop of York, to found Hexham Abbey. He builds three stone churches there, including one with a crypt. Her husband, King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, similarly gives land to St. Benedict Biscop, sometime Abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, to found an abbey at Monkwearmouth. Benedict sends for Frankish stonemasons to build his new church. c.674 - King Wulfhere of Mercia leads an army against King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, but is defeated in battle and forced to submit to Northumbrian overlordship. 675 - King Aescwine of Wessex checks the military advance of King Wulfhere and his Mercian army at the Battle of Biedanheafde. Death of King Wulfhere of Mercia. He is succeeded by his brother, Aethelred I, and, nominally at least, by his son, Berthwald, who takes on overlordship of the Hwicce and Wessex border area as sub-King, perhaps of Hendrica and Chilternset. King Aethelred of Mercia founds the monastery at Breedon-on-the-Hill on the site of St. Hardulph's hermitage. King Hlothere re-establishes Kentish supremacy in London. Death of King Eanhere of Hwicce. He is succeeded by Osric. King Osric establishes the Bishopric of the Hwicce at Worcester and founds Bath Abbey. Prince Hean, nephew of sub-King Cissa of Berkshire, founds Abingdon Abbey. Death of Bishop Wine of London. He is succeeded by St. Eorcenwald. 676 - Death of King Aescwine of Wessex. He is succeeded by his cousin, Centwine, brother of the late King Cenwalh. King Aethelred of Mercia invades Kent in an attempt to enforce overlordship and diminish Kentish influence in Surrey and London. His armies cause so much destruction to the diocese of Rochester that the see is abandoned. St. Aldhelm founds Malmesbury Abbey on the site of the hermitage of his old tutor, St. Maildulf. 678 - St. Wilfred, Bishop of York, is at the height of his power and owns vast estates throughout Northumbria. Unhappy at Wilfred's interference in his marriage, King Ecgfrith of Northumbria conspires with Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury to have him banished from Northumbria. The Bishopric is divided between Abbot (& Saint) Eata of Lindisfarne who is given Hexham, and Bosa, a monk of Whitby, who is given York. Eadhaed is given Lindsey. Wilfred travels to Rome to protest. 679 - The Synod of Hatfield is held. The armies of King Aethelred I of Mercia and King Ecgfirth of Northumbria clash at the Battle of the Trent. Sub-King Aelfwine of Deira is killed in the fighting and Mercia retakes Lindsey. Bishop Eadhaed of Lindsey is expelled. He becomes Abbot of Ripon. Northumbria is properly united. King Osric of Hwicce founds the Abbey of St. Peter in Gloucester with his sister, Cyneburg, as the first Abbess. Death of Abbess Etheldreda of Ely, former Queen of both South Gyrwe and Northumbria. She is buried at Ely Cathedral, succeeded by her sister Princess Seaxburh of East Anglia, and later revered as a saintc.679 - King Aethelred I of Mercia marries Princess Osthryth, sister of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria.680 - Death of Abbess Hilda of Whitby. She is buried in her Abbey and later revered as a saint. St. Wilfred returns to Northumbria, with Papal support, but is imprisoned by King Ecgfrith of Northumbria and again exiled. St. Wilfred travels to Sussex. He discovers a small Irish community of Christians, under one Dicul at Bosham, but their attempts at converting the natives have been unsuccessful. Wilfred, however, manages to evangelise the people of both this country and the adjoining Meonware. The Venerable Bede enters the monastic school at Monkwearmouth. c.680 - Princess Milburga, daughter of King Merewalh of Magonset, becomes a nun and founds Wenlock Priory where she becomes the first Prioress. Sub-King Caedwalla becomes overly ambitious in a power-struggle with King Centwine for Wessex overlordship. He is banished from Wessex and wanders through the Chilterns and then Andredsweald. 681 - King Aethelwalh of Sussex gives St. Wilfred lands in Selsey to found a cathedral. He becomes the first Bishop of Selsey. The diocese of Hexham is divided in two: St. Eata, Bishop of Hexham is transferred to Lindisfarne and Tunberht takes on Hexham. King Ecgfrith of Northumbria requests that the monks of Monkwearmouth found a new monastery at Jarrow. They build a complex of stone buildings there. c.681 - The wandering ex-Wessex Sub-King, Caedwalla, seeks St. Wilfred as his spiritual father but does not convert to Christianity. Sub-King Bealdred flourishes in Somerset and Wiltshire. 682 - The West Saxons, led by King Centwine, drive "the British [of Dumnonia] as far as the Sea" (possibly around Bideford). 683 - Death of King Sighere of Essex. His cousin, Sebbi, continues to rule alone. c.683 - Abbot Cuthbald of Peterborough and Bishop Seaxwulf of Lichfield found several daughter Houses for Peterborough, including Brixworth Priory. 684 - King Ecgfrith of Northumbria sends troops, under Dux Berhtred, to ravage Meath in Ireland. 685 - Death of King Hlothere of Kent. He is succeeded by his nephew, Eadric. The exiled Prince Caedwalla of Wessex invades Sussex and, though he kills King Aethelwalh, is driven out by the new joint Kings Berhtun and Andhun. Abdication of King Centwine of Wessex in order that he may enter a monastery. He is succeeded by his distant cousin, Caedwalla, who manages to fully re-unite the sub-kingdoms of Wessex. Death of sub-King Cissa of Berkshire. He is buried in Abingdon Abbey. St. Cuthbert visits Carlisle. Bishop Tunberht of Hexham is deposed. Cuthbert is elected Bishop of Hexham, but agrees to switch jobs with Bishop Eata of Lindisfarne instead. The Picts, under King Bruide ipe Bili, revolt against their Northumbrian overlords. Cuthbert advises King Ecgfrith of Northumbria not to invade Pictland. Undeterred, Ecgfrith marches his army north to engage the enemy at the Battle of Nechtansmere. The Picts, possibly with Scottish and Strathclyde Briton help, thoroughly defeat the Saxon guard. The latter permanently withdraw from Pictish and Scottish lands north of the Forth and also from much of the British territory north of the Tweed. Death of the childless King Ecgfrith of Northumbria. Supporters of the House of Aethelric secure the succession of his illegitimate half-brother, Aeldfrith, possibly with Irish and Scottish help. Aeldfrith is brought south from Iona, where he is studying. Death of King Osric of Hwicce. King Oshere continues to rule alone. 686 - King Caedwalla of Wessex establishes overlordship of Essex. With his new ally, King Sighere of Essex, Caedwalla invades Kent. King Eadric of Kent is expelled and Caedwalla's brother, Mul, installed in his place. Sighere rules in West Kent. King Caedwalla of Wessex conquers Surrey and the Isle of Wight and executes the latter's king, Aruald, and his two brothers. He probably also overruns the Meonware. Caedwalla invades Sussex for a second time, kills King Berhtun of West Sussex and conquers the kingdom. King Andhun of East Sussex probably flees. St. Wilfred persuades King Caedwalla to let him evangelise the Isle of Wight. The former is later reconciled with Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury who persuades King Aeldfrith to reinstate Wilfred as Bishop of Hexham following the death of St. Eata. 687 - King Mul of Kent and twelve companions are burnt to death during a Kentish uprising. His brother, King Caedwalla of Wessex ravages the kingdom in revenge. Death of ex-King Eadric of Kent. Bishop Bosa of York is removed from office and St. Wilfred is given the See of York. St. John of Beverley is made Bishop of Hexham. Abbot Eadhaed of Ripon is also removed and the Abbacy restored to Wilfred. Bishop Cuthbert of Lindisfarne resigns his office and retires to his hermitage on Inner Farne where he dies. He is buried in Lindisfarne Priory and later revered as a saint. Bishop (& Saint) Wilfred of Ripon temporarily administers the See of Lindisfarne