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Society and 'Feudalism' Cheat Sheet by

Medieval Society

Problem of dividing medieval society
Some merit to '3 orders'
Most people were knights, clergy, or peasants
Popula­tion↑ 35 mil (1000) → 80 mil (1400)
Infant mortality still v high
Haza­rds
 
→disease
 
→famine
 
→lay nobility: warfare
 
→women: childbirth
Most kings didn't die violent deaths
Warfare: most clergy & peasants not at risk
Higher clergy: longer lifespan
Difficult to estimate life exp
 
→depended on wealth­/ge­nde­r/o­ccu­pat­ion­/region
Most records from the wealthy
 
→often no birth dates, only death dates
Many lived until 60s, some till 80s

Village Society

Most western Europe: village societies
 
(11th & 12th centuries)
Lord owned land. Ruled popula­tion: owed him service, rent, allegiance
Most peasants paid rent in service & money
 

Peasants & Serfdom

Free/u­nfree peasants = most of population
 
→Free peasants: freedom to move
 
→Serfs: tied to lord's land
10th cent: Slaves common southern Europe
 
→Church opposed to Christians as slaves
Freedom = hereditary
 
→you're a serf? so are your kids!
 
→Some free peasants gave up freedom for lord's protection (food)
Early middle ages: more land, less labour, serfs needed
 
→After 10th cent: reversed
End of 12th century: serf's role more defined
 
→Pros: swifter justice, limited rights, stronger foundation
Assarting
 
→Serfs could gain freedom

Liberty

For those free, society = mobile to an extent
 
→limited range of occupa­tions
 
→by 12th cent, merchant & artisan classes grew
 
Art­isa­ns: miners; smiths; shipbu­ilders; carpen­ters; stonem­asons
 
Mer­cha­nts: organised market & trade
Lending money w/ interested - forbidden by Church
 
→ban didn't apply to Jews; Jewish merchants involved in moneyl­ending
Between 11th & 15th cents, merchant classes grew w/ towns
By granting autonomy & privil­eges, everyone profited
Italy: more compli­cated
 
→long tradition of civic life, some cities v rich & powerful
 
→fragm­ented political rivalry
 
→11th cent: rise of port cities - Pisa, Venice, Genoa
 

'Feudal system­'/'­Feu­dalism'

These concep­ts/­terms in wide use since mid 19th cent
 
Marxists: 'feudal society' to explain pre-cap
 
Legal histor­ians: 'feudal society' for specific legal rship
Terms and concepts v proble­matic:
 
→overg­ene­ralise
 
→presu­ppose existence of coherent system across kingdoms & times
Someargue terms are good to introduce students to the Middle Ages
Feudal bond: special legal rship between knight & lord
 
→Lord: recruits knights, rewards w/ feudal bond
 
→Estab­lished through homage & oath
Homa­ge: vassal kneels before his lord & places his hands in his lord's hands
Oath: then rises and takes an oath of loyalty to lord
Rship: mutual benefit
 
→Knight: got land and money
 
→Lord: got loyalty and military service
Fief: plot of land given to vassal
By 11th/12th cents, more common for vassals to have 1+ lord
 
→Weakened bond between lord & vassal
 
→i.e. one lord at war w/ the other, who does vassal fight for?

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