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Feudalism and Manorialism

The Consequences of Feudalism and Manorialism in Medieval Times

The political, economic and social structure of the medieval society, especially medieval Europe is characterized by two important aspects, feudalism and manorialism.
Prashant Magar
Last Updated: Mar 1, 2018
Cimbric Women Fighting Roman Soldiers
The medieval society was a hierarchical system, where the king or the monarch was the supreme authority, the independent clergy served by a powerful nobility and followed by the vassals. These consisted of the peasants, laborers, and the soldiers forming the lowest strata of the medieval society. Feudalism and manorialism, are in fact, deeply inter-related concepts. The social structure, in which the king allots a gift in the form of a land and complete authority to a lord, to govern and rule an area, in exchange for the services such as defense, agriculture and allied services is the feudal system. These services are provided by the general population of the region consisting of the peasants, knights and the poor people, whose lives are dictated by the feudal lords and the clergy.
Manorialism refers to the social interaction system that existed between these lords and the dependent population like the soldiers, serfs and laborers, with regards to their daily life and survival. The term was coined from the service and allegiance of these vassals to the manors or the palatial houses owned by the feudal lords. Although, both of them refer to the same concept, there are certain differences.
The difference between them is analogous to the difference between the practice of a system and the economic and commercial aspects of that system. Simply put, manorialism can be considered as a subset of feudalism . Both these aspects are specifically understood as a mutual give-and-take relation between social classes, starting from the lowest class to the king.
The serfs worked on the fields and did all the hard labor like working for the upkeep of the manors and allied activities. In return, they were offered certain wages and protection by knights or the lords. The knights, who served the lords militarily for defending and gaining territories, in turn got rewards and titles from the feudal lords, who got that from the king. As mentioned before, they protected the serfs too, which ensured the lords, loyalty and taxes from them. The vassals formed the slightly higher class, between the lords and the knights, who enlisted the services of the knights and provided them with perks accordingly.
The lords provided lands to the knights and ensured their support to the kingdom. This was the most powerful and privileged class of the society, more dominant in Europe, than elsewhere. They received services and taxes from all the lower classes, in return for their confidence and rewards. The king, on whose behalf the lords provided lands and privileges, was the final authority, but became a mere titular head with all the prerogatives, in the later years of feudalism.
The economic aspect of feudalism was more in focus for the relation between the lords and the vassals the majority class. The life of a serf or a labor was tied to the manor or revolved around the manor. They were entitled to very few privileges, which were at the discretion of the lord or the manorial house they served. In return for their services, the lord offered them a 'chance' to lead independent lives, but at their mercy. They were also offered protection from invading powers and the right to earn their livelihood, by serving the manor and its occupants. This economic dependency was deeply ingrained in the rural society all over Europe. Thus, manorialism was a 'systematic hardship' imposed on the poor, helpless and the downtrodden people, who were subjected to frequent land grabbing by foreign invasion, slavery and other forms of economic hardship in the middle ages in Europe.
England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain were the major countries where feudalism and manorialism was imposed and later, quite rampant. It led to future revolutions, armed struggle and also laid the foundation of the evolution of modern values in human history.