Feudalism - Further Readings - Lord, Vassal, Land, and Service - JRank Articles
Vassal: Vassal, in feudal society, one invested with a fief in return for services to an overlord. Some vassals did not have fiefs and lived at their lord's court as his household knights. Examples of incidents are relief, a tax paid when a fief was transferred to an heir or alienated by the vassal, and In wardship and marriage. A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context In the time of Charlemagne (ruled –), the connection slowly Manrent, Scottish Clan treaties of offensive and defensive alliance; Gokenin, vassals of the shogunate in Japan · Villein, a serf, or low-born worker under. vassal ˈvas(ə)l/ noun historical 1. a holder of land by feudal tenure on Word Definitions, Terminology, and Jargon an agricultural labourer bound by the feudal system who was tied to working on his lord's estate.
A Vassal's Obligations The vassal was required to attend the lord at his court, help administer justice, and contribute money if needed. He must answer a summons to battle, bringing an agreed upon number of fighting men.
As well, he must feed and house the lord and his company when they travelled across his land. This last obligation could be an onerous one. William the Conqueror travelled with a very large household, and if they extended their stay it could nearly bankrupt the lord hosting them. In a few days of Christmas feasting one year William and his retinue consumed 6, chickens, 1, rabbits, 90 boars, 50 peacocks, geese, 10, eels, thousands of eggs and loaves of bread, and hundreds of casks of wine and cider.
A Lord's Obligations On the lord's side, he was obliged to protect the vassal, give military aid, and guard his children. If a daughter inherited, the lord arranged her marriage. If there were no heirs the lord disposed of the fief as he chose.
Manors Manors, not villages, were the economic and social units of life in the early Middle Ages. A manor consisted of a manor house, one or more villages, and up to several thousand acres of land divided into meadow, pasture, forest, and cultivated fields. This land was shared out so that each person had an equal share of good and poor.
Feudalism and medieval life in England
At least half the work week was spent on the land belonging to the lord and the church. Time might also be spent doing maintenance and on special projects such as clearing land, cutting firewood, and building roads and bridges. The rest of the time the villagers were free to work their own land. Food and Drink The fare at the lord's table was as full of variety as the peasant's was spare.
Meat, fish, pastries, cabbage, turnips, onions, carrots, beans, and peas were common, as well as fresh bread, cheese, and fruit. At a feast spitted boar, roast swan, or peacock might be added. Normans dining Wine or ale was drunk, never water, which was rightly considered suspect. Before feudalism, the European population consisted only of wealthy nobility and poor peasants. Little incentive existed for personal loyalty to sovereign rulers.
Land was owned outright by nobility, and those who held land for lords held it purely at the lords' will.
Feudalism and Medieval life
Nevertheless, the feudal framework was preceded by similar systems, so its exact origin is disputed by scholars. Ancient Romans, and Germanic tribes in the eighth century, gave land to warriors, but unlike land grants under feudalism, these were not hereditary. In the early ninth century, control of Europe was largely under the rule of one man, Emperor Charlemagne — After Charlemagne's death, his descendants warred over land ownership, and Europe fell apart into thousands of seigniories, or kingdoms run by a sovereign lord.
Men in the military service of lords began to press for support in the late ninth century, especially in France. Lords acquiesced, realizing the importance of a faithful military. Military men, or knights, began to receive land, along with peasants for farmwork. Eventually, knights demanded that their estates be hereditary. Other persons in the professional service of royalty also began to demand and receive hereditary fiefs, and thus began the reign of feudalism.
InWilliam the Conqueror invaded England from France and spread the feudal framework across the land. The feudal relationship between lord and vassal became the linchpin of English society. To become a vassal was no disgrace. Vassals held an overall status superior to that of peasants and were considered equal to lords in social status. They took leadership positions in their locality and also served as advisers for lords in feudal courts. The price of a vassal's power was allegiance to the lord, or fealty.
Fealty carried with it an obligation of service, the most common form being knight service. A vassal under knight service was obliged to defend the fief from invasion and fight for a specified number of days in an offensive war.
In wartime, knight service also called for guard duty at the lord's castle for a specified period of time.
In lieu of military service, some vassals were given socage, or tenure in exchange for the performance of a variety of duties. These duties were usually agricultural, but they could take on other forms, such as personal attendance to the lord.
Other vassals were given scutage, in which the vassal agreed to pay money in lieu of military service. A lord of the manor could not sell his serfs as a Roman might sell his slaves. On the other hand, if he chose to dispose of a parcel of land, the serfs associated with that land stayed with it to serve their new lord; simply speaking, they were implicitly sold in mass and as a part of a lot.
This unified system preserved for the lord long-acquired knowledge of practices suited to the land. Further, a serf could not abandon his lands without permission,  [ citation needed ] nor did he possess a saleable title in them.
Sometimes the greater physical and legal force of a local magnate intimidated freeholders or allodial owners into dependency. Often a few years of crop failure, a war, or brigandage might leave a person unable to make his own way.
In such a case he could strike a bargain with a lord of a manor. In exchange for gaining protection, his service was required: These bargains became formalized in a ceremony known as "bondage", in which a serf placed his head in the lord's hands, akin to the ceremony of homage where a vassal placed his hands between those of his overlord.
These oaths bound the lord and his new serf in a feudal contract and defined the terms of their agreement. A 7th-century Anglo Saxon "Oath of Fealty" states: By the Lord before whom this sanctuary is holy, I will to N. Nor will I ever with will or action, through word or deed, do anything which is unpleasing to him, on condition that he will hold to me as I shall deserve it, and that he will perform everything as it was in our agreement when I submitted myself to him and chose his will.
To become a serf was a commitment that encompassed all aspects of the serf's life. Moreover, the children born to a serf inherited the status of the parent, and were considered born into serfdom at birth. By taking on the duties of serfdom, individuals bound not only themselves but their future progeny. Class system The social class of the peasantry can be differentiated into smaller categories.
These distinctions were often less clear than suggested by their different names. Most often, there were two types of peasants: Freemen Freemen, or free tenants held their land by one of a variety of contracts of feudal land-tenure and were essentially rent-paying tenant farmers who owed little or no service to the lord, and had a good degree of security of tenure and independence.
Villein A villein or villain represented the most common type of serf in the Middle Ages. Villeins had more rights and higher status than the lowest serf, but existed under a number of legal restrictions that differentiated them from freemen. Villeins generally rented small homes, with a patch of land.
As part of the contract with the landlordthe lord of the manor, they were expected to spend some of their time working on the lord's fields. The requirement often was not greatly onerous, contrary to popular belief, and was often only seasonal, for example the duty to help at harvest-time.
Villeins were tied to their lord's land and couldn't leave it without his permission. Villeins were somehow retained on their land and by unmentioned manners could not move away without their lord's consent and the acceptance of the lord to whose manor they proposed to migrate to.
Villeins were generally able to hold their own property, unlike slaves. Villeinage, as opposed to other forms of serfdom, was most common in Continental European feudalism, where land ownership had developed from roots in Roman law. A variety of kinds of villeinage existed in Europe in the Middle Ages. Half-villeins received only half as many strips of land for their own use and owed a full complement of labour to the lord, often forcing them to rent out their services to other serfs to make up for this hardship.
Villeinage was not, however, a purely uni-directional exploitative relationship. In the Middle Ages, land within a lord's manor provided sustenance and survival, and being a villein guaranteed access to land, and crops secure from theft by marauding robbers. Landlords, even where legally entitled to do so, rarely evicted villeins because of the value of their labour.