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Charles Darwin Essay, Research Paper

Comparison and Contrast of Manorialism and Feudalism

Manorialism is the term used to describe the economic system of the Middle Ages. By the 9th century, manorialism was well established in Northern France, western Germany, the Low Countries, and in Northern Italy. Eventually it spread to England, Spain and Central and Eastern Europe. Manors varied enormously in size. Each estate was organized roughly the same way. The Peasants lived in cottages in a village usually located near a stream, while the Lord and his family resided in a castle or manor house. Part of the arable land, called the demesne, was reserved for the Lord?s use and was farmed for him by the peasants. The peasants held and cultivated the rest for their own use in the open field system, whereby scattered strips of land of about an acre from different sections of the manor were allotted to each villager. Since not all of the land was equally fertile, the open field system allowed for the distribution of plots roughly similar quality to each peasant. The peasants used the nonarable land, usually pasture, meadow and woods, in common.

Two classes of peasants evolved during the early middle ages: freemen and serfs. Freemen were peasants who paid rent for their land, were not required to work in the demesne and were free to leave the manor by finding other tenants to take their place. The number of free peasants on a manor declined as deteriorating conditions forced them to give up their rights in return for protection and food. More than half the population of Charlemagne?s realm consisted of serfs and peasants attached by heredity to the land who could not leave the manor without the Lord?s permission. Serfs owed certain services and dues to the Lord such as obligatory labor on the demesne for two or three days each week and the payment of a yearly tax. The Lords obtained additional services of fees from both serfs and freemen by charging for the use of the grinding mills, ovens and oil and wine presses on their estate. On the other hand, serfs could not be bought or sold like a slave and could not be evicted from their land.

The practice of feudalism developed as a response to the disintegration of centralized authority. Its early roots can be traced back to Roman and Germanic customs but it became more common during the Frankish era, especially after the breakdown of Charlemagne?s government. Feudalism covered a variety of political experiences. On the most general level feudalism can be defined as a set of contractual agreements between freemen, it was however, restricted to noble landowners. These feudal relationships involved two elements. The first was vassalage, a personal bond established by two men based on military service. The second element involved a military agreement. The word fief was used to distinguish a piece of land exchanged exclusively for military service from benefices granted for a variety of reasons. The feudal relationship carried with it mutual duties and responsible. The vassal was required to attend the lord?s court advising him on policy, serving as a juror in cases involving other vassals, and helping to carry out decisions. Feudalism was a highly complex system that varied enormously from one region to another. Practices depended on local traditions and conditions and evolved over time. Nevertheless by the 10th century feudalism became outspread throughout Europe. Feudal relationships reflected the economic realities of the age and defined its social structure.


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