Feudalism (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
A system of “privatized” government that is most often associated with Medieval Europe and Japan from the ninth to late nineteenth century. In its European incarnation, feudalism originated in the region between the Loire and Rhine Rivers during the tenth and eleventh century and later spread to England, France, Spain, western Germany, and sections of Italy. Based upon an interlocking hierarchy of loyalties, feudalism filled the vast void left by the collapse of Carolingian rule in the ninth century. Its basis was the fief: a parcel of land or a cash payment that a lord (for example, a duke or king) granted to a vassal (such as a baron or knight) in exchange for allegiance and military service. Although European feudalism was gradually giving way to increasingly centralized governance by the end of the thirteenth century, elements of it survived into the eighteenth century.
Like its European counterpart, Japanese feudalism developed from a power vacuum. The imperial government greatly declined in the ninth century, leaving power in the hands of a class of warriors called samurai. Like European vassals, samurai owed allegiance only to their lord or daimyo, who provided his samurai with land and other rewards for service. Although the samurai were united under the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603, they continued as the fount of governmental power. Japanese feudalism endured until the renewal of imperial power in 1867.
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Feudalism (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A series of contractual relationships between the upper classes, designed to maintain control over land.
Feudalism flourished between the tenth and thirteenth centuries in western Europe. At its core, it was an agreement between a lord and a vassal. A person became a vassal by pledging political allegiance and providing military, political, and financial service to a lord. A lord possessed complete sovereignty over land, or acted in the service of another sovereign, usually a king. If a lord acted in the service of a king, the lord was considered a vassal of the king.
As part of the feudal agreement, the lord promised to protect the vassal and provided the vassal with a plot of land. This land could be passed on to the vassal's heirs, giving the vassal tenure over the land. The vassal was also vested with the power to lease the land to others for profit, a practice known as subinfeudation. The entire agreement was called a fief, and a lord's collection of fiefs was called a fiefdom.
The feudal bond was thus a combination of two key elements: fealty, or an oath of allegiance and pledge of service to the lord, and homage, or an ACKNOWLEDGMENT by the lord of the vassal's tenure. The arrangement was not forced on the vassal; it was profitable for the vassal and made on mutual consent, and it fostered the allegiance necessary for royal control of distant...
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Feudalism (Political Theories For Students)
Few political systems have shown the adaptiveness and longevity of feudalism. This system, based on personal relationships, local administration, and defined hierarchies, touched several continents for more than 1,500 years. In some places it filled the void left by other political organizations; in others, it represented the next stage in the evolution of government. In both cases, feudalism grew out of practice and precedents. Theory followed experience. In all cases, a parallel...
(The entire section is 12588 words.)