How did the expansion of trade end feudalism?
The Belgian Historian Henri Pirenne is well known for his work in the study of feudalism in Europe. He proposes that increased levels of trade brought the decline of feudalism in Europe. Pirenne does not believe that trade and feudalism are reconcilable. As the crusaders successfully opened the East to trade, a profound transformation occurred in Europe that closed the era of feudalism in Europe. Trade is not only a catalyst for economic advancement but is important for the exchange of culture and ideas. This cultural diffusion often leads to changes in economic and political systems.
The creation of new wealth through trade was important to ending the manor system. Agriculture, with its technological limitations, had grown stagnant over the years. The only way to make it more profitable was by working the peasants even harder and for longer hours. There was a tremendous demand for spices and luxury goods from the Orient. This made trade profitable. The expansion of trade led to a population shift towards urban areas. Many peasants realized that they could make a better life for themselves in the cities. In this way, the landlords lost their source of labor to merchants in the urban areas.