How and why did feudalism begin?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Feudalism arose in Europe because of the need for a way to pull society back together after the Roman Empire collapsed in the West.  Feudalism drew on older traditions of Germanic peoples to create order out of the chaos that followed the end of the Western Roman Empire.

After the Roman Empire fell, there was no longer a strong, centralized authority in Western Europe.  This meant that society sort of fell apart.  In reaction, people fell back on earlier ways of doing things.  Specifically, they fell back on the idea of personal bonds between the leaders and their followers.  This led to feudalism.

In feudalism, a leader “owned” the service of his followers.  They had to help him militarily whenever he asked.  In return, they were given power over certain areas of land.  They got the produce from that land and they ruled the people who lived on that land.  They swore to support their lord militarily and their lord swore to protect them. 

This system arose because no one was really strong enough to do more.  Kings and other leaders were not strong enough to control large areas directly.  The lower lords were not strong enough to keep themselves safe without help.  Both sides needed each other and so the feudal system arose.

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Feudalism began around the 8th century. However, it really began to develop around the 10th century in Europe. The King would give land to the nobles. The nobles agreed to protect the King if war or fighting occurred. The nobles had serfs who would work for them. The serfs took care of the land the nobles controlled. The serfs allowed the nobles to protect and rule them. The serfs were on the lowest level of the social ladder. They really didn’t have rights.

The feudal system developed after the fall of Rome. During the Roman Empire, the government provided protection to the people. However, after the Roman Empire fell, there was little protection available for the people. As a result, people turned to the lords to protect them. The feudal system began because with no strong central government to protect the people, they needed a system where they would feel safe.

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