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HIS109Y1 (520)

Feudalism and the Three Orders of Medieval Society (Middle Ages) / The Manorial Economy

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University of Toronto St. George
Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 September 20 , 2010 Feudalism and the Three Orders of Medieval Society (Middle Ages) Feudalism and the structure of medieval society – the engines that drove change in society Feudalism: fragmentation of political power that was necessary when the Roman Empire disintegrated This internal dissolution required a new means of government (had to use what was available; this being the traditions of the great Roman Empire Exclusive privilege to govern was dissoluble Roman imperial system thus broken down; leading to localization of power. In turn, power and political authority resided in those who owned land (i.e. land = power, power conducive of land ownership) Control of land – land all forms of power, owners had the privilege of judging those who lived on the land, right to claim a proportion of produce and labour, right to claim military assistance of the serfs if required Political units were irrelevant concepts; the locality in which you lived, whose land you lived on, is what mattered Political power included legal jurisdiction; these rights and priveledges could be divided, bought, mortgaged These personal possessions = power Private arrangements among individuals became the law The essence of feudal society: the idea of public power in private hands Possession of land linked to military service Collapse of Roman Empire meant the localization of authority, in other words; someone had to govern Introduction of new technology (the stirrup from the East): Things become more difficult with the introduction of new technology For ex. The nature of European society changed with the intro of stirrups from the East (soldiers easily fell off horses, thus something was needed to maintain balance = stirrups) Those who could fight on horseback and carry armour would have a military advantage Horses, stirrups, and armour were measures of privilege that could provide th th protection for society (8 /9 cent) Source of protection important with threats of the barbarians People who owned lots of property would be trained on horseback Link btw military service became prerogative of those who owned substantial amounts of land, this class later developed to become the nobility (i.e. knights, trained to provide a specific service such as protection) Barbarian tribal leaders began to realize they were having trouble holding them off, began giving away more of their property to those who could fight on horseback The only thing that mattered was where you lived, the person that could protect you, and provide security and some form of government Kingdoms began to dissolve and fragment; owned by men who fought on horseback – creating class of professional warriors (the nobility) Feudalism: Method of government had to provide protection, justice. This power would be assumed by local lords on the land in which you lived, everything a government would do, the lords would do (monopolies on political power) Any group of power will try to define society. If one has power and influence, it will be used to reflect and suit one’s needs Took problem of social fragmentation and redefined it as a means of social and political organization based upon the ownership of land, and those who could fight on horseback Held a monopoly on social power (prestige) allowed way of life to be turned into an ideal; known as chivalry – model of behaviour based upon what these people did ( i.e. what was just and appropriate) From feudalism develops a structure of society In order to have a functional civilization – rules are required that apply to everyone Instruments are used to sustain political authority; power often works against those who have no power Structure of society becomes relatively fixed in the Middle Ages – everyone had a role that was divinely ordained; each estate had certain privileges The Three Estates There were 3 classes (or estates) in Feudal Society: one’s classification into a particular estate determined by occupation/birth/(God’s plan – estates believed to be divinely ordained, part of a universal plan) Monarchs at the apex of these hierarchical societies that were based on status 1 estate: Clergy – paved mankind’s way into heaven/”those who pray” 2nd estate: Nobility – kings, queens, nobles/”those who fight” 3 estate: Everyone else /Serfs (“those who toil” - did all the work so that the first two estates could live in leisure) Nobility: Nobility became a necessity; created a civilization that endured They were in essence warriors; increasingly identified with those who fought on horseback (which required wealth) acquired prestige and power because they were the only power in the towns Became governors in every aspect of secular life Surplus income provided by means of land ownership; nobility ultimately became a class into which you were born (NO social mobility) 12 and 14 cent. – The means of this organization was defined The ideals of chivalry were defined when it began to decline Thus, societal organization in the Middle Ages was built upon the concept of land ownership The recreation of larger political units, meant a decline in the role of knights (can now act in a more civilized manner, were once vicious engaged in illegal activity) This was necessary for them to access caste marks (where you fit in society), in the Middle Ages everyone knew where you would fit How was status determined? By the way one dressed, the things they owned, and the way they acted Knights wanted to engage in social mobility: went on crusades, becoming caste – marks, ability to exercise power and class Elements came together in the creation of the nobility class that was highly hereditary Culture based upon a certain set of behaviour – determining factor of a class, representing the economically elite Clergy: (archbishops, bishops, canons, priors, nuns, monks, parish priests) Clergy – defined by function, manner of life Exempt from temporal jurisdictions Subject to their own legal system Class functions according to a different set of rules For ex. Rank of clergy determined not by birth – church a meritocracy – the poor could rise becoming bishops, etc. Church possessed land – (which was a power and responsibility identified as a unique privilege of the nobility) Often came from the knightly class where land ownership was common prerogative Hierarchical stratification determined by rank and function Great local powers that controlled the juridical and security, lubricated passage into heaven – immense amount of power in this group Nobel families successful in controlling the church For ex. Control over church was integral – bishops were useful, would not create a line that would c
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