HIS109Y1- Lecture Three
Feudalism and the Three Orders of Medieval Society
- study/analysis of change over time
- looking for the cause of change
end of the Roman Empire lead to a fragmented europe
- roman laws were removed; right and wrong were no longer codified and applied equal-
ly to all areas of the empire. Laws were determined locally
- common monetary system was removed; value was no longer standard
- the world became much more local; roads were no longer maintained
Cities: the hub of trade and civilization
With the end of the roman empire; cities began to decline
- The decay/collapse of Roman Empire meant that security was up to the individual.
Some people were capable of protecting themselves while others began to associate
with the people who could protect them, often for a cost.
With such, the traditions of the Roman Empire began to change.
In the time of the Roman Republic, patron lords like senators and other powerful
people would have large posses of individuals willing to do things for them. This could
be any number of errands that the lord felt to important to do. Originally, having these
people at your beck and call was a sign of power and status but when the Roman legal
and military systems began to fail and the Roman Empire became increasingly danger-
ous, the errand runners began to hang around the lord’s house as his own private army.
In return, the workers got protection for their own land and for their family.
As the cities declined, the wealthy retired to the countryside because it was more
secure and had steady access to food. They brought their armies with them and would
fortify their country houses to be secure against invaders.
* foundation for feudalism: select groups of people who would work, support, fight and
die for a powerful man who owned land, and in return, be protected. This new developing system links with the invasions of Barbarian Tribes who be-
gan infiltrating the former Roman Empire from over the Alps. The tribes brought their
own means of social and military organization with them. In Barbarian tribes, comitatus
were the similar comparison to the private armies of the elite from the Roman Empire.
These comitatus were the most experienced warriors and would be on perma-
nent retainer to the tribal chieftain and his personal guard. In return, they would get spe-
cial privileges over others in the tribe. These tribes eventually started to settle down and
ceased to be nomads.
Because there was no central authority, powerful individuals would exercise pow-
er over large groups of people. Lots of military connections. RESPONSE TO NECESSI-
TY! Systems like this are only efficient when everyone buys into them.
This system developed over many years and was finally built up by the end of the
8th century, early 9th century.
Around the time of this new system, there was a great technological development that
changed the social system of war. It was the stirrup on the saddle of the horse. This en-
abled people to fight while riding. Before, if you were holding yourself onto your horse
with your knees, you couldn’t do anything else.
- Invented in either Mongolia or china and brought west via barbarian tribes.
The right to fight on horseback was reserved for the most effective comitatus (for
tribes) or the most violent thugs (for Roman estates), since upkeep of horses and train-
ing of soldiers was very expensive. These men were the most trusted of the landlord or
chieftain, and quickly became the only privileged military class. Originally referred as
"chivalry" (from french for horse). This trust meant that the powerful leader could arm
and train his private armies without fear that they would turn against him.
British referred to them as knights. They had personal relationships with their
landlords. Knights were not the romanticized version from movies, but were medieval
"biker gangs." They had no sense of nobility but got what they wanted thorough violence
and brute force. Knights did not ride race horses but rather clydesdales because the ar-
mor was so heavy they needed massive and strong horses to support them. This combi- nation of armor and height (large horse) while fighting meant that there was no one that
could stand against you even the best trained foot soldiers.
Not all warriors were equal. The ones who had close relationships with their land-
lords were given the privilege of fighting on horse back.
In order to keep power over the knights, the landlords bought their allegiance by
giving them land. This land was called a fief and allowed the knight to live in leisure and
train. The land was supposed to be the exact right amount to support one knight.
At this time, land was not given to hereditary descendants when a knight died.
The knights son would have to make the same commitment to fight for the landlord to
keep the land.
This feudal system with private and