Feudalism was a system of leadership applied in politics, economics and social interactions in Medieval Europe (Ruff, Wheeler and Wiesner 123). This is a period that covers the 9th to the 15th centuries. The nobles referred to as the lords held land that was indeed the Kings land. They provided in return the core of military services and operations with regards to protecting the king and kingdom against enemy invasions. They would also embark on conquests targeting neighboring kingdoms to enlarge the king’s possessions in form of land and slaves (workers). The Lords allowed vassals took care of the Lords’ land and engaged in productive service as a mode of payment for inhabitation. However, the Vassals engaged serfs in actual labor initiatives as a way of paying for this peasant group tenancy (Ruff, Wheeler and Wiesner 123).
The hierarchal system defined by service as well as in kind, reflected the relationship between various people in a feudal society emphasizing responsibility to one another. Furthermore, the hierarchy enabled the kingdom to take advantage of the highly diverse nobles with respect to skills, talent and ability to segregate duties and responsibilities (White 204). As the population grew, it was easier to manage administrative roles and achieve success in leadership. This was important especially when subjects to the king had o move and occupy land further away from the palace. The lords could still watch over the vassals and reward their commitment through extra allotment of land and issuing surplus privileges.
The principle of reciprocation was important in cultivating unwavering loyalty only attainable through empowering free people (Hayhoe 16). The reciprocation was built through creation of a sense of duty and responsibility encouraged through express benefits. The King clearly understood his part in rewarding loyalty to maintain leadership. The lords/ nobles embarked on military executions with assurance of their estate being tended to by the vassals. The vassals on the other hand understood the importance of satisfying the needs of the Lords through ensuring high levels of productivity in land utilization. They also benefitted from the military protection by the lords and other senior noblemen. The serfs or peasants supported the vassals in productivity because they understood this was their essence of survival and satisfying their basic needs. Therefore, Feudalism was based on trust and mutual agreement that allowed for personal connections (Bloch 3). The personal connections were the main determinant of the strengths of bond in between the hierarchical ranks.
In conclusion, feudalism was defined in kind or through service. There was an implied responsibility to ones subjects as well as one’s seniors or leaders. The continuous payment in kind or through service served as a strong reminder of everyone’s expectations within the society. The responsibility to one another was passed down through generations to establish a long tradition in leadership. The fief system of feudalism was critical in establishing administrative control because everyone was recognized and made accountable for their role in the society (Ruff, Wheeler and Wiesner 125). The fief system was an important way of fragmenting leadership and involving the lowest citizens in productivity. The fiefs provided a convenient and easy communication channel to cascade information. This was based on their tiny units that served to capture everyone’s input, opinion and contribution. Feudalism was defined by position as well as individuals’ ability to voluntarily reciprocate for benefits accrued in relationship to their position within the kingdom.
Bloch, Marc. Feudal Society: Vol 1: The Growth and Ties of Dependence. Essex, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2002. Print.
Hayhoe, Jeremy. Enlightened Feudalism: Seigneurial Justice and Village Society in Eighteenth-century Northern Burgundy. New York: University Rochester Press, 2008. Print.
Ruff Julius, Wheeler William and Wiesner Merry. Discovering the Western Past: A Look at the Evidence – To 1789. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. Print.
White, Stephen. Re-thinking kinship and feudalism in early medieval Europe. Wey Court East: Ashgate Variorum, 2005. Print.