Euopean History


William the conqueror and the feudal system
Soon after William the conqueror took possession of England he decided that the feudal system he was familiar worked in Normandy would also work well in his new kingdom. Norman feudal system was different from the old English in which free people lived in free villages.

The feudal contract
A feudal system was based on the “three f‘s “of fief (land), fealty (loyalty) and faith (religion). Under feudalism land was the basis of all wealth; land was given to the nobles, who were all knights, in exchange for loyalty. In return for these fiefs the nobles promised the king their loyalty, which meant living up to a number of obligations. Each noble would live on his land, called a manor, and, as the lord of the manor, had the right profit from it. The lord of the manor had serfs and freeholders to work the land. The serfs and freeholders forming about 90 % of the population were kept outside the circle of manor and had fewer rights.

The manor
Through medieval Europe large fiefs we divided into parcels of land called manors. Each manor had farming lands, woodlands, common pasture, and at least one village. Almost completely self-sufficient, the manor usually provided enough food for everyone who lived in it. Each manor also had the skilled people needed to do most jobs, from thatching a roof to fletching an arrow. The lord of the manor always kept some land on the manor for his own use and personal profit. Called the demesne, this land consisted of the gardens and orchards around the manor house and some strips of land in the manor fields. Some lord’s too personal interest in the work of their estates but most had managers called bailiffs, to look after day-to-day affairs and to keep the peace.

Ordinary people
The serfs and freeholders on a manor provided all the labor but had the lowest standard of living. All the serfs had to donate two or three days of work each week to ploughing, planting, weeding and...