Feudalism in Western Europe

Essay by nhardingUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, March 2004

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Feudalism in Western Europe

There have been many interpretations of Feudalism over the years. One interpretation incorporates a whole system of life, as Marc Bloch states. The other system explained Feudalism in more legal and political terms. This is the interpretation that is most commonly referred to. Feudalism was a system of political and military relationships existing among the members of the nobility in Western Europe during the seventeenth century. There are known to be two origins of Feudalism, an older explanation and a more recent one.

The older explanation of the origin of Feudalism revolves around the invention of the stirrup. In the 18th century, the Carolingian kings needed bodyguards and skilled men that could fight on horseback. These skilled men could utilize the stirrup by allowing them to use the force of the horse to hit and kill his enemy. This was not an easy task to achieve it needed a lot of training.

Charles Martel realized that a skilled cavalry would give him greater odds in war so he acquired a large number of retainers, armed men that could fight on horseback, and bound them by oaths of loyalty and ceremonies of homage.

The more recent explanation of the origin of Feudalism is that most war was fought using infantry, not cavalry. Thus Charles Martel purchased his infantry/supporters with grants of land or estates. In this instance the lord, Martel, gave land, weapons and jewelry in exchange for the promise of service and loyalty. Feudalism was built upon a relationship of obligation and mutual service between vassal and lords. Vassals were considered to be "servants" and the lord was a granter of the fiefs. In this complicated society the term fief or "something of value" was usually an estate in land or money granted by the...