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Medieval Europe Social Structure

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Shelby Shanks

on 23 March 2011

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Transcript of Medieval Europe Social Structure

Medieval Europe Social Structure Feudalism During the Middle Ages, life was based on an economis, political and social organization called Feudalism. Agreements and obligations between well-defined groups of people. Economically, it regulated the distribution of land, and wealth. Politically, it ensured the protetion of people of a territory. Socially, it provided a hierarchical structure which determind each person's place rights and responsibilities in Europe. King Greater
Lords Lesser lords Knights Townspeople Serfs The King was the only member of feudal society who did not have a lord. In the Early Middle Ages, a king's power was limited by the fact he had to rely on lords to defend their own territories in the kingdom. Many nobles owned more land and vassals than the king. Which made the king vulnerable if these nobels decided to challenge him. By the eleventh cantury, peasants called serfs had become legally bound to their lord's estate. They weren't slaves because they couldn't be sold or bought, but they weren't free either . They weren't allowed to leave the estate. They lived their entire lives on a single estate, if it changed hand and a new lord took over the feudal responsibilities towards the serfs. The lesser lords were called Vassals. A lesser lord granted land to his own vassals. The Greater Lords in the kingdom were the Kings vassals and provided military service to him. Trained knights were valuable but very expensive. Charles Martel, leader of the Franks practiced preparing and armed knights to be ready for battle at all times. Since knights were so expensive because they had to be paid, as well as provided equipment and horses. Charles Martel gave his knights land instead of money, so his knights could provide for themselves. The land he was given them were called fiefs. In the eleventh century towns were formed. Which meant a new class of people was formed to, this class was called townspeople. They were free citizens who had escaped from their estates or who had paid a fee for freedom to discharge their feudal obligations. In the town people worked as merchants and craftspeople. As the towns grew in size, people had enough money to buy small plots of land and build their own houses and no longer depended on the lord for a living. Feudal obligations and rights The bonds between vassals and the lords was recongnized in a formal ceremony. These took place whenever a piece of land (fief) was granted or inherited by a son. The vassal would pledged his loyalty and service by putting his hands between his lord's hands. The lord accepted with a kiss and granted him with the rights of the land, giving him a handful of earth or a wooden stick as a symbol. The lord still owned the land but now the vassal had the right to use it. A lord had oligations to his serfs, not as many as the serfs had to their lords though. The lord protected his serfs during wars, provided them with land to build homes to live in, and strips of farmland to grow crops. In return the serfs did hours of bac-breaking labour and paid numerous taxes and fees. They had to work three days a week on the lord's land. Mostly farming fields, digging the moats, and repairing castle walls and roads. Resources Prologue to the present text book
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