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Unit 1 Overview: The State

of Affairs in 14
th
c. Europe
Victoria Pang
Why Europe?
Topics to Cover:
Feudalism
The Crusades
Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Positive and Negative Effects of the Crusades
Little Ice Age
The Black Death
Why was Europe not a global power by the end of the
14
th
century?
What is Feudalism?
Feudalism in 14c. Europe was:
- a decentralized political and economic structure
- created in response to the basic need for protection
-a loosely organized system of rule in which powerful
local lords divided their landholdings among lesser lords
called vassals
- vassals were those who pledged service and loyalty to
the lord above them
Why did feudalism develop?
There were frequent invasions during the Middle Ages by
the Vikings, Muslims, and Magyars.
Kings and emperors proved themselves to be too weak to
maintain law and order.
People needed protection for themselves, their homes,
and their lands.
Mutual Obligations
Based on the exchange of land (from lords) for loyalty
and military service (from vassals).
Usually vassals pledged 40 days of military service to
the lord, regular money payments, and advice.
The feudal contract was an exchange of pledges in
which the lord granted the vassal a fief (feef) or estate.
The size of a fief ranged from a few acres to hundreds
of square miles. The fief also included peasants who
worked the land as well as towns or buildings already
built on it.

Societal Structure
The aristocrats, or those in power, were divided:
1. Monarch
2. Powerful lords (dukes and counts who possessed the
largest fiefs).
3. Vassals (owned by the lords)
Note: Some men were both vassals and lords because
some vassals owned other less powerful vassals
Complexity: Many vassals had more than one lord. What
happened if a vassal pledged loyalty to two different lords
who ended up fighting each other?
Life on the Manor
The manor, or the lords estate was where life took place.
Manors: included one or more villages and the surrounding
lands on which the peasants worked.
Peasants on the manor were called serfs: they were
workers who were bound to the land who could be bought
and sold; however they were not slaves. If the land was
sold to a new lord, the slaves were sold with it.

Costs & Benefits for Peasants
COSTS
- Work several days per week
farming the lords lands.
- Repair roads, bridges etc. on
the manor
- Must ask the lord for permission
to marry
- Must pay the lord a fee to
receive fathers inheritance or
to use the local mill
- Give regular money payments
to the lord
BENEFITS
- The right to farm some of the
land for themselves.
- Receive protection from the lord
in the event of raids or warfare.
- Could not be forced off the
manor (though they could not
freely leave it).
- In theory, guaranteed to have
food, housing, and land.
Self-Sufficient Manors
Self-sufficiency meant that the peasants who lived on the
manor produced virtually everything they needed to survive
(including food, shelter, furniture, and tools)
Peasants never needed to leave their villages.
No schooling or knowledge of the world outside.
Anatomy of a Manor

Anatomy of a Manor: Key
Cottages and huts: were clustered close together in the
village.
Watermill: stood nearby the cottages and was used to
grind grain
Church & Manor House
Fields: surrounded the village and were divided into narrow
strips, which each family shared (so that good lands and
bad lands were divided evenly among them).
Pastures: located beyond the crop fields, these were used
to raise animals; meadows provided hay; all the animals
that lay beyond belonged to the lord.
In Groups (Jigsaw Activity):
1. Look at the cost-benefit slide about the peasants. At this
time, did the costs outweigh the benefits? What was a
peasant thinking when they agreed to the contract?
2. Why was feudalism a complicated system? What are
ways you can predict that this system might go wrong?
3. Based on what we have learned about feudalism so far,
how do you predict that the peasants were treated? The
men? Women? Children? Elderly? What do you predict
were their living conditions?
4. Why is it significant that the manor was self-sufficient. If
these manors were all over Europe, what might that tell us
about the continent itself?