FEUDALISM — MEANING, CHARACTERISTICS, ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Feudalism is a socio-economic system based on land tenure system and personal relationships.

It is a military, political and social system based on the holding of lands in fief or fee and the corresponding relationships between lord and vassal.

It is a system where land is traded or given away in exchange for services.

A vassal under a feudal system received a piece of land in return for serving a lord or monarch, especially in times of conflict. 

Feudalism arises because kings were unable to protect their lands and that of their noblemen.

The noblemen had to find a way to defend their lands. The noblemen then turned to the highly trained troops known as knights.

The knights are elite, armored soldiers chosen by a lord to defend both his domain and the king.

Knights were expected to uphold the chivalric principles of bravery, loyalty, and truthfulness.

However, these knights demanded payments in exchange for their services and they were often paid in the form of land.

The land given to the knights for their services is called a fief.

The fief also comprised peasants or laborers to farm the land in addition to the land and manor home. These peasant were referred to as serfs.

Serfs are small farmers who have tools and equipment which they used to grow crops 

Anyone accepting a fief is called vassal, liegeman or retainer and the person that gives him the fief is called his lord, liege or suzerain.

Vassals received their fiefs in exchange for carrying out a variety of tasks such as making the fief profitable, protecting the land and supporting the lord in combat with his enemies.

Cases of feudalism were found in eastern Europe, China, and Japan.

Characteristics Of Feudalism

1. Beneficiary nature of land: Feudalism was based on the exchange of land for military service and obligation.

2. Vassal holds land in trust for the lord: In feudalism, the lord gives the vassal land to use in exchange for the vassal's loyalty and services.

3. Absolute monarchy exists in this system: In feudalism, the king was the head of the society.

With the institution of feudalism, the king was able to keep absolute authority over society.

READ ALSO: MEANING, FEATURES AND TYPES OF MONARCHY

4. Duties: Generally speaking, the vassal's duty is to provide services, while the feudal lord's duty is to provide protection for the vassals

5. Hierarchical structure: Feudalism had a pyramid-shaped hierarchical structure, with the king at the top, the feudal lord next, the knights behind them, and the serfs at the bottom.

Feudalism

6. Allegiance: The loyalty and obedience of the vassals are not to the government but to their lords.

Advantages of Feudalism 

1. Imposed checks on the king: Since the king had to rely on the feudal lords for military support, feudalism prevented the king from becoming overly autocratic.

2. It enhanced security: In feudalism, vassals offer their services to the lord in exchange for protection

By coming under the protection of the feudal lords, the vassals were freed from the grasp of soldiers always assaulting the city back then.

3. Brought peace to the society: Feudalism established a framework in which feudal lords and vassals had a friendly relationship, which led to a general state of peace in the society.

Disadvantages of Feudalism 

1. Confusion: Feudalism created confusion between private and public rights as private right supersedes public rights

2. State of anarchy was inevitable: Anarchy was inevitable in feudalism since the private land ownership serves as the basis of social order.

3. A lack of national cohesion: Because people were only loyal to their feudal lords during the feudal era, there was a decline in national cohesion.

4. Wars: The feudal lords were constantly at war with one another in an effort to acquire more lands.

Moreso, mutual rivalries among feudal lords created an atmosphere of war.

5. It created a class system: Feudalism divided the society into two classes, namely; the feudal class and the peasantry.

READ ALSO: 6 FORMS OF GOVERNMENT

6. Exploitation of the peasants: As feudal lords grew richer and more powerful, they started to take advantage of the peasant and abuse their position.

They force the peasants to work without wages, serve them from dawn to dusk, and deny them of adequate food.

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