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Feudalism in England Essay Sample

The basic principles of feudalism rely around land ownership, such as fiefdoms and people’s social status as well as their relationships and political structures were all built around this idea of the importance of the holding of land. From their development in around 700 AD, feudalism in England lasted all the way up to the 14th century. It declined only with the tenures abolition act of 1660.

Feudal land tenure consists of many varieties, including military and non-military forms of service. Being at the top of the “feudal pyramid”, the king owned all the land, and the nobles, barons, knights and others simply held it for their king, they did not own it.

The word feudal comes from ancient Gothic faihu, or property, but in the most basic translation is cattle. There is also the Latin pecunia which is both money and cattle. There are many countries and societies who view cattle as finances or currency. For example in Kenya, the Masai will pay a dowry with cattle instead of money.

How Does Land Tenure Work?

Before any lord could give any tenant the rights to hold some land, that person was to be made a vassal. In this symbolic ceremony, they must pay homage and invoke an oath of fealty to that lord. This more specifically means that whatever funds the fiefdom made the tenant, they were to use it for personal weapons and armor, and in exchange for claiming that land they must fight for their lord whenever he willed it.

Military Tenure

Here’s a list of the types of land holdings that military persons can achieve:

  • Barony: only greater barons were guaranteed to be able to attend parliament, but all were considered the highest rank of military tenant.
  • Knighthood: can be held from the king or from a baron above them; military service required.
  • Castle-Guard: this form of service involved the guarding of a castle nearby for a certain number of days each year.
  • Scrutage: in this case, military service has been replaced by payments of money, like rent.

Non-Military Tenure

Here’s a list of the types of land holdings that non-military persons can achieve:

  • Serjenty: this holding was given to a tenant because of a service rendered to the king.
  • Frankalmoinage: this is land tenure for clerics only.
  • Copyhold: the duties of this tenant were custom written for the requirements of the specific lord they are holding for.
  • Socage: the very lowest form of tenure, which had to be paid in crops or in money.

Feudalism in England is a very interesting subject to study, and many historians have made it their passion. There is much to learn from the ways of the past, of what worked and what didn’t in particular societies and countries. Because of this we can see how much farther we’ve come as a country and as a world from just a few hundred years ago. Because of feudalism we now have many historical novels and films set in such a “fantasy time” that seems more fiction than reality.