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Wednesday 21 October 2020








Ø In the chapter Three orders we will learn about social economic and political changes which occurred in western Europe between the 9-16th centuries.

Ø After the fall of Roam empire there were, there wer no political unity. German tribe who occupy these areas often fight with each other and occupy their land, which was very important.

Ø So, the social organisations were set up on the basis of land. Church also become important in the society.

Ø The three orders of the European society were –

§  Christian priests

§  Land owning nobles

§  Peasants.

Ø The changing relationships between these three groups was an important factor in shaping European history for several centuries.


Ø There is a lot of material in the form of documents, details of landownership, prices and legal cases.

Ø Churches had kept records of births, marriages and deaths .The inscriptions in churches give information about traders' associations, and songs and stories give a sense of festivals and community activities.

Ø All these can be used to understand economic and social life.

Ø The book Feudal society and the Idea of Marc Bloch (1886-1944) tells us more things about European society. His ideas were as-

§  He argued that history is not all about political history but also includes international relations and lives of great people.

§  He stressed on the importance of geography in determining human history.

§  His book had significant detailed about social relations and hierarchies and land related affairs and cultural achievements of that period.



Ø The term 'feudalism' is derived from a German word 'feud' which means 'a piece of land'. Feudalism refers a social system that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages in which people worked and fought for nobles who gave them protection and the use of land in return.


Ø Historians used the term feudalism to describe the economic, legal, political and social relationships of medieval Europe.

Ø Its roots found in Roman Empire but it become a way of life during the era of French king Charlemagne (742-814)


Ø In feudal system the peasants cultivated their own land and worked on the lands of the lords also. In lieu of labour service, peasants received military protection from the lord. The lords also decided the judicial matters of the peasants.

Ø Therefore, that lord was all in all proprietors of lands and peasant's fortunes. Thus, besides economic aspects, feudalism also began to cover the political and social aspects of life.


Ø There was a province of Roman Empire named ''Gaul' which was had extensive coastlines, mountain ranges, long rivers, forests and large plain area suited to agriculture.


Ø A Germanic tribe named ''the Franks 'gave their name to Gaul and it later came to be known as France.

Ø By the sixth century this region was a kingdom under the rule of Christian Frankish or French got strengthened when Charlemagne was given the title of 'Holy Roman Emperor' by the pope around 800 AD.


Ø The French priests were of the view that people were part of the one of three 'orders 'according to their occupation. A bishop quoted that,'” Here below some pray, others fight, other still work”. So, the three orders of society were generally the clergy, the nobility and the peasantry.


Ø In the first order which is known as clergy, means all persons who are related to the church. It includes Pop, bishops and priest of church. The head of western church, the Pope, who lived in Rome. Serfs, the physically challenged and women could not become a priest The Catholic church was the most powerful as

§  It did not depend on the rulers.

§  The church had its own laws, and land. Bishops had vast estates.

§  Church also collect the taxes which was 1/10 share of production. It was known as tithe. The church also got money by the rich persons as donations.

§  Almost all villages had church, where people gathered on Sunday pray and listened to the sermons of the priests.

§  To show their power and influence many rites and rituals were copied by church

·      The act of knelling while praying, with hands clasped.

·      Head bowed was identical to knights' act to take vow for their lord.

·      The term 'lord' for God was also a debt from feudal customs.


Ø Deeply religious Christians who chose to live isolates lives were known as monks.  The placed where they lived were known as abbeys or monasteries that were away from human settlements. These were open for Both men and women (Monk and nun). Most of the abbeys were single -sex communities

Ø Vowed taken by Monks and Nuns

§  They lived unmarried and have to live in abbey for rest of life.

§  They spent their time in worship, study and manual labour like farming.

§  After 13th century some monks and nun avoid to live in monasteries and decided to move from place to place to preach the people, they were known as Friars.

§  Two well-known monasteries were one established by St. Benedict in Italy in 529 and another of Cluny in Burgundy in 910.

Ø But by 9-10th century monasteries become the important centre with large estates with attached schools, college and hospitals. They also developed the art. So many writers In England started to write down about their luxury life to criticise them: -

§  Langland poem Piers Plowman

§  Chaucer’s poem- Canterbury Tales

v Relation between the Church and Society

Ø Though European become Christians but they did not forget old beliefs in magic and folk traditions.

Ø Christmas (25 Dec) and Easter became important dates from the fourth century. They replaced old pre-Roman festival as which were based on solar calendar.

Ø The Easter day marked the crucifixion of Christ and his rebirth from the dead and it was celebrating on replaced date of old festival based on lunar calendar so, it was not fixed.

Ø On coming of spring, people used to travel around their village lands on that day. Holidays were welcomed by over worked peasants as free days. They usually spent more time in fun and feasting rather than prayer.


Ø A social class which below royalty and have some privileges mostly on hereditary basis were known as Nobility. They had control over lands due to old custom known as 'vassalage'.

Ø Vassalage system

§  In vassalage system a noble accepted the king as his seigneur or lord and made a mutual promise of loyalty and protection.

§  This system involves a ceremony in which both take vows and vassals also given the written charter or a staff or even a clod of earth as a symbol of the land.

§  The nobles enjoyed several privileges.

·      They had judicial powers and even right to issue coins.

·      They also had power to raise their army known as feudal levies.

·      The house of noble was known as manor in which the peasants cultivated their fields also worked as cultivators on his fields and as the foot soldiers in time of military need.


Ø A lord house was known as manor-house in feudal society. He also controls some peasant's villages in the manorial estates.

Ø The manorial estates have almost everything for daily needs as the grains grown, blacksmiths and carpenters maintained the equipment’s and refurnished the ornaments, stone masons managed their building. The women prepared fabrics and children worked in lord's wine-presses. But Some minerals as millstones, metalware, salt or some musical instruments and ornaments have taken from outside.

Ø The estates also consisted the church, woodlands, forests, pastures and castles etc.

Ø After 13th century some castle become very large and developed as centres of administration and military strength under the feudal system.


Ø There were regular localised wars in Europe. The insufficient amateur peasant soldiers and lack of good cavalry had created problems.

Ø This led to the evolution of new section of people in society known as Knight.

Ø They were under the lord, who were subordinates of the king. The knights paid his lord customary fees and pledged to fight for him in war. The lords granted a piece of land called fief, for knights in lieu of their services as their protectorate.

Ø The fief of knight could be hereditary and was of any size from 1000 to 2000 acres or more.

Ø A knight's fief consisted of a house for him and his family, church settlements of dependent together with water mill and wine press.

Ø The peasants cultivated the land of the fief. In exchange, the knight paid his lord a regular fee and promised to fight for him in war.

Ø A knight could serve more than one lord but remained loyal to his own lord.


Ø The third order consisted of large numbers of cultivators who sustained the first two orders. The cultivators had two categories:

Ø Free peasants

§  The free peasants were those who had own lands but worked as tenants of the land.

§  They had to give military service for least forty days in a year. They had to work on lord's fields for three days in a week.

§  Except the labour work they have to do other works like digging ditches, gathering firewood, building fence and maintaining roads and buildings, spinning thread, weaving cloth, making candles and preparing wine from grapes etc.

§  The free peasants had to pay a tax 'taille' to king from which clergy and nobles were exempted.

Ø The serfs

§  The serfs tilled the land of lord. Most part of the produce was submitted to the lord.

§  They had to work on the lands of lord without wages.

§  They were not allowed to leave the estate without prior permission from the lord.

§  The lord claimed several monopolies on serfs. They could use only lord's flour mill, his oven to bake their bread and his wine-presses to distil wine and beer.

§  The lord decides whom a serf should marry or might give the blessing to the serf's choice but on a payment of a free.


Ø The name England for the country come from 'Angle-land' as  it was  inhabited by Saxons and Angles in 6th century.

Ø In the eleventh century, William, the Duke of Normandy defeated the the Saxon king of England and distributed the land among 180 norman nobles. They also built many castles for Knights. So, by 11th century feudal system started in England.

Ø From this time, France and England were often at war because of disputes over territory and trade.


There were several processes which were affecting the social and economic relations.

v The Environment

Ø Between fifth and tenth centuries, Europe was covered with vast forest and there were extreme cold climatic.

Ø So there were less land available for cultivation and shortened growing season which reduced agricultural production.

Ø By the eleventh century, warm phase emerged in Europe which had a deep impact on agriculture.

Ø Now Peasants had a longer growing season and soil could be easily ploughed. This resulted in the expansion of agriculture.

v Land Use

Ø Initially agricultural technology was very primitive. They use only wooden plough which could only scratch the surface of earth instead of drawing full fertility of soil.

Ø So, fields were dug by hand, in every four years for fertility. Agriculture was therefore very labour demanding.

Ø A method of crop rotation was in use in which the land was divided in two halves. In one winter wheat was grown in autumn and other left fallow and vice versa.

Ø Rye was grown in other half. This was a system of destroying fertility of soil and caused frequent famines.

Ø Chronic malnutrition occurred and life of the poor became more difficult.

Ø The lords were apprehensive to increase their income, as it was difficult to increase output from land. So, they forced the peasants to work on his manorial estates more than the legal time.


The eleventh century saw several changes in the field of agriculture.

Ø The heavy iron-tipped ploughs and mould-boards replaced old wooden equipments. These ploughs dug much deeper and mould -boards turned soil suitable which resulted in better use of nutrients from the soil.

Ø The shoulder-harness replaced neck-harness of animals that allowed animals to wield great power. Use of iron horseshoes prevented foot decay of horses.

Ø There was increased use of wind and water energy for agriculture. All over Europe wind and water powered mills were established for the purpose of grinding corn and pressing grapes.

Ø There was introduction of three field system for land use in place of older two field system.

Ø  In that, a peasant could use two out of three fields by sowing one crop in autumn and another crop in spring a year and half late.

Ø They could grow wheat or rye in autumn in one field then in second field they could grow peas, beans and lentils during spring and could grow oats and barley for horses also.

Ø The third field was left fallow and by that they could rotate the use of all three fields every year.

Ø So agriculture production as well as fodder for animals increased from every unit of land.

Ø The technology also reduced the requirement of labour so peasants also free for other creative activities.

Ø During the eleventh century the personal bonds base of feudalism weakened.

Ø The lords asked for rents in cash instead of kind, also peasants found it easy to sell their crops to traders.

Ø The increased use of money began to influence prices, which became higher in times of poor harvest.


Ø New agricultural technology increases the agriculture production which had great impact on three areas: -

Ø Population

§  As the agriculture production increase people gets sufficient food so population of Europe rose from 42 million to 73 million.

§  The life span of people also increased.

Ø Development of Trade

§  As the production increased people have surplus production which is required to sell.

§  As they sell they started to buy other things, so new selling centres and fairs and township were set up.

Ø Establishment of towns

§  Early townships gradually developed into town with features like town square, a church, streets where merchants, built shops and homes, an office where administrators of city could meet.

§  The towns developed along large castles, bishops' estates or large churches.

§  Town developed due to the taxes paid to the lord who were the owner of the land.

Ø Features of town

§  Towns developed the system of paid work and freedom from the lords.

§  Many serfs also hid themselves in towns up to 1001 days so that they become free men.

§  As the town developed many specialised people as lawyers and bankers, craft persons also started to live in town with merchants and traders. They form the fourth order.

§  Guild hall was an important centre of each towns. Guild were the association of traders and crafts. They controlled the quality of production, prices and sale. Guild hall is the place where heads of all guilds met formally.


Ø By 12th century onwards, large church built in France by the rich merchants, these were called as cathedral. These were belonged to monasteries. They became the centres of pilgrimage. Small towns developed around them.

Ø Architectural features of Cathedrals

§  Cathedral were built of stone. These take several years to complete.

§  Cathedrals were designed in a way that voice of the priest could reach all people assembled in the hall.

§  Singing sound of monks and the chiming bells reached greater distance as a call for prayer.

§  Stained glass was used for windows of the cathedrals. These glasses, during day time, made the cathedrals radiant for the people who were inside and during the nights, the light of the candles made them visible for the people outside.

§  The stained glass narrated the stories in the Bible through pictures. So that illiterates could understand those stories.


Ø By the early fourteenth century, Europe's economic expansion slowed down because of these factors:-

§  In 14th century again bitterly, cold summers started which reduced the seasons for growing crops a month.

§  Many storms and oceanic flooding destroyed many farmlands that reduced the income in taxes for govts.

§  Reduction in agriculture production cause the shortage of food. So severe famines hit Europe between 1315 and 1317 with massive cattle deaths.

§  Trade also hit by a severe shortage of metal money because of the short fall in the output of silver mines in Austria and Serbia.

§  Then in 1347-50 epidemic Black death Bubonic plague spread.

Ø Black death Bubonic plague

§  The ships came with rats carrying the deadly bubonic plague infection (Black death).

§  This catastrophe ,combined with the economic crisis, caused immense social disorder.

§  Serious imbalances were created between agriculture and manufacture.


Ø The income of lords was declining rapidly because of fall prices of agriculture products and rise in wages of labourers.

Ø In desperation, they tried to give up the money-contracts and revive labour-services.

Ø This was fiercely opposed by all peasants including better-educated and more prosperous one.

Ø The peasants revolted in Flanders in 1323, in France in 1358 and in England in 1381.Although the revolts were ruthlessly crushed but one significant thing was that they occurred with more brutal intensity in the areas which experience economic growth.

Ø It was a sign of peasant's attempt for securing their gains which they had made in previous centuries.

Ø The aggression of peasants made it certain that old feudal order would not be reinstalled. Thus the lords were able to crush the rebellions but were not able to reinstitute old feudal privileges


Ø Development in the political sphere was parallel to the social processes.

Ø In the 15th and 16th centuries, emergence of triumphant rulers in Europe was stimulated by the social changes of 13th and 14th centuries as the feudal system weakened.

Ø Both the powerful new states and the economic changes that were occurring were significant for Europe.

Ø The historians called these kings' the new monarchs'.The kings like Louis XI in France,Maximilian in Austria,Henry-VII in England and Isabelle and Ferdinand in Spain were absolute monarchs. They started the process of organizing standing armies, a permanent bureaucracy and national taxation and, in Spain and France began to play a role in European expansion overseas.

Ø The monarchs dispensed with the system of feudal levies for their armies and initiated professionally trained infantry equipped with gun and siege artillery directly under their control. The resistance of the nobility collapsed in the face of the military efficiency of the kings.

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