3.3 Feudalism and the Manorial System - T -

AGE 3: The Time of monks and knights
3.3 Feudalism and the Manorial system
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This lesson contains 20 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 1 video.

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AGE 3: The Time of monks and knights
3.3 Feudalism and the Manorial system

Slide 1 - Slide

Word Duty

Feudal system - medieval government system based on the bond between a lord and his vassal.
Fief - the land a lord lend to a vassal
Nobles - the most important lords that served under a king
Pledge fealty - to swear loyalty
Knights - vassals who became military specialists
Manorial system - system in which lords provided security to their serfs in return for their services.
Manor - large piece of land where the lord and the peasants lived.
Domain - part of the manor where the peasants lived
Serfs - farmers who depended entirely on their lord an were not allowed to leave the domain
Servile duties: free work that serfs needed to do for their lord
Self-sufficient - when people are able to produce everything they need themselves

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What you can explain /  do after this lesson
  • why the Frankish kings used the feudal system to govern their empires
  • why the manorial system was established after the decline of the Roman Empire
  • how lords and serfs managed the manorial system
  • understand why people willingly chose to become serfs
  • explain why people in the manorial system tried to be self-sufficient

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In this lesson:

  • In the eighth century, the Franks established the feudal system.
  • Lords gave a fief in loan to their vassals.
  • Knights were vassals who did not have a fief, but became military specialists.
  • The Manor system was a deal between (serf) peasants and their landlord
  • Serfs were peasants who were bound to their lord's land. They were protected, but they had little freedom and had to do servile duties.
  • A manor tried to be self-sufficient.
  • Bad weather could cause famine.

Medieval society was structured by the Three Estates.

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In the Early Middle Ages, most people were engaged in agriculture. But did they really own the land they farmed?

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In the eighth century, the Franks established the feudal system. This meant that the king (or lord) gave large areas of land as a fief to his most important nobles.  The nobleman then became the king's vassal. As the king's vassals they could rule their fief. They were also allowed to keep its produce. The feudal system can be seen as an agreement to strengthen the personal bond between the monarch and his nobles.
For a king, giving land in fief to a vassal was a good way to secure their loyalty. In return for the land, the vassal had to pledge his fealty to his lord. This was a promise to stay loyal to the lord, to provide military support in times of war and to give the lord advise whenever he asked for it. The vassals had to remain loyal to the lord, otherwise he could take back his land at any time.

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Feudal System

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Some vassals did not hold lands in fief. These vassals lived at the court of their lord. They spent much time practising sword fighting on horseback. They became military specialists. They were called knights, from the German word for servant: Knecht. At first, knights received little respect: they were vassals who did not possess any land. This changed in the twelfth century when it was considered an honour to become a knight. This change was partly brought by the Church who used knights to fight against Islamic peoples in the Crusades. You will learn more about the Crusades in lesson 4.3

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Nobles ruled and managed their fiefs, given to them by their lord.
The house in which the nobleman and his family lived was called the manor house (see picture). Sometimes it was a big house, sometimes it was more like a castle.
The land surrounding the manor house was called the manor.
 The manor was made up of two parts: 

A. a part on which the lord lived.
 This included a church and several workshops like a mill, blacksmith or brewery to make beer.

B. a part on which peasants lived, also known as the domain.
The peasants lived in a village, surrounded by farmland.

Look at the next slide to see A and B
The fields and land used for the grazing of animals lay outside these lands. Further away were forests and barren lands, such as marshlands. These were used to collect wood and to develop into farmland.

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Feudal System
Manor System

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manor house
The place where the lord lived and from where he ruled the village. 
Many times the manor was fortified by walls. Sometimes the manor was built on top of a small hill and surrounded by a palissade. 
The manor farm consisted of the manor (= fortified farmhouse / castle) + some land with orchards, farming fields and work places around it. 

The mill was where people grounded wheat and grain. 
It was owned by the lord.
Serf peasants could use the mill to grind their grain, but of course they had to pay the lord for this. The payment was not money, but a percentage of the produce of the peasant.
The houses the peasants (= farmers) lived in were not as nice as the manor house. They were thatched roofed
The palissade surrounds the manor farm. If the domain is attacked the peasants can find shelter within the walls of the manor farm.
Peasants worked on farm land for the lord in exchange for protection and land.
The church is where holy events took place (weddings, sermons, funerals). The church is also where the sick would be taken care of.
Sometimes the lord used this place to speak justice. He could hand out punishments to criminals.
A Shepard worked with the livestock in the fields. This would help produce food and cloth for the village
the manor's orchard. 
servile duties
This meant that serfs needed to work for the lord two or three days a week. They worked the lord's fields, or built and repaired his palissade.
The Manor
A. where the lord lives
B. Domain: where the peasants live

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Farmers and their families used the other part of the manor to work and live on (the domain). These farmers depended entirely on their lord. They were called serfs. Serfs were bound to the manor. They could not leave the manor to settle elsewhere without the permission of their lord.
In return for protection and the right to farm their lands, the serfs had many obligations. They paid rent for their land. This often happened in kind: corn, chicken or products such as bread or timber for example were used to pay this rent. They also had to work on the fields of the lord. They ploughed the land and tended the animals. Serfs also had to perform certain services for their lord for free: Men had to build and repair buildings and women had to weave clothes for example. These services were called servile duties
Unlike slaves, serfs could not be bought, sold, or traded individually though they could, depending on the area, be sold together with land. 

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In many cases a manor was self-sufficient, as many of the products that were needed as necessary were grown or made by the serfs on the manor. Because of this, trade took place on a very small scale. Farmers offered their surpluses on local markets. They exchanged them for tools or other objects. Lords could afford to purchase luxury items. Sometimes they did not even have to leave the manor to buy jewellery. On a manor in Geldrop (North Brabant) there was even a silversmith. This shows that every manor was different from the next.
Besides manors, there were places where free farmers lived. Free farmers could do their work without much involvement from a lord, especially in areas where people concentrated more on livestock than on arable farming.

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Agricultural surpluses were not self-evident. Heavy weather and war violence led to crop failure. This did not prevent greedy lords from demanding payment of rent however. This could cause a food shortage. If there was no reserve from previous harvests, then there would be famine. This often happened. Charlemagne issued laws to prevent emergency situations. His vassals were obliged to help the poor. They had to distribute grain. Food had to be sold at ordinary prices and people who lent money were not allowed to demand high interest on the loans of farmers.

Some Bedouins today make their living by giving desert tours [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

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Summary 3.3

Fill in the gaps to make a summary

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Finished with the summary?
Now make a printscreen of the finished summary
and upload it here.

Slide 17 - Open question

You have finished with this lesson, meaning:
- You have read the texts
- You have made the summary
- You have done the practise questions.
Are you well prepared for a quiz / test or do you need extra help?

If you still need help, if something is not clear, you can ask your question here.

Slide 18 - Open question


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Slide 20 - Video