Article

Feudalism

Constance B. Bouchard

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0018
Feudalism

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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“Feudalism” is a term that has confused more than clarified the nature of medieval society. Until quite recently scholars attempted to create a paradigm of “feudalism” that would combine privileges for the elite few with lordship over the peasantry and (usually) a breakdown in centralized government. But as Elizabeth A. R. Brown first convincingly demonstrated, a term with such varied and noncongruent social, legal, political, and economic meanings—especially when applied to institutions that developed a millennium or more apart—hampers real understanding of the Middle Ages. In the last twenty years numerous discussions of “feudalism” have gone over the same ground, pointing out the difficulties with trying to use the term—although even now some scholars still try to retain it. Nonetheless, even if “feudalism” is nothing but a confusing construct, medieval fiefs were real—if not nearly as ubiquitous as once thought.

Article.  10859 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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