The Feudal System and the Estates: A Special Path of Feudalism

in Why Europe

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226532530
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226532387 | DOI:
The Feudal System and the Estates: A Special Path of Feudalism

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter discusses the feudal system in medieval Europe. The medieval Estates of kingdoms and principalities (or territories), from which key elements of the modern parliamentary system have evolved, are specific to the historical social area of Europe. One form of feudalism in a general sense (Feudalismus) is just as exclusively European, and it gave birth to the Estates: a feudal system based on vassalage (Lehenswesen). Lordship systems defined by the feudal system prevailed in most regions of medieval Europe. This was yet another development that arose in the central Carolingian region between the Rhine and the Seine. There can be no doubt that the early medieval innovations it brought forth were interconnected. Thus, what was said in previous chapters about the determinants of agricultural developments in Europe, the agrarian system, and family structure may now act as starting points for understanding the feudal system as a special European form of feudalism in general.

Keywords: feudal system; medieval Europe; lordship system; family structure; agricultural developments; agrarian system

Chapter.  19136 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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