Origin of European Feudalism

Development of European
From the Moldboard Plow
to the Crusades
European divisions
• Europe
– Galileo’s (1564-1642) defense of Copernican
astronomy banned by Church
– In Germany, Protestant Kepler continues
Copernican studies
• > Political and religious divisions favor
– continuation of science
– and emergence of capitalism
Period of Warring States
• No unifying State after Charlemagne
– crowned emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas day, CE
800; d. 814
• Period of warring states of Europe: 1100 years
Attempts by Spain in 16-17th c.
by France under Napoleon: early 19th c.
by Germany under Hitler: 20th c.
> 21st century: European Union
• Merchants grow stronger between divided state
powers in Europe
– In England and France they ally with King against feudal
Advantages of Division
• In large centralized states, the ruler can stop
the merchants:
– China, Ottoman Empire
• But not where states are divided: weakly
centralized feudal states:
– India and Europe
• In feudal India, merchants are stymied by
caste taboos against warfare
• But European merchants fight to defend their
independence of feudal lords
Importance of feudalism
• 1) Why Europe? > because of capitalism
• 2) Why capitalism? > because of feudalism
• 3) Next question: why feudalism?
New European Empire
• Charlemagne crowned emperor by Pope Leo II
on Christmas day, 800
– = Unity, partnership of Church and State
• But by 900 this new united empire has
basically disappeared.
– How long did Charlemagne’s empire last?
– >New social arrangement of Medieval European
• So why did this all-European empire fall apart?
Why did a feudal society emerge in
Why did Charlemagne’s all-European state fall?
Why did civilization develop so late in Europe?
Nature of early European technology
Social relations of production
Political consequences
Critique of medieval Christian religion – St. Francis
of Assisi returns to the teachings of Jesus
1 Superficial Conquests
• Charles Martel (the Hammer)
– stops Muslim invasion in France – 732
• Grandson Charles the Great – “Charlemagne”
– (Charles the Big and Tall)
– crowned king of France-Germany in 800
• >First and only All-European State
• How big was Charlemagne’s army?
• Hint: Muslim armies of over 100,000 soldiers
How big was Charlemagne’s army?
• Number of soldiers: 5,000
– Aided by spiritual power of Church
Fall of Early European States
• Division at death of Charlemagne into three
– Sons get equal inheritance from father
– Later rule: “primogeniture”
• United still, with allegiance to the Pope
• Why did this first and only all-European state
fall apart?
Power of the Viking Raiders
• Viking (Scandinavian Norsemen) raids:
• Main weapon
– Longboats can carry 50 warriors
– 3 foot draft allows deep access into interior
– Rapid attack on villages and retreat
• Powerlessness of king’s centralized army to
stop them
• Who can stop them?
Solution: Knight in Shining Armor
• New fighting technology
– Large horse
– Lance
– Stirrup
• Need to be located close to all villages
– Small local armies of knights
– Life-long training required
• What is the only way to defeat this weaponry?
Social basis of Knighthood:
Manor System
• 1) Serfdom arises during Roman period
– Slaves had become too expensive as the empire
stopped expanding
– Serfs were cheaper, worked harder because they
shared with the landlord in the wealth they
• But northern territories beyond the empire
involved free agricultural villages
– Explanation for this is given below
Why peasants chose to abandon
their freedom
• 2) Free villages “enserf” themselves to Lord
for protection from raiders
– Peasants’ voluntary surrender of freedom
– Lord’s “noblesse oblige”
• Exchange product, labor for defense
– Recall: functions of the state
• Land, produce divided:
– e.g., 2/3 for peasants, 1/3 for lord
European feudalism
• Result: thousands of little feudal states,
– each with its own set of laws
• Loose hierarchy among lords: “vassalage”
– Voluntary “pledge of allegiance” to higher lord,
and of lords (barons) to King
• >Vikings defeated
• But they also triumph
– Norsemen (Northmen) rule “Normandy”
– Conquer England in 1066
2 Why was Europe late?
• Europe inherits past technology of all history
– =advantage of a late civilization
• Europe’s natural agricultural potential
– Rich farming land
– Mild climate, rainfall
– Compare to Arabian desert, China’s 1/12 arability
• Until 500 CE: covered in forests
– Why not clear the forests?
The ecological problem
• Rich soil but heavy with clay
– Too hard to plow with traditional “scratch plow”
• Rain, but at the wrong time and too much
– Spring rains drown young wheat plants
• Hence, planting on sides of hills
– Water drains more easily
– Chalky soil easier to cultivate
3 Solution: the Moldboard Plow
• Invented about 500 CE among German tribes
• Three blades
– Vertical: Plowshare (colter)
– Horizontal: Ear
– Curved moldboard
Heavy – drawn by up to 8 oxen
Furrow – direction of slope to river
Plowland – mound between two furrows
> Natural drainage, Long acre
Technological approach again
• Recall Antigone: passage about “wonder” of
man with animal-drawn plow
• Compare to China’s rice production
– Peasants’ hands and feet in the watery mud
• Extension of technological approach,
magnified: power over nature
• Technological approach to nature culminates
in the industrial revolution
4 Social Production
• New problem: High cost of moldboard plow
for poor peasants
• Solution: share animals, labor between
members of community
• Result: continuity of ancient communal/
cooperative mode of production of early
kinship groups
• Impedes internal division of peasant farmers
into rich and poor (as in Greece and Rome)
Social consequences
• 1) 500-800 Free independent agricultural villages
– System of dividing the land equally among
peasant families (village cooperation)
• 2) 900- Charlemagne’s weakly unifed empire fails due
to Viking invasions
• 3) Feudal system provides protection
– Cooperative villages under local feudal rulers
– Elected peasant leader deals with feudal lord
Into the modern age
• 4) 1700 – to present => Cooperative work in
manufactories, factories, offices
• Capitalism is a system of cooperative
production and individualistic ownership
– The merchant/capitalist replaces the feudal lord
– The free worker replaces the serf
– Workers continue to work in a cooperative system:
as in a factory
5 Political problem
• Problem: after the Vikings are defeated?
– A system of warrior knights with no external
enemy to fight
– Knights will fight each other: implosion of feudal
Solution to the problem
• Pope Urban II calls for Crusade to fight Muslim
“infidels” and capture Jerusalem.
– 8 Crusades (1095-1291)
• Political aspect: strengthens the power of
Pope as leader of united Europe
– Church, monasteries become the biggest feudal
First Victims of Crusades:
European Jews
• “Look now, we are going to seek out our
profanity and to take vengeance on the
Ishmaelites for our Messiah, when here are
the Jews who murdered and crucified him. Let
us first avenge ourselves on them and
exterminate them from among the nations so
that the name of Israel will no longer be
remembered or let them adopt our faith.”
– Holy War, by Karen Armstrong, p. 73
6 St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226)
• Rejects wealth of his family
• Follows the way of Jesus (Imitation of Christ)
– Adopt strict poverty
– Not seek spiritual salvation in rich monasteries
– But go to the people and walk the talk
• Recall four stages of religion
– St. Francis: 4th stage: the reformer who evokes the
words of the Founder against the external religion
created in the name of the Founder (3rd stage)
What does the Bible say?
• “. . . The Lord appointed seventy others also,
and sent them two by two . . . Into every city
and place where He Himself was about to go. .
. ‘Go your way; behold, I send you out as
lambs among wolves. Carry neither money
bag, sack, nor sandals . . . And whatever city
you enter, and they receive you, eat such
things as are set before you. And heal the sick
who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom
of God has come near to you.” Luke 10;1 . . . 9
Historical Impact
• “[T]he new wealth and power of their Church
offended some Roman Catholics, and the
challenged the Church to live up to its early
ideals of compassion for the poor and
simplicity in everyday living. New orders of
priests and of nuns began to form as a way of
returning to those ideals: Franciscans
following the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi”
Spodek 433
The heresy of poverty
• The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
– Film, starring Sean Connery
• Franciscans, other sects adopting poverty,
seen as dangerous revolutionaries
– Church condemns as a dangerous heresy: that
Jesus demanded poverty of his followers
• What did Jesus teach?
– “Consider the lilies of the fields …”
Jesus: Consider the lilies
Jewel in the Lotus